Perfect Weakness

A Ship In Stormy Seas

If I asked you who you were, what would you say?

Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s a question that I’ve been running through my mind a lot, lately and today, I stopped to actually think about it. You see, moving to a different country is a pretty intimidating thing. But the moving itself isn’t the hard part.

It’s having no identity once you get there.

Most people don’t really sit around wondering what their identity is. Most of the time it’s inherent. You’re a daughter because you have a mother. You’re a girlfriend because you have a boyfriend. You’re an artist because you make art. You’re an English speaker because you speak English.

But, what happens when you move away from all that?

You’re a daughter, but your mother is 8,000 miles away. You’re an artist, but you have limited supplies, resources and different mediums available. You know English, but you’re not allowed to speak it.

So the question comes up again: Who are you?

I’m the kind of person who believes that regular identity crisis are necessary and a healthy part of my life, but most of the time it’s because I find myself not knowing who I am, or what I want to do at that moment.

This experience is different.

I wouldn’t call this a crisis. I’ve spent the last year figuring out who I am and what direction I want to go in, so those aren’t issues right now. But, like in any witness protection or spy movie, by moving I have suddenly become a person without any identity to those around me.

No one knows who I am. I can walk down the street with 0% possibility of running into someone I know, or grew up with. I go to the store and they eye me warily, wondering where I came from – since they know everyone who lives in this small town.

I don’t have any favorite spots, yet. I don’t have a community, church or friends, yet. I’m a body in this city, but not yet a person.

When I was thinking about this, this morning, it really bothered me. I, like most people, like to be known. I love acknowledgement, and “words of affirmation” is my love language. – not having anyone to talk with in my native (and therefore emotionally comfortable) language makes feeling “whole” pretty difficult.

So, with my identity shifting, and my surroundings foreign, I was wondering today – what makes me…me? Who am I?

“When my identity fails – You will remain. So I will tether myself to you.”

The nearest (non-catholic) church is more than an hour away from where I live, so I’ve been streaming some sermons while going to the Catholic one down the street. It’s an unconvential way of “doing church”, but I’ve never been very good at claiming the conventional, anyway.

Today I was listening to a sermon about anchoring your soul – or having something that grounds you. The pastor was talking about how, to some people, this anchor might be material, and to others it might be another person (such a spouse)…but, the problem is, those things aren’t going to be able to help you when you’re “four inches from sinking.” The first because, being soulless, it can’t relate to your problem, and the latter because they are as broken as we are.

This week I have felt like the top of my boat is four inches from the waves (aka me losing my mind); with too much weight gathered within its structure, my boat is about four inches from being filled and slipping beneath the water: four inches from disaster. Sometimes I feel like I’m just staring at the side of the boat hoping and praying that no bigger waves come and pull me under.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am confident in my decision to move to France, and I have complete peace about where I am right now. But it’s not easy jumping into a family of strangers, working every day and trying desperately to understand 100% of a foreign language when you have about 80% comprehension (80 sounds like a lot, but try reading a book with 80% of each sentence).

Sometimes I find myself praying out loud because I’m so frustrated with circumstances. Like dogs getting diarrhea and pooping EVERYWHERE, kids throwing punches and middle fingers at their siblings and simultaneous fatigue from a mixture of constantly being around people (introvert alert) and jet lag.

I am not perfect, and situations are not perfect.

But, it’s at times like this, when I realize it’s absolutely essential that my hope is anchored on something stronger than my discouragement.

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” (Hebrews 6:19)

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes think about just packing my bags and going back home. I miss Seattle like nobody’s business. But I also know that there’s a plan and a reason for me being where I am. And, perhaps more importantly, there’s a promise that my anchor is holding steadfast, even when I can’t see it.

My identity, although feeling unknown, is buried deep within the hope of a savior who promises not that things will be easy, but that he will be present. Right now things are tough, that’s just a reality. But even as an outlier to my present circumstances, I have confidence in knowing that – regardless of the way I feel about things – below the raging water’s surface is an anchor that promises never to let go.

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You Never Let Go

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The view from my window

I’ve been waiting four weeks for paperwork from a French government agency so that I can apply for my visa. After sleepless nights, phone calls, faxes and emails, they finally called me this morning. The woman, her thick French accent filling the phone, told me I had no need of the paperwork I had been waiting for (and had been told to apply for). “Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We’ve just been so busy.” Four weeks.
Welcome to the bureaucracy.

