What have I figured out in my 25 wonderfully, beautiful years of life on this earth? A whole lot of nothing really. And a whole lot of everything at the same time. There's a lot of pressure put on all of us in our twenties to make good decisions, to be successful, and to build a happy and prosperous life. What this means to most people? Having our lives put together with the perfect job, the perfect partner, the perfect kids, inside of the perfect house, with the perfectly positioned white picket fence. What does this mean to me? I don't know yet. I'm still figuring it out.
We have so many outrageous expectations of ourselves and what we should be doing at every given point in our lives. Typically, myself would be included. In fact, on my 25th birthday I remember thinking, "I'm sooo old", "How did this happen?", "What am I going to do with my life?","I should really have this figured out by now". And at this point, I would say that I felt very sad, alone, discouraged, and trapped. It's safe to say that I was having a real life, full fledged, quarter life crisis. Yes, they do exist. Maybe not for everyone, but definitely for me. And why? Because I felt that I wasn't living up to the expectations that other people had for me and other people my age. And I felt that I wasn't doing enough of the things that a "normal" 25 year old should be doing.
So what changed exactly? I did. I stopped letting what a "normal" 25 year old life should look like define me, and started defining happiness by my own terms. I let go of the negativity that was consuming my life, and this is what happened.
Well here's the bad news. I still haven't figured out what I want to be or what I want to do exactly, and maybe I never will. For the time being though, I know that I love taking care of kids and that I love traveling, so that's what I've decided to do for now. And really that's half the fun. Maybe the real key here is not having it all figured out. Now. Or ever. Because at 25, I have none of those things, and I can assure you that I'm happier than I've ever been and arguably happier than the majority of people that I know. Maybe we need to stop looking at life as a race to get things done, or as a competition as to who has their shit together the most by the time they hit 30. And instead, start enjoying the crazy mess you call your life and live happily by standards you and only YOU set for yourself.
If like me, you don't have it quite all figured out, but are looking for a little something uplifting, I urge you to start with this:
- Be different. Be unique. And shatter the norm. Do what makes you happy even when it doesn't fit into societal standards.
- Your life is your journey. No one else needs to understand it. Be okay with that and keep going.
- Learn from other people. People will undoubtedly hurt you and make you question whether good people still exist. They do. Let go of the bad apples and let them only make you stronger.
- Quality over quantity. Always.
- Surround yourself only with people and experiences that make you feel alive. Leave everything else behind.
- Things will never make you as happy as good people and amazing experiences will. Let that be your drive forward in the right direction.
- And Travel. And not just around the country. Around the WORLD. If there's one thing you learn from me... please let it be this.
"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." Saint Augustine
This quote couldn't be more true and I've learned more from traveling than I have from any single person, class, or experience in my life. So here's some things I've taken away:
- Traveling has given me a love for something bigger than myself.
- It has taught me to be compassionate, to be intelligent, to be interesting, and to be understanding of people different than myself.
- It has given me 90% of the best days of my life.
- It's given me the opportunity to stand there and say, "This is the single best moment of my life" over and over again. And given me the constant desire to find a better moment than the previous one.
- It's given me a chance to see and discover the world and all of its beauty.
- It's made me realize that I'd never want to live my life in any other way.
- It's made me want to make a difference.
- I've learned different ways of eating, drinking and speaking. And I have thoroughly enjoyed doing so.
- I've learned how to drive on the opposite side of the road.. and quite successfully :)
- I've learned that as Americans, we could learn a lot by adopting the ideals of other countries.
- I've learned that traveling will bring you to tears. Happy tears. The kind of tears I cry every single time I watch the x factor (embarrassing), and every time I see a marriage proposal. The kind of tears I cry when I watch other people's dreams come true. Except better. Because they're your dreams coming true.
- It gives you a kind of passion and love for something that few, if any, other experiences will give you. Eating, drinking, tv watching, working, sleeping, and the normalcy that we typically call life, will NOT give you this. Travel does that. Beauty does that. Really experiencing life and all it has to offer does that.
I'll never forget the many of days we struggled through Europe trying to make our way while uttering the phrases, "I don't get it" and "fuck if I know" daily.
- Like the time we realized we were spending double our money because the American dollar was worth shit.
- Like watching my sister order fish and fries in Ireland instead of chips. Only to in reality get fish and potato chips, while we all ended up with fries she wanted so desperately. Pays to know what you're asking for in whatever country you're in ;). sorry Steph.
