“You may wonder, ‘How can I leave it all behind if I am just coming back to it. How can I make a new beginning if I simply return to the old?’ The answer lies in the return. You will not come back to the ‘same old thing”. What you return to has changed because you have changed. Your perceptions will be altered. You will not incorporate into the same body, status or world you left behind. The river has been flowing while you were gone. Now it does not look like the same river.” – Steven Foster
I love to travel! We didn’t have a lot of money when I was little, but my parents still managed to take us to Mexico when we were all young thanks to a condo my dad’s boss let us use. When I was 5, we drove from Tucson, Arizona to San Carolos, Mexico, arriving to the condo late at night. As we were piling out of the car, I remember hearing and smelling the ocean for the first time before I ever saw it. The sound of the waves crashing onto the beach and the sweet salty smell in the air was all I was able to experience until the next morning.
Even though that was 36 years ago, I can remember the feeling when I saw the ocean the next morning for the first time. My younger sister and I ran towards the beach, looking out seeing this never-ending body of water with the sunlight sparkling on it like a million diamonds.
I still get that giddy feeling today when I see the ocean. The ocean does something to me inside when I see it. I feel at peace hearing the waves, looking out onto the horizon, something comes over me that I just can’t explain, it puts the “relax” in vacation for me…ok there isn’t “relax” in the word vacation, but there should be!
Vacationing was very important to me and my ex-husband, even when we started dating, we scrounged up enough money to go to Lake of the Ozarks for a weekend, just a few hours from home. Our vacations later in the relationship became a little more exotic than Missouri and we always had an amazing time on our trips. However, there was something that always seemed to happen after our vacations, we both got a little depressed about coming back to the “real world”. I remember being at airports ready to fly home and we were both already on our phones, checking emails and looking at our calendars for the upcoming week; almost putting a sour note on the end of our trips.
After my separation in early 2018 I planned several solo trips, telling myself that vacationing has always been my way to relax, so my time away would certainly “fix” my issues. My first trip was to Telluride, Colorado. Living in Colorado for 16 years I always wanted to visit it, so I thought it was a perfect solo road trip. Well, the start to that trip didn’t exactly start out the best, remember me wanting to toss Brene Brown out my window? Yeah, that was the trip. I cried most of the trip, which yes, in itself was probably healing for me. There were moments of the trip that were great, but I remember driving home on I70, dreading coming back to my reality.
A few months later I thought if I got out of Colorado, THAT would be the fix! I just needed to run further away, so I booked a trip to Vermont and New Hampshire so I could see the fall leaves and the ocean all in one. I experienced so many new things on this trip I never would have done when I was married, which included driving miles out of my way because I got lost, stopping at a roadside stand to get hot cider and camping in a tent in someone’s backyard. Although I tried some new things on this trip and I did what I wanted to, but I spent a lot of time crying about the life I lost. Once again, on the plane ride home, I was dreading the life I was coming back to. So, what did I do when I arrived home and my problems were still there, and I was still reacting to them in the same way? I started planning my next trip. I needed to even further away this time, that would do the trick!
December 29, 2018, I arrived in Panama, my first solo trip out of the country. I knew it would be very hard for me to ring in the new year at home and since it was cold in Denver, I was ready for a warm up and to see the ocean. I did something a little different with this trip vs my previous “escapes” I had taken early in the year. I made a list of things that I wanted to accomplish during my time in Panama:
- Get out of my introvert comfort zone and make some new friends (I did, one that has now become a life long friend)
- Try things I have never done (which I did, surfing!)
- Get a nice tan
I had days filled with yoga, surfing, snorkeling, relaxing on the beach, laughing with new friends and ringing in the New Year on a beach with a bonfire. I headed back to the United States on January 4, ready to start 2019 with a positive attitude. In the Uber ride home from the airport I was feeling more at peace and stronger than I had felt in a long time. However, as I walked into my empty house, there it was, I started dreading the life I was coming back to and felt a wave of sadness come over me. I started things on the right foot on this trip by making a list of things I wanted to accomplish, but I still didn’t state to myself what the intent of my trip was and how I could take what I learned on this trip to help me respond to the “realities” in my everyday life that I was dreading. Monday came, my problems were still there, and I was still dealing with things the same way I had before my trip. I tried so hard to hang on to that peace and positive attitude I had in Panama, but as the weeks passed, it slipped away.
Spring was approaching and my friend I met in Panama reached out to start planning a vacation to somewhere with crystal clear water and a beach. As we were planning our trip to the Dominican Republic another friend asked if I could help her move her and her two dogs to Costa Rica just a few days after I would be returning from the Dominican. YAY, two trips back to back just a few months away. The next few months had a lot of struggles and I just kept looking at the calendar counting down the days until my trips. I had a great time on both of these trips, however, the same happened again, the dread of returning to my life.
The problem was, as I was planning these trips, I wasn’t just taking a vacation to relax and reconnect with myself, I was running (sometimes literally). Even if I was 1000 miles away from home, my problems were still there when I returned home, and I was responding to them in the same way I had before I left. I wasn’t growing or changing for the better on my travels, I was spending most of my time ruminating over my sadness. I didn’t list my intentions for these trips, what I wanted to gain. I knew that is what I needed to change if I was ever going to stop dreading coming back to the life that I lived. What could I gain on these adventures that I could use in my every day life? I needed to stop trying to escape and run away, make my travels more about growth and appreciation and to have intention.
Last month, as the holidays were approaching, I thought about going away on New Year’s Eve like I did to ring in 2019, but because of my new mindset of wanting to have intent for my trips, I didn’t want to run from my sadness around the holidays with fear I would just come back dreading my “real life”. I had a very intense conversation with myself about my intention for the trip. I asked myself why I would be going, was it to run or did I have a bigger purpose. I concluded that this time, it was not to run, I wanted to once again enter into the new year in a new city close to the ocean as I reflected on 2019 and gear up in a positive entrance into 2020.I decided to stay a little closer to home and picked a city in the United States I had never been to and Savannah, Georgia was the winner!
I was excited to get away, but I was also excited because I was going to do something very different and state my intent for this trip prior to leaving:
- Welcome the New Year in a new city
- Thank 2019 for everything it had given me, the things I had accomplished and how much growth I had done in the year and for what I had learned
- Get out of my comfort zone and talk to strangers and maybe even make a friend or two
- See the sunrise over the ocean
- Spend at least one day I’m there working on my business plan
- When I’m on the plane ride home:
- Write three things I learned about myself on the trip
- Make a list of three things I am going to do that are new that I haven’t done in Denver yet
- List 3 things I was excited to come back home to
- List 3 things I loved about this trip that I will try to incorporate into my life back home
- List 5 things I want to do to keep my “real life” feeling like it’s a vacation (unfortunately lounging by the ocean is out since I live in a land locked state…but there were plenty other things I was able to list)
I just returned from the most amazing vacation in Savannah! Filled with amazing food, walking over 30 miles, ghost tours, beach runs, fireworks and my good old friend, the ocean! Because of the intentions I had up front for this trip, I relaxed during my time there, soaked in the sun, enjoyed eating delicious food, ringing in the new year with strangers and hearing the waves crash on the beach. But what really excited me the most, was that on my last day there as I was driving to the airport to head home, I was not in any way sad that I was coming home. I was excited to get back to Colorado and start the new year with a new energy. I was excited to come back and to incorporate some of the things I learned and loved about my trip into my everyday life; to continue creating my life I don’t need, scratch that, that I don’t WANT to escape.
To be continued…
CLICK HERE to read Part 2