I’m finally boarding a plane for my visa appointment with the French embassy in San Francisco. It’s been a long road, filled with stress, stress, stress and more stress. I can honestly say that this “adventure” has been more stressful than four years of college… combined. I don’t even know how people do this and live to tell the tale, but I’m still fighting everyday to make it to the end.

The only question now is, when will it be the end? The hope right now is that the embassy will process my application in record time and then I’ll be able to leave on August 18th. The reality is, though, that they might not get it done in time, and that means I’ll have to buy another plane ticket. Something which I have NO budget for. Let the prayers commence.

Miracles don’t generally seem to happen, but when I was sitting in my room yesterday, looking at my stack of paperwork, I realized something – this ALREADY IS A MIRACLE.

If you had told me a year ago I would be applying to move to France, would be accepted into a French university and would be quitting my job, I never would have believed it. Last year, at this time, I was trying not to think about suicide, unhealthy relationships and starving myself. I was on multiple meds, had no plans or direction for my life and was spinning out of control. I remember sitting on my bed, curled up in a ball and thinking that I just wanted to die. Then I thought about that thought for a minute – no I didn’t! And that’s when a little voice said, “You’re going to have to choose. You can’t keep floating between life and death.”
I chose to live.

It’s been a pretty bumpy road getting here, but I think that’s what’s making me realize just how much I want this. Last night I really felt like God was pointing me in the direction of 2 Peter 3:9 where it says, ” The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you.” We’re all given passions and dreams for a reason. On each of our hearts God writes a script that is unique to who we are, and who we’re called to become. Maybe these things seem arbitrary and random, but those are what guide us to find our destiny/calling/purpose. The funny thing is how often it’s US who are causing the roadblocks to getting there.

I think one of the most dangerous things we can do is to ignore what we’re passionate about. But, the reality is, sometimes we just forget. We get so caught up in the societal expectations to ___________ (fill in the blank) that we lose sight of our own path. And, for a really long time, that was me. Afraid to live my life, and trying desperately to follow someone else’s dream to get married, work in an office, get pregnant, volunteer in the kids room at church and only shop at Nordstrom and Anthropologie. Note: There is nothing wrong with these dreams. But they are not mine (although, some might be in the future). Coming to terms with this realization was half the battle. But you know what they say: Acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to recovery. It wasn’t until I was in a place of complete (and essential) surrender, that God reminded me of the dreams HE had planted deep in my heart.

When I was going through some old boxes at my parents’ house a couple of weeks ago, I realized that throughout my life I’ve always wanted to move to France. I have coloring pages from when I’m 9 of the Eiffel tower and every school related binder I ever had has some kind of France theme to it. It was a dream of my heart – my heart’s desire. But, in the chaos of life, I had forgotten, and I almost gave up.

I’m so thankful that life is full of second chances. And that right now I am on a plane to go apply for a visa to FRANCE. That, in itself, is a miracle. And I think it’s important that I declare that. Everything might not be working out according to the plan in my mind, but it is going to work out, because this wasn’t my plan to begin with.

This dream comes from somewhere so much deeper than my mind or my heart. In truth, I think it comes down to following a path that’s been waiting for me for quite a while, now. To find it, I simply had to stop looking so hard for a path that was someone else’s “right one.”

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Ten Things Nannying Taught Me

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Tomorrow will be my last Thursday as a nanny to the family I’ve been working with for over TWO YEARS. Next week will be my last week. Crazy, I never thought I could “commit” to a job that long, but it’s been a wild ride, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I’ve grown so much over these past years. And while I’ve taught the kids I work with, they’ve taught me so much about myself, communicating with others, relationships, friendship, siblingship, love and selflessness. Here are some of my favorite lessons:

1. In every job that must be done, there is an element of funab2d309c23174c13e6ad5165dbcad3de3389eb77Something that I didn’t realize before becoming a nanny is that NO ONE LIKES CHORES. It’s not like you grow into an adult and *snap* you love washing dishes and cleaning your room/messes. No one likes it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an opportunity for fun. I’ve learned to embrace the fun aspects of getting things done, such as getting kids to race with getting their pajamas on, “fish toss” their laundry away, and Disney music dance the dishes clean.

