This post originally appeared on Thought Catalog.
I’m about to turn 31 tomorrow and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, or so I am told. In my late 20’s, not having a “career track” freaked me out. I was told again and again that I needed to find direction, settle down and of course, grow up. But here I am at 31, as uncertain in many ways as I was at 21. Rather than scare me, this gives me incredible strength. My career ambitions are as audacious as they are vague: I want to do something that brings goodness to the world. The possibilities are many, so why at 31 would I limit myself to just one? Curiosity still rules the roost in my life.
In my late 20’s, a friend and I made a travel pact: 30 by 30. The idea was to hit 30 countries by the time we were 30 years old. And while I am glad I did it, travel has changed for me. Checklists are great for “career tracks” but they hold little value for the truly curious traveler. There will be no 40 by 40, at least not as a goal that I set for myself. This doesn’t mean I’m not excited to visit new places like South Africa, Hungary, and Qatar this year. But if 30 was about hitting a checklist of accomplishments, turning 31 is about traveling with a bit more intentionality. I’ll be returning to some of the most sacred places that simultaneously drew me out into the world and further into my own spiritual wherewithal.
For years, I have seen travel as an art. I honed my skills in budget travel and shared that knowledge with anyone who would listen. I sought out stories while on the road that would provide refuge to my creativity on the most boring of days. But all along, I refused to write. “Who am I to write and publish my thoughts?” I said again and again. The truth of it all is still hard to admit: I was (and still am) afraid to really face my imperfect voice when writing. Words hold incredible meaning. Strung together the right way, there is little that is more beautiful and moving than a good story. And while it is becoming more and more natural with spoken word, the written word was altogether something more challenging to master.
But a man with a piano on the waterfront of Queenstown New Zealand changed all that.
His music spoke to my heart. Every touch of the piano keys, every tear that fell from the cheeks of bystanders caught in the trance of his beautiful music simultaneously held me frozen in place, while also giving me the courage to move beyond my own fears and hesitations! And so I put a name to my fears, and as I spoke about them out loud, they seemed less and less insurmountable. When I timidly shared with people that we were starting a travel blog, I would joke: “I hope someone other than my wife reads my posts”. Then one day it hit me: If I don’t believe what I have to say matters, why the hell should anyone else? I stopped making jokes. I now pour my heart and soul into our blog, even when heart and soul sometimes feel like the last thing that shows up in some of my posts. I feel I have something to offer, and while it’s far from perfect, at least the journal is at long last off the shelf.
Looking back, I admire the idealism that informed my teens and twenties. Looking forward on the eve of my 31st birthday, I have a deep appreciation that as I grew older and as it became harder and harder to be an idealist, idealistic I have remained. Living abroad years ago, I was reminded again and again that I couldn’t travel forever. I disagree. Travel, I have come to discover, is more a state of mind than a process. If we approach each day with the curiosity of a traveler lost amidst a maze of new streets, greet each person with the wonder and awe we have when meeting someone from a new place, we create an environment where the light chases out the darkness. Isn’t that why we travel? Our curiosity fed, our hearts engaged, the mind can’t help but remain steadfastly idealistic, even if it has no idea just what the hell we’re doing with our lives!
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