Not All Who Wander Are Lost; On Travel & The Best Version of Me

Hans Christian Andersen said, “To travel is to live”.

I met myself for the first time when I transferred high schools as a senior. The girl I met was not stupid (like she thought). She was shy and kind, she made new friends with ease, and she discovered she was good at pottery. At the time, I didn’t realize the transition had introduced me to a new version of myself. I was just glad to be done with high school.

At 20, I set out for my continental tour of the US, courtesy of Amtrak.  For three weeks I was free of everyone I knew, forced to really see and spend time with who I was then. I really liked her. She was brave and vulnerable, curious, and strong. Free from ties of the real world, she saw the world through only her desires and cares. I was in love, and this young lady was on a special road, a unique path all her own, this was exactly what I wanted to be. I came home a better person, confident, ready to take on my senior year of college and make plans for the future. I had found myself and I felt truly alive.

Then the world hit. Life gets in the way so fast. When you do not work at a relationship (even the one with yourself) it can fall apart. In the last five years I have graduated college, fallen in love, felt like a failure of massive proportions, gotten a big girl job, bought a house, lost friends, and made some new ones. In all this commotion the strong, fantastic self that disembarked Amtrak trains in 2011 has been woefully ignored.

So on my 25 birthday I cried, and many nights before and after I cried. I felt like life was passing me by. 

I looked around and the best version of myself was boxed in a corner unable to get out from behind all the boxes labelled “responsibility” and “you should.”

I can’t tell you truly memorable moments from the last 3 years. I missed those memories, the ones that years later you can close your eyes and return to, the ones where you know, I mean really KNOW you are living life.

I was so scared of getting it wrong again, I had been sitting life out.

As a high-schooler, I really thought I would have it figured out by then. When you graduate college you quickly realize the cruel reality is that you were not prepared for this. You and all your friends spend a year pretending life is going great, and when you video chat you feel like an absolute failure because everyone else is doing so superbly. By the next year everyone drops the facade and admits that maybe things aren’t so perfect, so you feel some comfort but not really. The lyrics to the Friends theme song becomes your jam, and you feel that they are the only people who actually understand. Then you realize Friends has been a wildly popular show for the last twenty years… so maybe one or two other people empathize with you. And the thing is life is actually pretty good, but the fear of missing out manages to keep you from appreciating the moment. The idea that a bad choice will almost certainly ruin everything you want for the future keeps you from making the next step. You try to make the safe, smart choice, and for me this created a stall, and time got lost.

I once saw a great quote by Helen Keller that said “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Well, I choose daring adventure.

Since my last birthday, I have made a point to try to live again, make new friends, and leave the house. I’m forcing myself out of my comfort zone, in the form of a six week trip to Europe. But this time, I am not looking to “find myself.” I know who I am. I am a teacher, I am a great friend, I am a smart, sexy, strong woman. I just need to get out and wander so I can remember what it felt like to know the best version of me.

Photos courtesy of Anna Scott.