It happened slowly at first, and then all at once, the way most things that matter do. At twenty years old, I was gifted a map of the world where you scratch off places you’ve been to. I hung it on my wall, daydreaming of distant places I didn’t even know existed. I would bookmark articles about adventure tours across the Namibian desert, and the best vineyards to visit in the Tuscan country side.
At twenty years old, I told myself that I would visit a new country each year. In between occasional adventures I would meet the love of my life, get married at 26, pop out 2.5 babies by 32-ish, and own a beautiful home – preferably somewhere near water, with a view.
That’s what everyone else seemed to be doing anyway.
Now two weeks shy of my 27th birthday, I get asked if I plan on freezing my eggs. I get asked what I’m running away from. I get asked where I consider to be home and when I plan on settling down. My new country a year goal has escalated to a new country a month, and in typical fashion I happen to be head over heels for a boy who is hardly interested.
I thought I had a solid life plan at 20, but straying from it has been the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve chosen a life of adventure, of trips that transform my very notion of being alive, and of foregoing the day in and day out of a 9 to 5 career. This desire to see the world and be constantly on the move has ruined my love life in every sense – but I wouldn’t change a thing, and here’s why:
Traveling solo made me focus on what I really wanted, rather than what everyone else expected me to be doing. My white picket fence has been replaced by hotels, Airbnb’s, and the occasional tent, and my walk-in closet is a suitcase – and I’m ok with it. I’ve been able to figure out what makes me happy, and trained myself to do the job that can make that happen.
It makes me not settle. There are too many mediocre things in life, and love should certainly not be one of them. The more I travel, the more I realize how little I have actually experienced. There is so much world out there, so if it doesn’t come out roaring spontaneously out of your heart – why do it? And that goes for anything, whether it’s a career, relationship, or selecting which flavor of Ben and Jerry’s you’ll devour tonight.
It’s made me realize how important it is to make your own happiness. It may sound straight of a Hallmark card, but relying on others for your happiness is like relying on the desert for a rainfall. There’s way more to life than finding someone who will want you, or being sad over someone who doesn’t. Create your own sunshine. Go on adventures. Sleep under the stars. Book a spontaneous flight without doing any research. Sit in coffee shops on your own. Climb mountains. Trust that if you pursue what makes you happy, someday, someone will hold on to that and never let go.