Welp, it happened. I said I would travel the world for a year, and I did. But let me fill you in on a little secret… I have a lot of regrets. I set the goal of being gone a year when I decided that I would start this adventure and although I’m back in the states on the one year anniversary of the start of my trip… I’m only here for a visit. I hinted along the way that I didn’t think a year would be enough for me and now that I’m here facing the reality of what would be the end of this journey I’ve never been more sure that I was wrong. I don’t regret quitting my job or selling all of my stuff. I regret ever limiting myself to a specific amount of time. I regret letting my friends and family believe that they would miss me for a year and then I’d be back; that we would all just pick up where we left off as if nothing had changed. I would get a job and an apartment and start over. Start my new life. I wouldn’t say that I set out to tell a lie; to misrepresent my intentions or give my loved ones false hope about my eventual return. But I was telling a lie. I was lying to myself. Thinking that this trip would give me some sort of clarity. A way to focus my energy and figure out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do when it was over. At the time, I thought I really would only be gone for a year. To be honest, there were times when I wasn’t even sure I’d last the full year. And even though I’m heading home to California tomorrow, I’m not “back.”
I’m so “not back” that I’ve already booked flights that depart from parts of the world I don’t even have plans to visit yet; that’s the level of “not done” that I am. I didn’t leave my whole life behind to set out on this trip to only see some of the world. I didn’t quit my job and sell my car and make my mother cry at the airport to half ass this world tour. In 12 months I visited 29 countries, 14 of which I hit in the first 12 weeks and I just don’t see myself slowing down. This IS my new life. Despite my exhaustive efforts, in my 29 years on this planet I’ve only seen 17% of it. (That’s 42 countries for those doing the math) Someone once told me that in order to truly experience this life, you should keep the number of countries you’ve visited higher than the number of years you’ve been on this earth. In that respect, I’m on track, but at one time I could have fallen short of that goal.
When I was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, I had only been to 13 countries. If I would have lost that battle, I would never have reached this new goal of exploration I’ve set for myself. But as sick as it may sound… I have cancer to thank for all of it. Had I not been faced with that fight, I wouldn’t have reevaluated my life in such an extreme way. I would never have decided to chart this new course. While I don’t wish cancer on anyone, it was the wake-up call I needed to find a passion, and to pursue it. I devoted my adult life to getting what I thought would bring me happiness. A good job, a traditional relationship, maybe even kids. Ok, probably not kids, I did say I wanted to be happy… But once I had the things that I once thought would ensure my happiness, I was miserable. I had what most people would consider an amazing job, working as an on air reporter for Fox News. Something I worked my ass off to achieve at such a young age. I even had a Wikipedia page for God’s sake. But before my diagnosis I was just going through the motions, trying to convince myself that I should be happy, that I was lucky to have achieved everything I had always wanted and resenting myself for still feeling dead inside despite all of my success. I was letting other people influence what should make me content. Having cancer gave me the ability to give less fucks about what other people thought and for that, I am grateful. It freed me.
Seeing my mother beat cancer, twice and dealing with my own diagnosis and treatment is what made this last 12 months possible. I’ve met a lot of people from dozens of countries this year and it always shocks me how much their reactions and perceptions change when I tell them the reason I’m in their part of the world, a woman, traveling alone. I began using it as a social experiment. To some, I would give little insight, saying I just wanted a change, to pursue a passion for travel and explain that I had to let go of my old life for this new one. Others heard me tell the story about my mother’s battle with cancer, how it opened my eyes to how precious and short life can be and how her strength gave me the courage to take this leap. Despite their cultural and religious differences, the few people that I shared my whole story with were the only ones who were immediately supportive of my choice to leave it all behind.
While I appreciate the support I get when I drop the “C-Card,” I find it sad that most people think you have to face death to have the right to press restart on your life. I write this blog to entertain my friends and family and so that my mother has occasional proof of life, I rarely get sentimental or emotional in real life or in print. But let me leave you with this very rare emo moment: You don’t have to wait to see your life flash before your eyes to have the right to make sure what you see when it does happen fills you with happiness and not regret.