115 Days.

3 Continents.

9 Countries.

21 Flights.

55 Different Beds.

What a whirlwind.

I didn’t make it much farther than the security line at the Barcelona airport before tears started streaming down my face. Tears for gratitude that it happened, and tears of sadness that this chapter is coming to a close. Soon I will touch down on American soil for the first time in 5 months, returning from an adventure that has truly been the most wondrous time of my life. I had a conversation yesterday with a friend and tried to put into words the craziness of my emotions brewing. I explained how I went into this trip anticipating what I would see on the outside – amazing beaches, historical landmarks, and world heritage nature sights. But what I wasn’t anticipating was what I would see on the inside – in my own heart and in the eyes of those I crossed paths with. The transformation of perspective, heart and mind are too profound to put into words that would do it justice. All I know, is the girl who boarded the plane in January seems a lifetime away.

I keep whispering to myself that life wouldn’t be so bright if there wasn’t a shadow every now and then. A shadow seems to describe the gloomy feeling inside that has been developing in anticipation of this day. And while I am sad its over, I’m seriously craving the embrace of family and friends at home. Perhaps this feeling of peace in between bouts of tears comes from knowing that these changes aren’t being left behind at a monument somewhere on the other side of the world, they’re inside. I can pick up and travel again. And maybe that’s the culminating point of all this that needed to be refreshed in my mind…. because in the daily grind of American society, the hours, days and months pass by so quickly, it’s easy to forget:

You’re free to do what you want with your life.

If you want to move to a new city, climb the corporate ladder to your dream job, buy a house on the water, teach English in Bangkok, run a triathlon, or adopt a puppy, YOU CAN.
If you want to live out of your van, get married, go back to school, move to Morocco, or join a convent, YOU CAN.

It’s beautifully scary thing to live life the way you want to, rather than the way you’re expected to.

Comfort is easy, change is hard.

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. It’s not going to be given to you. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

If you don’t step forward, you’ll always be in the same place. Conditions are never perfect.
“Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave.

So to anyone still reading… I hope you take a moment to press pause on your life and ponder your hearts truest desires. I hope you visualize those desires, take a step toward them and commit to pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.

