When it comes to achieving your goals, dedication is always the key to success. But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is knowing the difference between dedication and stubbornness. I set out on this leg of my trip with the goal of being in Rio for the Olympics. It was the very reason I chose to stay in Central and South America, even though I had invitations from friends to meet them in other parts of the world over summer break. Despite the cost, safety issues and overall logistical nightmare associated with being in Rio for the games, I was determined to achieve my goal.
And yet, while opening ceremonies kick off this week, I am writing this post from El Salvador. I spent a month in Rio between May and June, fully intending to return in time for the Olympics. I even booked a return flight that I should have boarded about two weeks ago… I had planned on doing some freelance work that could have been a spring board to a more solid writing gig, possibly allowing me to extend my travels. Needless to say, I had very high hopes for my return to Rio. But at every turn in my planning and budgeting process, something went wrong. I was trying so hard to achieve my goal that I was ignoring the countless signs telling me to abandon my plans.
I was so blinded by my determination to reach my goal that even when the cost of going back to Brazil grossly exceeded the amount of freelance money I could possibly earn, I was still trying to make it work in an effort to hold myself accountable. That’s when I knew my determination had turned into stubbornness. The travel plans I have made over the last couple years have always been motivated by a desire to explore new places, experience different things and enrich my life. But here I was, so desperate to get back to Rio to chase some semblance of my former life as a reporter. And that’s where I went wrong.
Once I reentered myself and started focusing on my original motivation for traveling, everything started to fall into place for me again. Abandoning the misplaced notion that I should focus on getting another reporting gig allowed me to hike through the rainforests of Costa Rica, hang out with sloths, explore every corner of Panama by car, and improve my surfing in El Salvador, all while I should have been making my way back to Brazil. A country I was lucky enough to experience without the crowds and crime associated with a huge event like the Olympics.
Something I first saw as a failure turned into exactly what I needed. It was the wake-up call I needed to get back on the right path. El Salvador is the 60th country I’ve visited and I feel completely energized and in love with travel again. In keeping with my promise to go back to the states every six months, I’ll be flying home from here in a couple weeks, but instead of spending the last few weeks of this trip pounding the pavement and chasing my old life, I’m surfing every morning, doing yoga every afternoon and making dinner for people from all over the world staying in my hostel.
I’m flying home with a clear mind and a new plan for how to continue enriching my life, without reverting back to what I once thought was the only thing I was good at: telling other people’s stories.