Traveling solo and being single at the age of 35 has taught me a lot. Mostly about myself, but also about how conditioned we are as humans to believe we need to follow a certain path in life.
The Path: Grow up. Go to school. Get a job. Move out. Get married. Have children. Retire.
It blows my mind how most humans on this planet accept this to be the way with no real reason as to why. We don’t really question why we are even following it. We subconsciously have become conditioned to follow it and hit all of the checkpoints so that we can gauge how close we are to ‘achieving happiness.’ So we play the game. It is just what we are supposed to do. It is the only way we know how.
There is nothing wrong with The Path, except we for some reason believe it is the only path. And no one teaches us what to do if any of these things don’t happen. If we aren’t on track to hit the next checkpoint, we start to freak out. We get depressed, wonder what is wrong with us. We feel inadequate compared to all of the other humans walking along side of us who have gone to school, graduated, have a good job, and are now in a relationship or engaged and on track to get married. One day we are right next to them, strolling along toward the next checkpoint, and then all of the sudden we get dumped, our relationship ends, or we get fired from our job. And, like in the board game “Sorry!”, you must move your piece back to “start” and begin all over again. Sit on the sidelines as you watch others moving their pieces up the final stretch toward “home.”
LONELINESS IS A STATE OF MIND
I would eventually like a long-term relationship. And because I don’t have one, there are times when I unconsciously find myself starting to compare where I am to what others are doing. I start to feel inadequate because I am single. Because I am not where I am “supposed to be.” Even though inside, I am generally happy. But still, from time to time I start to have these thoughts like, What is wrong with me? Will I ever meet someone I actually like? What do others think of me? Are my parents worried? What if I do end up alone? Who will take care of me when I can no longer take care of myself?
And then I think, Okay. Alone, that is an interesting concept. It is true that I don’t have one person, the same person, to share all of my experiences with. But that still doesn’t mean I am actually experiencing any of this alone. I feel more loved being single than I ever have when in a serious relationship. So why do I feel this way? Who says I have to be with one person for the rest of my life by the age of 30? Why is there a certain time frame where I am supposed to meet one person and then stay with them forever?
I am single, yes, but I still experience passion. Intimacy. Connection. Even more so than some people who are in long-term relationships. I am not alone at all. If the Universe came to me and said, Hey Jill, here is the person you will spend most of your life with. Do you want to be with him now or later? I would honestly choose a date later in my life for that to happen so that I could still do what I am doing now. I want to learn more about myself, meet different types of people, fall in love with myself even more so that I can be a better lover to him one day. So that I can enjoy that chapter in life as much as I am enjoying this one.
And feeling this way shows me that it is not where you are on The Path that causes unhappiness. It is the uncertainty of where your path is leading. Where you will end up.
LIKE A FAIRY TALE
I have met so many amazing men on this journey. Most as friends. A few as lovers. All of them from different parts of the world. All of them taught me different things about life and about myself.
While in the Philippines, I met this beautiful French man in passing. I thought of him the rest of the day. Tall, dark, and handsome, his hair was beautiful and his accent sexy. That night, I was standing outside of a bar by myself waiting for my friends to meet me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the French guy walking toward me. He walked right up to me, placed his hands on both sides of my head, and kissed me passionately. We look at each other in the eyes for a moment in silence, my heart fluttering. I smiled and walked away to meet my friends and never saw him again.
There are also the deeper connections. There are a handful of men I have been fortunate enough to spend days or weeks with while traveling who have all stolen a piece of my heart. They are genuinely good people who are intelligent, deep, creative, and passionate, all which makes them extremely alluring. And if I put them in a line up, you would see how they are all so completely different from one another. Not only where they are from, but where they are on their journey in life, what they are currently struggling with, what makes them happy, even their personalities. And I love this. It is great that I can have such a deep connection with such a diverse group of men. They help me experience life through multiple perspectives, bring out different sides of my personality, and show me areas where I still have room to grow as a person. And I can honestly say that I would be interested in dating any one of them long term.
Had I met them at home, maybe that is something I would try to pursue. But traveling has also taught me how to let go. How to simply enjoy the moment. Letting go of all outcomes. How to fall in love and then say goodbye. And these are such good skills to have. Not only with love, but with anything we want. We often try to hold on to things too tightly. We try to control the outcome. And most of the time, the best things happen not when they are forced, but when they are free.
I also think about the type of person I eventually do want to attract and spend most of my life with. Someone who is free. Spontaneous. Self-aware. Honest with themselves and others. Hungry. Intelligent. Passionate about life. And if I want to attract these things, I realize that first, I need to become them. Traveling has helped me do this. And also isn’t it so cool about the French guy?
A NEW PATH FILLED WITH GELATO
There are indeed many individuals who have followed The Path and genuinely found happiness. But I strongly believe it is not The Path itself that produced this. Because there are also others who reach out to me and express their envy of the way I am living my life and the types of experiences I am having. They wish they could experience the same things but feel stuck. But why? They have followed the instructions. Hit all the checkpoints. Yet they still don’t feel happy or fulfilled.
I think this is because ultimately, there is not one single route to follow that leads to happiness. In order to feel truly happy, one should strive to feel at peace regardless of outside circumstances. It doesn’t matter where you are in life or what road you took to get there. It is about being able to stop right now, no matter where you are, and feel content, not wishing you had taken a different road to get here. It’s about being okay with not knowing where you are headed.
So from now on, I want to suggest a new path. One that is not set in stone and that is unique for every individual, with twists and turns and unexpected road closures. Where there is no checkpoint that will reassure you that you are where you are supposed to be in life. The only way to tell that you are on the right track is to decide to believe you are. Accept and love this moment. Enjoy it. All you have experienced. Where you need to grow. The struggles you continue to face. How you will overcome them or, more importantly, how you can embrace them. And feeling at peace in the midst of all of it.
My path looks more like this: Grow up but continue to play. Educate myself. Learn new things. Get my dream job. Quit my dream job. Learn more. Explore the world. Fall in love with myself. Live in a bungalow on a remote island. Learn how to surf. Learn how to play harmonica. Fall in love. Have my heart broken. Make out with more French men. Become stronger. Fall in love again. Travel. Eat gelato for breakfast. Learn about different cultures. How different people think. And no matter what, enjoy life. Every single day.