When a trip isn’t what you expect it to be…what do you do?
This post comes from our friend Liz Morrow…
When people ask about my trip to Paris, my truly honest response is: it was a lot of things. Some of those things weren’t necessarily positive, but no one really wants to hear that. They want to hear that you had the time of your life and you didn’t want to leave and that everything was magical. And perhaps for some people it is but, for me, this time, it was not.
I love travel. I consider myself pretty pro. Growing up in Alaska, going anywhere meant flying there. Or road-tripping for about a week. My first solo flight took place when I was in 6th grade (I think) — I was so used to flying that I didn’t realize that traveling as an unaccompanied minor was different. I filed off the plane with the rest of the passengers, met up with my mom at the gate and we went on our merry way until the panicked flight attendants caught up with us and confirmed that I was leaving with the proper guardian. I’ve flown to countless cities and road-tripped from Alaska to Florida, and back to Washington State, all solo.
As an international traveler, however, my experience is a little lacking. I once visited Guatemala with a high school group, but I don’t really count that — we we were mindlessly shuttled around and I didn’t have to figure out a thing. It wasn’t for lack of desire. I was all set to attend the American University in Cairo for a month, but my passport and student visa didn’t arrive before my flight, so I cancelled the whole thing (a boyfriend may have also been responsible for my wanting to stay at home — lame). As a result, I was able to book a new flight to London, but I also skipped out on that trip, for reasons I don’t remember but can probably attribute to aforementioned boyfriend. Years before that, my entire family had planned a huge trip to Europe, but my grandma was involved in a serious car accident the day before our departure. Another trip cancelled.
So, when I stumbled upon a super cheap flight to Paris a few months ago, I heeded the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes via Women Who Run With the Wolves: “‘I am going.’ These are the best words ever. Say them, then go.” I booked the flight for my birthday…renewed my passport. It felt like something I needed to do. Travel in the US no longer pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I needed to find something that did. I needed to prove to myself that I could. That I could do something brave. Many things, like traveling cross-country in a 1973 Winnebago Brave, by myself, might look brave to outsiders but, to me, felt squarely inside my comfort zone. International travel, though…definitely outside the zone, in what a friend once called the “growth zone.”
I researched like a crazy person. I tried my best to re-learn the French I learned in high school. My husband Dan drove me to the airport on that chilly morning, and I kissed him goodbye and got on the plane.
It was hard. I’m a solid introvert but, being alone in a foreign country, not able to speak the language, with no one to share the experience…that was difficult. The jet lag was brutal, and I didn’t do many of the things I hoped to. The language barrier gave me so much anxiety. I spent half a day hidden in my Airbnb watching Netflix and crying. But after getting some much-needed encouragement from friends, I pulled myself together — even just for my last days in Paris — and found freedom from the pressure of having The Best Time Ever. I read my book in a cafe while enjoying my petit dejeuner, walked around the Musee D’Orsay, and ate a Nutella-filled crepe under the Eiffel Tower. I realized that I didn’t have to fit everything this very trip. I didn’t have to have The Best Time Ever, because there could and would be other times. I could visit again with Dan, or a friend, and be able to laugh and talk and share with someone.
I’m glad I went. I broke through the “thing” that prevented me from traveling abroad. I opened myself up to the universe, letting it know that my passport was broken in and ready to go. I already have tickets to Iceland and Ireland (and maybe Paris again) for 2016. Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her book Big Magic about ideas being sentient beings, on the lookout for people who are available and willing to take them on.
One of my personal and professional dreams was to travel more, both domestically and internationally, for work and self-enrichment. I was tired of waiting around for it to happen to me, and this trip to Paris was my stake in the ground. “I’m here. I’m ready to go. I’ve got my passport in hand!” As soon as I made that mental shift, the universe shifted with it. Doors started opening. Little doors, but doors nonetheless. So, even if my Paris visit wasn’t the Best Most Magical Trip Ever, it was, for me, a little flag waving wildly, signaling my readiness with bags packed. My comfort zone is a little bit bigger now, too.
“I am going…” Those are the best words. Say them, then go.