I hope you…

• Feel the freedom of driving a motorbike all over a remote island with the sun shining on your face and wind blowing through your hair.
• Soak up a Fijian waterfall in the middle of the rainforest yelling “Bula!” at the top of your lungs.
• Experience the hospitality of a newfound friend as you share a meal in their home full of recipes passed down by generations.
• Find work that fills up your heart first, then your wallet.
• Pick up hitchhikers.
• Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and leap through a flaming ring of fire on a beach in Thailand.
• Spend more time makeup-free in a bikini, and less time in front of the mirror getting “ready”.
• Build friendships so deep they feel more like family.
• Take a selfie with a Kangaroo.
• Spend hours meditating on top of a mountain looking out over God’s beauty created in the Himalayas.
• Take a cooking class.
• Celebrate your birthday in a foreign country.
• Feel the majesty of an elephant beneath your seat as you traverse the jungles of Asia.
• Taste ample amounts of sugar cane.
• Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.
• Spend less time worrying about filling up your bank account, and more time filling up your heart.
• Pass on the chicken or steak, and go for the frog, goat, or octopus.
• Learn to surf.
• Drive a car on the opposite side of the road.
• Get lost.
• Splurge on luxury night golfing with a caddy in Bangkok.
• Hold a koala bear.
• Care less about capturing the moment in a photo, and more about enjoying the actual moment.
• Eat peanut brittle and drink cheap red wine over hours of rummy with friends.
• Get a small tattoo with big meaning.
• Start a blog.
• Embrace every tear-filled goodbye with friends old and new.
• Devour fresh, hand delivered breakfast in bed in your bungalow overlooking a secluded beach.
• Dress up in a Brazilian flag, body paint a bunch of international beach volleyball players and dance the night away.
• Book a ticket to Italy, because Italy is always a good idea.
• Volunteer. Donating your time and skills can be just as impactful as donating your money.
• Sit on the beach and marvel in a lunar eclipse lighting up the night’s sky.
• Eat pho from a hole in the wall restaurant where most tourists wouldn’t even feel comfortable using their restroom.
• Forget your age or differences and let yourself laugh joyously while catching waves in Fiji with a couple teenage boys.
• Go swimming in the middle of the Daintree rainforest.
• Take a nap, sleep till dinner or wake up at dawn. Sleep and eat when your body tells you to, instead of when the clock says so.
• Experience the juice of fruits not grown in your homeland – durian, logan berries, jackfruit, cacao, and dragon fruit.
• Join a beach volleyball game where no one speaks English.
• Say “yes” to going out with new friends, no matter how sleep deprived you are.
• Laugh off a massive bed bug attack – at least someone enjoyed the night, right?
• Run the streets of a new town without knowing your destination or clocking your distance.
• Trek through remote towns of the Himalayas, stumble upon a Buddhist monastery, and stay for tea and meditation.
• Book a yoga retreat.
• Rock out to James Taylor (or whoever your favorite artist is) in a foreign country. Go stag – belt it loud and dance your ass off.
• Blow your budget in New Zealand (which trust me, that’s inevitable), and to compensate, sleep in a rental car and put on all the clothes you own to make it through airport baggage check without the extra fees.
• Forget the name brands and drink like a local. Soak up those sources of much laughter — cava, ruksty, singhas, sangria, and goon.
• Wake up at 5am, load up your motorbike – 2 friends and 4 bags deep, drive across the island through sunrise to catch the Seahawks play in the Superbowl.
• Grip that “oh shit handle” of your taxi in Ho Chi Minh City – it’s ok to never get used to the chaos of those roads.
• Experience the adventure of getting lost hiking on the Mediterranean coast. Pop bottles of local chard and laugh over surviving the elements with newfound friends.
• Look for a natural remedy before loading up on medications.
• Spend days where your sole responsibility is to sleep, eat and do yoga in big barn full of international yogis.
• Sunbathe tan-line free on a topless beach.
• Cleanse in an outdoor shower listening to the sounds of birds, crickets and feel the sensation of humidity and rainwater on your skin.
• Cruise the regal Fijordlands of Southern New Zealand.
• Are brought to moments of awe – where you just have to stop in your tracks, pause and allow yourself to be overwhelmed by what your eyes and heart are experiencing.
• Sit around a campfire under the stars in the Blue Mountains swapping hiking routes and travel tales with hostel mates.
• Go off-roading on an island made of sand.
• Sip rose on the patio of the Sydney Opera house on a sunny Friday night.
• Read dozens of books for the sole purpose of enjoyment.
• Eat heaps of gelato for dinner, if that’s what you feel like!
• Take a detour to explore a local winery or lavender farm.
• Feel the true fear of seeing a shark while snorkeling!
• Experience meals slowly. Feed your soul as you read a newspaper, play cards or chat with the person across the table for hours while you consume food straight from the earth.
• Taste authentic Vietnamese coffee.
• Gift some contents of your bag to fellow travelers or leave them for the hotel cleaning crew, after-all it’s just stuff.
• Learn for yourself that monkeys are not cute little animals – they’re scary!
• Experience the hysterical challenges of getting somewhere with no technology and no money…random acts of kindness aren’t the only acts of kindness that exist.
• Get a massage for $10/hour… and try not to freak out when you realize draping laws aren’t international!
• Enjoy those minutes while you wait for your table to be ready, your train to arrive or the bathroom stall to open up.
• Set out on a motorbike for the day with no agenda –find a small surf town, an incredible lookout bar, or a deserted hippy camp.
• Eat pizza, croissants and chapatti without immediately worrying about how many hours in the gym it will take you to work it off.
• Soak in the instant bond when a young girl’s delicate hand grabs yours in excitement as she shows you her home town.
• Dance, spin wildly, and do cartwheels in a tropical rain shower.
• Care less about what’s listed on someone’s resume (yes, I see the irony), and more about their dreams, hobbies and passions.
• Got to a country music festival in Australian wine country.
• Sit around a table for hours sanding down a coconut shell to make a ring, a pendant or whatever your heart desires.
• Feel your feet in the sand as you sit in a bean bag watching a big blow up movie screen and the moon reflecting over the ocean.
• Invite the people next to you to join your table – it could result in the best random conversation you’ve had in months.
• Ride through the windy roads of monkey forest at 2am holding a watermelon and beers, wedged between your two best friends.
• Eat a massive Fergburger.
• Laugh when someone tells you you’re too young or too female to travel alone.
• Follow your heart – to hell with plans and schedules. If you want to go somewhere off schedule, go. Give your heart some more weight than your brain every now and then.
• Make friends with strangers, everywhere. Get off your phone, look up at the life in front of you. Opportunities for connection are everywhere, will you see them?

Above all, I hope you believe in yourself. Believe that the experiences thus far in life will lead you right where you’re supposed to be. God won’t serve up something you can’t handle.

Onward with more adventure!