2. What you’re passionate about MATTERSsound-of-music-maria-and-guitarHave you ever stopped for a minute and realized how much we encourage children, as a society? We encourage them to do their best, work hard, dream, imagine, and run after things they love. Somehow, these are all lessons that we (often) lose when we grow up. Being a nanny encouraged me to start loving sports again, pursue being an artist as a profession, instead of just a pastime and be unafraid to plan for the future.  It’s absolutely amazing the rebounding ability of children. We all fail sometimes, but we all have to get up again and keep dreaming.

3. It’s ok to be a little kid, again

24nanny-600  Who said adults aren’t allowed to have fun, anymore. There’s something wholesome and amazingly refreshing about remembering how to have fun before it had to include going to clubs, drinking, smoking or trying to look “cool.” We all have that little part of us that likes the silly, the imaginative and the crazy. It’s ok to stop being serious and be a little weird sometimes.

4. Never underestimate the power of your wordsyou-is-kind-ymhjvrThe way we speak to others is something I know I took for granted before becoming a nanny. I had more of a “if you don’t like what I say, too bad” approach, and I think over time that hurt more than ever helped me. Being around kids, you can’t do that. You can’t cut down, demean or be “brutally honest” (although, they definitely will be to you). Instead you have to encourage, uplift and inspire with your words. Even if you’re saying something negative, you have to go about doing it in a way which is positive. Learning this skill has taught me more than four years of college and a communications degree. The way we talk matter, don’t let your words be aimless.

5. How to be a big sister

uktv-doctor-who-xmas-2012-10Some of the “kids” I nanny are in high school and that makes the whole process of “nannying” quite different than working with elementary age kids. They don’t need me to remind them to go to the bathroom, or to feed them. What they do need is someone to talk to, share clothes with, and watch trash TV with (just a little bit). Two of my girls really have become like little sisters to me. We watch the same TV shows, read the same books, talk about fashion, talk about boys, sex, tampons and every other embarrassing thing you can think about in high school. I get to encourage and uplift them, but more importantly I get to speak truth into their lives. I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of life experience. Whether your past is good or bad, you have something valuable to offer to the next generation.

6.  Gentle words can have just as much powersupernanny-pic-sm-348146256Learning how to “work with kids” meant something different to the past generations of my family. To put it nicely, it involved spankings and soap. But I’ve learned, after two years of working with kids that I have no option to discipline in that way, that there are so many other ways of connecting with children and teaching them how to communicate, respect others and take ownership for their actions. Of course, with every child there are different ways of discipline, but I SO love expanding my knowledge.

7. Sometimes you’re going to have to do embarrassing shit007TND_Scarlett_Johansson_013It’s true – you’re working with kids. What does this mean? Well, you’re going to probably be doing some embarrassing things like dressing up in weird costumes, letting them paint your face and dragging them on your legs as you walk in public. But, here’s the thing – who cares? Learning to chill out has been my biggest lesson from nannying. Because, the truth is, the only person whose opinion matters is your own and the kids (who are loving it – guaranteed).

8. Cherish the little things

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I’m pretty standoffish by nature. I don’t run up and give people hugs (in fact, I don’t really like hugs) and I’m not the type to call people sweetheart, or sit for three hours to listen about their day. But, over the past two years, I’ve learned that those little things like calling a kid “love” or giving them a huge hug when they come home from losing their soccer game ARE IMPORTANT. Despite my scandinavian background, I’ve learned so much more about valuing other people and really taking the time to cherish.

9. It’s not about you

jane-eyre-movie-jane-and-adele                              I’m a generation Y twenty-something. Every NY Times article and scientific research study tells me that I value instant gratification, self interest and ME ME ME. Which I think would have been a lot more accurate before I became a pseudo mother of five. When you have children running around you constantly, you have to start thinking about more than yourself. You have to have snacks always in your purse (NOT FOR YOU), extra water in your water bottle (ALSO, NOT FOR YOU), A GPS in your head (“Are we there, yet?”), a memory that holds all their birthdays (Forget one, and you’ve made “favorites”) and a mind that is completely not your own. You don’t think about you at the grocery store – you think about which kid likes spaghetti sauce, who hates blueberries, who’s allergic to eggs and who only eats tofu this month.

10. “When you need me, but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go.” grad.17333Being a nanny is so fulfilling, and at the same time heartbreaking because you know that it won’t be forever. You pour your everything into a family that, after you quit, you may never see again. But that’s the way it works. That’s what we’ve signed up for. Nothing is permanent except the love we leave behind, the memories we’ve made and the lives we’ve changed.

