Today marks a year since I departed on my grandest adventure thus far: a career break that took me across three continents, four months, five countries, and countless cities.
As this year comes to an end, I’m reflecting on all the change in so many aspects of my life; and I’m amazed…thankful…epiphanous. Part of me had often wondered if I was running away from something, even if I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly I was running from. Growing up? Stagnancy? Life? It’s not anything I’d ever admitted out loud before. It’s only with hindsight I realize it wasn’t so much running away from something as it was toward something: adventure, transformation, personal growth.
“We travel for romance, we travel for architecture, and we travel to be lost.”
– Ray Bradbury
I mentioned earlier that I was in five countries over four months. I’ve done more countries in much less time, but this trip was something different. It was taking time to connect and reconnect with people, and placing a greater emphasis on family. It was letting my guard down and not having a plan and opening myself up to the possibilities of life. It was exploring the reasons why I was so drawn to all things Italian. It was attempting to find the indeterminable “more” that I longed for. If only for brief period, I wanted to get lost in another place, in different circumstances, in someone else’s shoes.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Giving myself room to breathe outside the constraints of “being a responsible adult,” allowing myself the flexibility to make decisions outside Silicon Valley’s bustle, indulging in the time to just be…. I knew it was a temporary freedom, but it enabled me to re-evaluate my priorities and completely be the carefree girl I couldn’t –or thought I couldn’t– afford to be in real life. I see now that all of it is “real life” and the different aspects of all that is Caroline don’t have to be compartmentalized or suppressed. If being successful (whatever your definition of it is) involves you wearing a face that isn’t completely yours, is that really success?
We travel, initially, to lose ourselves, and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again – to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
– Pico Iyer
I’ve always been a huge proponent of travel, and a firm believer that seeing the world changes you for the better. Getting lost in an exciting new city is great as a tourist; but enjoying a foreign country outside of its major tourist destinations often call for open-mindedness and good humor. The packing list for cultural immersion –adaptability, creativity, and a thirst for adventure in the physical, emotional, and mental sense– doesn’t fit inside a suitcase. Whether you’re coming back from your first trip or your hundredth, you never really come back the same person.
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
– Maya Angelou
In recent posts, I’ve stated that I travel to experience other cities with my own perspective, rather than concoct fantasies based on opinions others bring back. In my youth, I was fortunate enough to have lived and be exposed to myriad cultures in the Philippines, Guam, and the United States. It’s the exposure at a young age, I think, that made it easy for me to see people as individuals and personalities rather than skin colors or immigrants with a different native language.
“By changing nothing, nothing changes.”
– Tony Robbins
When I embarked on a career break, I wanted –needed– a change. It was a significant decision that catalytically sparked many subsequent changes. I came back a little wiser, a lot happier, a little less germophobic, and a little more mellow about life’s general direction. I returned with a greater appreciation for what I had and where I was, a better ability to put things in perspective, and the realization that I wasn’t so lost after all.
As it turns out, I wasn’t trying to escape life; I simply didn’t want life to pass me by. And after traversing the miles, rather than docking at home port like a storm-battered ship, I glided into harbor with new sails and a fresh coat of paint. Ships aren’t meant to sit in harbor, however, and it’s only a matter of time before the sails unfurl again, catching wind and carrying me on to my next adventure.