Life. Why are we here, and what is our purpose?
People have tried to answer this complex question for all of human history, but I don’t know if any of us can ever do this. Is it even possible for there to be just one answer that works for everyone, or is there even a need to answer it at all. All I know is that we’re all here in this universe for a short period of time, and that life should be lived to the fullest. Each of us should be free to follow our own paths, pursue our own passions, and determine for ourselves what is of value.
Throughout my life, I have come to the realization that stepping into the unknown, completely out of your comfort zone, is where the magic really happens. Where we realize our true potential, grow as individuals, and where we feel in complete awe of the world around us. While there might be many things that may scare you, there is also a whole world of choice and possibility available. You possess the choice to replace your sense of fear with curiosity instead, which then allows for a whole world of openness and love to appear!
In order to stay curious, open and create an atmosphere of growth, I’ve decided not to live your ‘typical’ life – a life focused on one milestone after another, where one goes from elementary into high school, continuing on to university, followed by getting a job, climbing the corporate ladder, buying a house and ‘settling’ in one place. Instead, I decided to jump into the unknown and do something a bit different. After completing university, I decided to pack up my life in Canada and hit the open road, with only a backpack and a smile on my face.
I’ve now lived abroad for the past 7 years, and have traveled through more than 30 countries. I’ve been fortunate enough to hike up some of the highest mountains in Nepal and India, to sail for 6 months from Thailand to Japan, share tea with the Dalai Lama, and explore all the countries between Guatemala and Argentina.
Life has been exciting, adventurous and daring. It also hasn’t always been easy. Social media only shows one side of a story. People often look at the photos I take and think that my life is glamorous and carefree, but I also face many challenges while wandering the globe. Not only are there the frustrations of things such as long bus rides, but there also exists the internal dialogue that can complicate my life. While I’m glad I chose to live an unconventional life, I sometimes also question my choices. “Am I doing the right thing?” “Should I also be working a corporate job like my friends?” “What am I going to do in the future if I don’t have a retirement fund?”
These questions can go on and on, and are largely due to society imprinting these thoughts in our heads. However, while I’m in far away countries, where the culture is often so different from my own, I’ve also had many ‘aha’ moments where everything just makes complete sense and I realize that none of these questions really matter. I’ve been so fortunate to have met many incredible, loving, beautiful souls during my wanders, who have helped to open my eyes to a world full of possibility and connection. One family in particular made a huge impact on my outlook in life. A few years ago I stayed with a Muslim family in Morocco for 10 days, where all 8 of us – the 5 children, parents and myself – slept in one room on the floor. There was no running water and we ate only rice for all 3 meals of the day. I wasn’t able to change my clothing for the 10 days I stayed there since there was no privacy available. Only one of the sons spoke English and I don’t speak any French or Arabic, so I had to communicate through hand gestures and smiles to interact with the rest of the family. Despite language barriers and cultural differences, this family opened their arms and their hearts to me, welcoming me into their home, and feeding me when they could hardly afford to feed themselves.
Thinking back to this experience brings me to the brink of tears. It’s incredible how generous people can be, even when they may have so little. How this family enjoyed laughing and playing together, and how their lack of money didn’t affect the love that they felt for one another or the time they shared together.
What I know for sure: In this age of fear, where people are often speaking of terrorism and racial and religious divides, LOVE is actually all we need. Regardless of our background, religion or social status, we are all equal. We are all created from the same stardust, and WE ARE ALL ONE. We are all so capable of opening our arms and our hearts to strangers, and by doing so, strangers then turn into family.
For the last 18 months I have lived out of a 60 litre backpack. I’ve had minimal clothes and accessories. This was quite the challenge to pack for as I travelled from the beaches of Costa Rica to the mountains of Peru. I needed such a wide variety of clothing for the different climates I’d be passing through and the types of activities I’d take part in. But somehow I managed to squeeze everything I needed into the one bag. In the beginning it was a struggle to have only what I carried on my own back, but over time I became so much more content with less! Now, I have recently returned home to Canada where I have a vast amount of clothes, yet feel overwhelmed by it all. I’ve come to realize that I am actually happier with less things. While the media often tries to convince us to consume more and more, things don’t equal happiness.
What I know for sure: Less is more. In today’s society we are so consumed with STUFF, always buying more and more and more. We’re always trying to keep up with (or more often, compete with) the Jones’, as they say. However, none of these external things have the power to make us truly happy. They only clutter our minds and our spaces. My goal is now to live with less. To be a minimalist and only purchase goods that add value and quality to my life. Buying things does not make us happy. It’s only through internal peace of mind and the love we feel for ourselves and one another that we can find happiness. Instead of reaching out for the next newest thing, we need to learn to reach out to one another. If we can learn how to share, connect, and empathize with one another, we can replace fear with love, and begin to make this world a much happier, more loving place.
There is so much that I could say about my travel experiences and exploring the world, however my take-away for now is simple: take a step back and really look at your life. Look to see what is bringing you joy, and what is adding to your fear and stress in your life.
If you are not happy and content, then take action. Step out of your comfort zone, and become curious! I’m not saying that it isn’t scary to change your environment and the way you live your life, but if you don’t do it now, then when will you?
So if this resonates with you, I invite you to take some time to sit down and reflect. Ask yourself “what am I passionate about?” “What makes me curious?” “What sort of life do I want to live?” And “what is stopping me from going for it and pursuing my dreams?” And as you do this, then begin to write down what it is that you want, and make an action plan on how you will get there. And then most importantly: TAKE ACTION on these things! More and more I realize that life is so unbelievably brief. It is short, and what may come your way in the future is completely unknown. You never know what life will throw at you or how much time you have left on this planet, so if you have a dream, go for it now rather than leaving it for later – because later might never come.