Keep Moving Forward

Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow, Scotland

Yesterday I stood in a Safeway aisle, staring at toilet paper.

Normally I always buy the same brand, same size, same everything (I’m a creature of habit), but for the first time in years I had to stop and think. You see, I’m moving out of the country in 2 months – I don’t need 24 rolls of toilet paper. And, as I continued to shop through the store, this realization kept hitting me. I don’t need a huge container of laundry soap. I don’t need spices in bulk. I don’t need twelve rolls of paper towels…no, wait – I do need those (#artistproblems). It’s odd, but grocery shopping yesterday was the most slap-in-the-face realization I’ve had so far.

Although I’m getting closer and closer to my leave date, there hasn’t been a whole lot that’s finalized so far. I’m still mid process in getting my Visa, moving and packing up everything. But, even thought things aren’t 100%, I’m at the point where I have to pretend they are. I can’t buy bulk at the grocery store anymore. I can’t buy new clothes, unless I’m going to DIE without them. I have to get rid of stuff every moment I can. I have a giant “Get Rid Of” pile in my living room because there’s no way I can take everything I own with me…or even half of what I own with me.

The hardest thing right now is acting the part, even though I don’t know for certain that I have the role. See, I’m the type of person who likes certainty. I like order, I like knowing things are going to work out, and at exactly what date, time and location they will happen. But, unfortunately, that’s not the way life works – as much as I want to be in control of this situation, it’s just not going to happen. There’s no net, here. There isn’t a back up plan for if things fall through. And, honestly, that’s terrifying. I am a type A personality. I NEED everything on charts and graphs. I NEED to know everything’s going to work out. But I don’t.

They say that big risks reap big rewards, but risks can also produce epic sized failures. Realizing this is part of adulthood. As we get older we realize that grass isn’t going to be purple, no matter how many times we color it that way; just because we can imagine something, doesn’t always mean it’s going to happen.

BUT, the other half of adulthood is realizing that sometimes you have to stick your middle finger to that side of your brain (yes, I just told you to flip yourself off) and fight for that kid-like disregard for the factual and definite. Because, living despite the potential for failure is essential for succeeding, growing and moving forward in life.

And while risking big is something scary, uncertain, and periodically gives me nervous breakdowns, looking back over my life I’ve realized that I cannot remember a time when I’ve risked big and not been blown away by God’s faithfulness.

The last time I moved, even though it was only a couple of states away, I had no idea what was in store for me. I moved to accept a job in southern California with a non-profit called Krochet Kids International, and it ended up being one of the most impactful experiences of my life.

But, that being said, it also was nothing like I imagined. While living in California, I was so broke I remember looking in my bank account and laughing when I saw I had $7.11; the irony of having barely enough money to go into a 7-11 store, let alone buy anything substantial like groceries.

When I was in California I lived in a three bedroom, two bathroom and one main room apartment with eight other roommates – guys and girls. If you’ve ever had roommates, you can imagine how much drama took place amongst that many people in that small of a space. I honestly think if we had lived together for another month someone might have ended up dead seriously injured. But we figured it out. We survived that ant infested apartment… and I figured out someway to buy groceries.

I cried a lot when I lived in California. But I also grew a lot. No, I didn’t have the experience I expected from being a “good Christian” and volunteering. I didn’t frolic on beaches, greeted by dolphins amongst the Pacific Ocean waves (there were sharks, however). I didn’t sit under palm trees and tan – I started to hate palm trees about a week after being there (all I could think about were Washington evergreens).

Things were just about as off kilter as could be, and I really loathed to all eternity  didn’t like living in California. But that experience was essential for making me into the person I am now. Living in California changed me, because I stepped into the complete unknown and failed miserably.

Right now there are a lot of uncertainties in my life, and it’s really hard to try piecing everything together when I only have a sketch of what the final painting is supposed to be. But what I do know, what I draw from daily, is that I’ve never been failed in the past. God has never failed to see me through. He’s never left the role of comforter, guide and Father. And even though I can only see the next step of my journey, he sees the entire playing field. And I have to trust that.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go color in some purple grass.

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The Truth About Mindy and Me

Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow, Scotland

Yesterday I started watching a TV show called The Mindy Project. It’s been on TV for a couple of seasons, so I thought I would give it a test run. I absolutely LOVE it.

