This year has been an incredible year in travel. Traveling to Thailand, my first trip to Asia, was such a great experience, visiting Istanbul as part of my role as a White House Travel Blogger was surreal, visiting Guatemala – twice – left me beyond words, and of course, returning to France as a Wine Ambassador for the third year in a row felt like returning home.
These destinations have been great, a list that would make any traveler proud. But, between these trips, back in my little simple life as a mother and wife, even bigger things were happening.
We purchased a house, solidifying our home in New Jersey, a huge commitment for this Brooklyn girl and nomadic soul.
I found my birth mother on Facebook, something that I shared with my online family, whose encouragement and support gave me courage up to the moment where we actually met face-to-face and was celebrated by them all, including Facebook itself.
My oldest son started college.
Each one of these details of my personal life affected me deeply and further influenced the way I see the world, interact with it, and then later on, told its stories.
So much so that a trip to Istanbul or Thailand or France or Fiji become more than just exotic tales of travels. Instead, they are the story from a place that is emotional and conflicted and messy. I navigated through these foreign places, and took in these new experiences, while also dealing with intense and equally new experiences at home.
I didn’t use travel as an escape from my life, but as a compliment to all that was happening in it. Thailand, 2015
We are conditioned to shut off or separate our personal lives from our professional ones. The proper time and place of things is a message that we receive as children and it carries itself well into adulthood and into our work lives.
The image of success is often neat and clean and organized. The mess that is real life kept under wraps or photoshopped away so as to not ruin the fantasy or the image.
For many travel bloggers this practice is no different. We present a story that is exciting, inspiring, and effortless. Few ever feel the need or consider it savvy to expose their inner selves so deeply as to tarnish the fantasy that they are trying to sell. I’ve always been a bit too lazy to try to package my life to be anything more than what it really is.
Which is lucky, because had I tried, this year would have blown any falsity right out of the water. Yet, it’s been an incredible blessing. I have found that the best travel story, or at least the ones that I have had the most fun writing, are the ones where I allowed the very raw emotions from all the things happening in my personal life to affect me in such a way that my view of the world was impacted by it.
I allowed myself to feel more intensely, not for the narrative, but because it felt good to do so and it influenced how more deeply I saw the world. Guatemala, 2015
And in doing so I was more open to conversations even when language was a barrier, and experiences that brought me closer to friendships and more meaningful encounters with strangers. I felt more deeply and appreciated more wholly, and it influenced how I wanted others to read about it too.
What a wonderful journey this year has been.
My hope is that I can be an example in that no matter what life throws your way, whether good or bad, it can serve as an opportunity to embrace the world around you in a richer way. The vulnerability brought forth from the things unknown don’t have to shut you down, but help to open you up to feel life in a way that is fuller and more meaningful. And most of all, I want you to remember that there’s nothing wrong with allowing all of your human self to guide your journey or your story.
Take nothing for granted, even that which seems the most simplest of things. Istanbul, 2015
There will always be someone out there who will appreciate hearing it just as you lived it – wrinkles, flaws, tears, fears, vulnerabilities, and all.
Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring. – Marilyn Monroe
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