“Why are you running away again? You can’t escape the reality of life.”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard this I could have traveled the world two times over. As I’m mentally preparing my next adventure, I can’t help but have that hesitation in the back of my mind. Anticipating the all too familiar reactions I will get. “But Ashley, it’s dangerous to go alone! You could be mugged or attacked.” Or there’s, “You’ve been through a lot but you can’t run away again.” And the most popular of them all, “Aren’t you scared?” Now, these are all fair outlooks but I see it differently. I would like to explain my thought process with each one of these.
Let’s address the first statement, “It’s dangerous to go alone. You could be mugged or attacked.” Did you know that living in today’s world of 2017 is the safest the world has been in quite some time? It’s true! Look it up. Crime rates have dropped over the years in most places. Thanks to a lovely thing called the media, the world seems a much more treacherous place than it did 50 years ago. If there is bomb in a city half way around the world, we know about it within minutes of the attack. Half a century ago, the news wasn’t so easily distributed as it is today. Think of it this way, I could just as easily be mugged or attacked in another large city such as Seattle, Chicago, New York City, or even here in Phoenix. It doesn’t mean that it is more likely to happen outside of the United States. Being safe and vigilant are important no matter where you go. Luckily, I have the street smarts to stay out of harm’s way.
I just love this one, “You’ve been through a lot but you can’t run away again.” Yes, I have been told this. To be fair, I can understand where they were coming from. At the time, my Aunt had passed away, I had just ended a three-year long relationship, my anxiety was worse than it had ever been before with panic attacks as an almost daily event and on top of all that I put in my two weeks at my job with no other job to back it up. This was all within a three months span. It was a lot for anyone to deal with. When my stress levels are high, I look for a stress relief, something to take my mind off all the negative that is surrounding me so I can regroup and focus on the positive. Traveling makes me happier than anything I’ve ever experienced so why not immerse myself with something that positively impacts me?
I had just given my two week notice to my manager at my work at home part time. It was Wednesday, the end of my work week and I was a couple of hours into my shift. I was consumed with the memories of the transformative events that had taken place in the last few months and thought to myself, “I need a break from all this. I need to get away and take a vacation”.
I had saved several hundred dollars for a weekend trip to New York with my ex-boyfriend and since that was no longer happening, I wanted to spend that money elsewhere. I had a four day weekend and decided that I was leaving. I calculated how long it would take for me to get to my home state, Washington. If I left right after work and drove straight through I could get there in roughly 28 hours. I pinned cheap hotels on my map along the way if I needed to stop and sleep. I added up gas prices, hotel and food costs and within an hour I had everything planned out. I just had to finish up my last couple hours at work and I would get ready to leave.
I couldn’t believe it. I was actually going! I was really doing this. I clocked out, packed a bag for myself and my dog and we hit the road. My anxiety started to kick in and I kept second guessing myself. I almost turned around a few times until I reached the California boarder. I turned to my dog Romeo and said, “Well Romey, it’s too late to turn around now!” When I crossed that line, it felt liberating. I could breathe for the first time in months! It was as if that boarder line shoved all my problems out the trunk of my car and I watched as they crashed to the ground and faded in my rearview mirror. Sure, they will still exist as a memory but they didn’t feel so unbearable. I was starting to feel an emotion that felt foreign to me in the last few months, happiness.
I told no one of my plans other than a select few friends. I checked in with them each time I stopped along the way. They had mixed feelings of my travels but they all had one thing in common, concern. The texts read, “Are you okay? Did something happen?”, “Why are you going?”, “Woohoo you go girl! But why so sudden?” I was at a loss for words. I was trying to sort out my emotions but to have to explain it to someone else was a near impossible task. How do I explain this feeling to them? It’s like I had been chained in the ninth circle of hell and making this trip allowed me to break those shackles and free myself of that misery. I tried to explain it as best I could and for the most part, I received well wishes and safe travels.
I more than enjoyed my trip. The countryside was breathtaking. It allowed me the peace I so desperately needed to sort through my thoughts and lingering feelings. After about 28 hours, I made it to my hotel in Fife, Washington then went out to visit with a friend. The next day I had the opportunity to visit my Aunt’s grave site for the first time since she passed away. I spent about an hour with her telling her about all my worries, fears, and all about my heartache. I expressed my internal struggle whether I should tell my family, who lives only minutes away, that I was there. The point of my trip was to be alone, to force myself to think through the events that had transcribed, to clear my head and get a better understanding of who I am and what I want. It was for no one other than me. Some may view it as selfish but I knew my family wouldn’t see it that way and would understand. I didn’t view it as avoiding life or running away from responsibilities. My purpose for leaving was to clear my head without the distraction of the everyday hustle and bustle of life.
When arriving home, I wasn’t entirely greeted with the warm welcoming as I was hoping for. My actions were hurtful to a few and worrisome to others. As I mentioned before, some viewed it as a selfish choice but it was a choice I felt I had to make to get through the that dark period in my life. My intentions weren’t for others to worry, I only wanted space, time and understanding. This wasn’t about them, it was about me.
Lastly, let’s talk about the all too popular question, “Aren’t you scared?” The answer to that is simple. Yes, I am scared. Like most people, I too, am scared of the unknown. I’m scared I will have a horrible experience and want to come home. I’m scared of running out of money sooner than expected. I’m scared of getting lost and not knowing how to find my way back. I’m scared I will lose my passport or will be a victim of pick-pocketing. There are endless things to fear but my biggest fear above all else, is not going at all. Staying home and not even attempting to live out my dream would be my worst nightmare. Just because I’m scared of the unknown doesn’t mean it should stop me from doing what I love.
I will most likely experience my next big trip solo. This will be my first time on my own outside of the country which I know will spark worry in friends, family, and even co-workers. I don’t think it is as scary as some people imagine. They just can’t see the possibilities or the potential to gain life experiences in the way I see it. You get to meet new people, explore beautiful places, experience different cultures. You get a chance to see the world in a way that not everyone will have the opportunity to see. It opens your mind to different ways of life.
I have tried to express my love for travel and it’s next to impossible to explain to someone who might not have that kind of passion for something. It’s like being color blind your entire life then suddenly having the opportunity to experience all the colors of the rainbow. It is beautiful and enchanting and leaves you in awe. I would go crazy without being able to travel. It’s my muse, my drive, and is what gets me through hard times. When I don’t have the money to travel, I simply substitute it with research at a local coffee shop. I day dream about the place I want to visit next and gather all the information I possibly can before stepping foot on that foreign soil. Traveling for me is not just a want or a desire, it is a need.
If you ever have any interest on being a “runaway” traveler and want tips, suggestions or need guidance on how to get started, feel free to send me a message and I would be happy to point you in the right direction. I also highly recommend checking out Matt Kepnes’ blog. I’m addicted to his writing and have read several posts multiple times. You can feel the passion in his blog not only for travel but also for helping others. He’s very knowledgeable and all the information he provides has been tested by either himself or his team. He also writes a wonderful article that explains many of the same points I had in this post. I encourage you to check out his work and don’t just envision about your dreams but put it into action!
Until next time, remember to never let your fears get in the way of following your passion!