In one of the first episodes Mindy, the slightly dysfunctional and all too relatable leading lady set on self-reform, says:

“It’s so weird being my own role model.”

And I stopped in my tracks. In fact, I opened Photoshop right then and there and designed and printed off the quote so I could put it on my wall. The more I thought about the quote, the more I started to analyze why it resonated with me so much. What was so powerful about this kind of declaration?

Well, first off, a leading lady who is self-empowered, successful (both academically and in her career), and is a woman of color, said it. Second, I think it was the first time I had my personal outlook clearly articulated in one sentence.

You’ve probably all heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I happen to agree with this wholeheartedly.

Personally, I’ve always had a huge struggle with comparison. I’m hugely competitive, and I like to win. Always. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but what I’ve had to work on (specifically during the past couple of years) is reminding myself that to be constantly comparing myself actually distracts me, and never empowers me.

Gathering inspiration from someone is one thing. But staring at their lives and thinking, “What the hell? How come she gets to do that and I don’t!?” or “Why is their life so perfect when I can’t seem to get anything together!?” is destructive.

As a Christian, I don’t believe anyone was created without a God given purpose. We are made to succeed and empower each other. Maybe that success means making people smile every day as a street performer. Maybe that means working to represent ethical commerce on Wall Street. Who knows? But I don’t think anyone is without a calling.

I’ve said it before, but the past couple of years were rough. It wasn’t until a breaking point last September when I finally decided to start living my life with myself as the primary author. And one of the best reinforcements of my decision was my backpacking trip.

Having weeks of alone time can give you clarity that is hard to beat. I think it was then that I really began recognizing that, if I was going to be living on this earth for the next 70 years, I was going to have to start making my own decisions.

No more looking around at what other people were doing. No more seeing pictures on Facebook and thinking, “Really!? What have I accomplished that can even half compare to THAT?” No more unhealthy comparison.

With the teen girls I nanny, I really try to talk smart about body image and loving yourself in all capacities. I remember being that age, and how hard it was to find someone to tell me it was okay to be smart AND beautiful AND confident. It always seemed like you had to choose between the three.

This week, we were talking about body image and how nobody’s perfect, specifically in regards to Instagram. It’s hard, because in social media people only post the good pictures of themselves. Leaving my teen girls comparing themselves to a standard of everyone’s “perfections” and nobody’s real selves.

We’ve had some really awesome talks about how important it is to focus on succeeding to our own standards (eating healthy, staying active and taking pride in our bodies) rather than looking at posts and trying to fit into other people’s molds.

It’s definitely a challenge. But instead of looking at other people’s lives, let’s take a second and look at our own. What do I have to celebrate? What have I achieved? I don’t care if it’s as “insignificant” as making it through middle school. That is an achievement!

The only person I should be comparing myself to is myself. I am my own biggest competition. My own role model. Let’s gather inspiration from others, instead of projecting negativity rooted in insecurities. Because tearing other people down (even just mentally) is only going to leave us bitter and angry – I speak from experience.

There is so much freedom in being able to embrace our own success. To look back on our own lives and saying, “Wow, look how far I’ve come! Remember when I used to be afraid to ask out random strangers? Now I ask people out all the time!

Ok, that’s a weird example. But, you get the point! Let’s start celebrating our selves and start looking at how we can be our own role models. Our dreams have power! Let’s not let someone else’s tabloid keep us from writing our own New York Times Best Seller.

Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose], and let your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4: 25

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10 reasons I shouldn’t travel

10 reasons I shouldn't travel

Excuses are kind of like stuffed animals. They’re warm, fluffy and comforting. But sooner or later you should probably grow up and let them go.
A lot of the time, I find myself in situations where people will be telling me all the reasons they “can’t” travel, although they’d like to. And normally, it’s directed at me like I have some kind of immunity to those same problems. Well, I’m here to shout from the mountain tops that that’s simply not the case! And to prove it – here are, all the reasons I shouldn’t/can’t travel (but do anyway).

1. I’m too young to travel: I’m in my early twenties, and I’ve been traveling since I was 4 years old. At every point in my life, the experience of traveling has been so different! No matter what age you are, the time is now! Don’t wait for endless tomorrow’s.

2. Traveling alone is dangerous: I used to have a professor that said “Don’t be scared, be prepared.” I’m really a huge advocate of preparing for situations that cause you to be nervous. There are dangers to being any place (even your hometown) at any time. Make sure you know how to stay safe ( take a self defense class, carry mace, don’t wear headphones when you’re alone at night) and you’ll be fine.

3. I’m a woman: So. What. I’m sorry to be blunt, but if you’re going to let your gender decide what you’re capable of in life, you’re going to be missing out on a shitload of experiences. Woman or man, you are capable. Strap on some boots and get out there!

4. I have student loans: I do. And they suck. I am one of the masses of higher education drones who went to college and could have probably paid cash for a house instead. Conquering this really just comes down to budgeting. Figure out how much you need to pay each month in order to pay your loans off and still put away some money for traveling. Inch by inch, it’s possible to be responsible AND travel!

5. I have a job: Haha, not true. I have FOUR jobs. And I still make time to travel! It is hard to get time off, but usually if you ask off well in advance, you can get your higher ups to work with you to some extent. One of my jobs is actually to write about traveling and that’s an even better solution! Be creative! Where there’s a will (and a hard worker) there’s a way!

6. My family doesn’t approve: My mother has a panic attack every time I travel. She made me watch “Taken” before I went to India, explicitly telling me that was what would happen to me. She worries because that’s her job as a mom, but when I make up my mind and start working toward something, I know she’ll ultimately support me. Strike out on your own, and find people who will support your dreams and ambitions!

7. I don’t know people where I’m going: Friends are just strangers you’ve already met. Everywhere you go there are tons of new friends to be made! Use websites such as Couchsurfer.net to meet people before you even touch down in the place you’re going!

8. I’m not a millionaire: Be smart with your money and it will reward you. Couchsurf, buy plane tickets last minute or way in advance, grocery shop instead of eating out, travel outside the tourist season. There are so many little ways you can save money. And if you budget to save money beforehand, you’ll find out that traveling is so much more accessible than you ever thought!

9. I look terrible in travel clothes: Ha. Ok, but really. I hate the whole tourist/travel clothes look. I like skinny jeans, not khakis, and I’d rather be dead than caught in one of those canvas wide brim hats. The great thing is: YOU CAN WEAR WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT when you travel. I don’t wear traditional travel clothes when I travel. I like looking cute, and a quick trip to REI generally allows me to put together outfits that don’t scream, “I’M A TOURIST!” but still get the job done.

10. I have no organizational skills:
I truly believe everyone has an inner OCD diva in them, if they truly care about something. So, CARE. I hate putting together plans before hand, but facing the reality that it’s that, or sleeping in the streets, helps me focus on keeping paperwork organized and my trip running smoothly.

BONUS: I have no reason to travel: Shut up. Seriously. If you are a living, breathing, contributing human being to this planet (which you are) then you have a reason to travel. People who travel are able to interact with the world through a lens of understanding. They gain a better understanding of themselves and their own global impact, and they become a part of a global community that starts to care about issues beyond their front doors. So, get out there! The world awaits, and has some pretty awesome lessons to teach you about yourself!

The home of the great Sherlock Holmes 221B Baker Street London, England
The home of the great Sherlock Holmes
221B Baker Street London, England

Le Temps Est Maintenant

Bangalore, India
Bangalore, India

The first time I travelled outside of North America, I was 18 years old – and absolutely terrified. I had never been on a plane before, never been off the continent and had barely even been out of my parents’ sight most of my life (homeschooler – Woot! Woot!). But, after 24 million hours of flying, we finally reached Bangalore, India. Our group consisted of “ The Bangalore 12” : six men and six women, and I sat nicely on the bottom rung of the ladder as the baby of the group.

The greatest limitation that I had throughout that trip was continually feeling like I wasn’t “old enough” to participate or succeed in exploring a country different than the one I was raised in. I was way too shy to approach people, ask for directions or even order something at a restaurant. I just wanted to be invisible. You see, despite popular opinion, I am NOT an extrovert. And in addition to natural introversion, I come from a strict “keep to ourselves” Scandinavian family.

But, I remember sitting down with one of the women on the trip and telling her about how inadequate I felt. I expected pity, instead she dared me to feel empowered. She reminded me that age is only an obstacle if you allow it to be. I became so much stronger through that experience, because I finally allowed walls telling me to “stop trying” to be broken down. Was the transition smooth or fun? No. I still got nauseous every time I talked to someone. But, sometimes, the biggest success is taking your first step forward.

Years later, as I travel, I love to talk to people about their own travelling experiences. In particular, I always try to talk to older people while I travel. And every time I meet someone new, I’m reminded that although each of our stories are different – they’re not entirely lacking in similarities. For instance, every single person I’ve EVER asked about traveling (50+ years old) has said they wish they had traveled more and hadn’t let life get in the way. Whether they’re on their first trip, or their 100th, I have yet to meet ANYONE who was satisfied with how much they’ve traveled.

But, when is the best time in life to travel? My answer: When it’s the right time in life to travel (listening to that inner voice is key).

Now, if you’re like me and in your 20’s, you’ve probably been informed that your 20’s are “the best time of your life.” We’re told  to travel now because when we’re older, we’ll have too many responsibilities, and after that we’ll be too rickety to leave our rocking chairs.

Well, I don’t buy it.

While obstacles make traveling harder (ex. having kids, or getting married, or having a mortgage etc.), the fact of the matter is: while these can be truths, they can also be excuses.

Whether I’m running around the globe tomorrow, in 10 years, or in 50 years, I refuse for my 20’s to be the defining “best part” – I have greater expectations for the next 70 years of my life. And while traveling, I’ve been able to meet some awesome people who are my heroes for refusing to believe the “age fallacy”, as well.

On one of my latest flights, I had the privilege of sitting next to the cutest older couple, who were probably in their sixties. After talking to them about airline food (first rule: sneakily ease your way in),  I asked them where they were going. The woman lit up as she told me about her and her husband’s soon to be adventure around Ireland. They were both overflowing with a kind of giddy mischievousness. They had never been to Ireland before, and I couldn’t help but smile as they told me about all the details of their trip. While I was sitting there listening I thought, “See, here is such a great example of two constant learners of life. Age and experience don’t dictate their ability to travel. They were ready, willing and excited for their new adventure.”

My mom is another of my absolute heroes for how often we traveled as a family while I was growing up. As a single mother of four, you would think she’d have had some kind of restrictions or boundaries. But, when I was nine years old, she packed us up in our mini van, along with everything we’d need to live the next month of our lives, and started driving. In total, we reached 38 states (and every historical site, attraction and national park in between), and it still amazes me that such a feat was accomplished while she homeschooled me in the back of the van. And I don’t even have time to go into the almost 10 Canadian provinces, and trip to Alaska soon after. My mom was dedicated to making a way for us to experience the world, and she knew the best way to do that was to have us actually experience it. In conclusion, my mom is a total bad ass. Period. 

Traveling is second nature to me because I was raised in it, but I realize that travel is a way of life. One that is, at times, uncomfortable and stretches your mind, soul and spirit. It can be scary and intimidating and emotionally (and physically) draining. But I think it is such an important part of existing as part of this planet. A lot of the time you don’t have the tools, or any idea how things are going to work out, but I think it’s exactly that lack of certainty that allows travelers to expand their minds and grow so much more over shorter periods of time.

Starting in college I made a commitment to travel somewhere I’ve never been before every year. Maybe this will actually pan out, maybe it won’t. But having the goal keeps me on track to do everything in my power to make it happen. So far, so good. I’ve been able to go to amazing places for the past five years, and I can’t wait for even more adventures.

But, the thing about the best adventures are that they happen when you’re the least ready for them (Bilbo Baggins?! – yeah, I went there). And sometimes I have to remind myself that God doesn’t keep a stopwatch on our lives that we can measure. He knows when we are ready and sends us out, regardless of our belief in the fact (Romans 8:28).

Honestly, 90% of the time I do things, I have 1% confidence in my ability to succeed. But, I have to take a step back, take a deep breath and make the decision to do it anyway. And generally it takes patience, tears and A LOT of prayer. But, you know what? Amazing things happen when you start trying to make them happen. People jump on board and support you, pieces fall into place and you start seeing little miracles occur in your life.

There’s a verse in the book of Esther that says you have been called, “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).  Esther, in no way, thought she was ready to move forward on the path God directed her – but she took the first steps, knowing that regardless of the outcome, she had already succeeded by being faithful. Maybe it’s because she’s my namesake (maybe I just love stories), but I love this biblical lesson of blind faithfulness being rewarded. And while I’m totally on board with being called to go out in the world while I’m in my twenties, I want/hope/wish/plead that God will continue to challenge me to travel for the rest of my life as well.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

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Bangalore, India – 2008