- Like the time we took the 'hop on hop off' tour in London, only to realize we spent a buttload of money and wasted a whole lot of time seeing nothing.
- Like the time we wanted to cry in France because only after we got there did we realize that we severely underestimated the difficulty of the language barrier. Turns out french wasn't that easy to catch on to.
- Like sitting in our hotel room for hours in Paris drinking cheap wine and eating grocery store sandwiches while watching french soap operas and music videos because everything that could go wrong that day did. We may or may not have said, "I hate this place" 75 times in the 5 days we were there.
- Like the time we couldn't read spanish and decided to order cuttlefish because we thought it couldn't be "that bad". And it was that bad.
- Like the time we spent $8 on a can of diet coke because we were so hungover and desperate for something to drink.
- Like getting lost in every single place we went to because we couldn't read directions and we were very bad guessers.
- Like looking incredibly ugly because someeee places decided not to have outlets for our beloved hair straighteners.
- Like getting stalked by everyone in Venice because we were 3 young, blonde haired, blue eyed girls. Screaming and pictures were taken wherever we went. It was a small taste of what being famous would be like... and although good for the ego... I hated it.
- Like spending a couple hundred dollars because you had to pay to use the restroom EVERYWHERE in the 30 some days you were in Europe. Including every bar during the pub crawl in Amsterdam.
- Like going to the worlds worst ice bar after having been sooo excited all trip about it.
- AND like forgetting that the drinking age is 18 and dancing with boys in the pub only to be violently shoved away once they found out that you were 23.
And looking back, I wouldn't change any of those "bad" experiences for the world. They were the things we complained about then, and laugh uncontrollably about now. Things we thought were annoying and troublesome in the moment, in the end, gave me the single best experience of my entire life. And here's why:
- Meeting an amazing family in Dublin our first night there. Eating, talking, and drinking my first Guinness in a traditional Irish pub with live Irish music. "Galway Girl" still gives me the chills every time I hear it.
- Traveling to the Cliffs of Moher and being in complete awe that places that beautiful really exist.
- Watching "Wicked" in London and being moved to the point of tears.
- Eating cheap sandwiches at our secret cafe every single day and scoring free chocolate just for being "pretty".
- Seeing the Eiffel Tower and climbing the hundreds of stairs just to write "Amy + Jerrica = Soulmates" on it. And realizing that despite disliking mostly everything else about Paris, that this single event, made it all worth it.
- Drinking Sangria in Spain.
- Pub crawling in Barcelona with our veryyyy good looking Australian hostel mates before Alli arrived and being far too intoxicated by the time she actually got there.
- Realizing 5 pm is wayyyy too early to start drinking in Spain. By time you make it to the club at 2 am, you will turn right around and go home.
- Meeting amazing girls from Arkansas who we swear would be our best friends if we lived in the same city.
- Like standing in the Mediterranean Sea and saying to your friends, "Remember when we said how happy we would be if we made it through this year and to this very moment? Well.. We did it!!"
- Watching the massive gay pride parade in Berlin with some very ignorant, naive and impressionable young boys. And seeing how open minded and fun they were being.
- Telling those same boys that Amy's brother proposed to me on the 50 yard line during a packer game while Aaron Rodgers put the ring on my finger. And them believing it.
- Touring the Sigmund Freud museum like a true psychology freak :) and buying a Freud puppet to prove it.
- Eating pizza, pasta, and gelato in Italy.
- Sitting with my arms around my best friends watching the sunset.
- Shopping in Venice and buying real Italian leather handbags. And shoes. So many shoes.
- Taking a gondola ride down the canal and saying "I've been waiting my whole life for this" and realizing that you are in fact living in the single best moment of your life thus far.
- Riding bikes in the streets of Amsterdam.
- Seeing all of the hype about the red light district first hand.. and boy was it interesting.
- Meeting hundreds of amazingly awesome people along the way.
- And best of all? I got to live out the biggest dream of my life up until that point.
So my point is... traveling will teach you things about yourself, the world, and about the crazy kinds of awesome people in it. Don't be the person who saves every penny you make in hopes that you'll do it someday. Want to know what happened to the last person I know who waited for someday? She had a stroke the day after her retirement. And was then only able to live out her dreams of traveling the world through MY pictures and MY stories. Don't let this be you.
And if you simply don't like traveling, my guess would be that you've driven in a car across a few states, or have maybe flown once to an overly touristy destination and had a bad experience. And I'd strongly urge you to reconsider. You have no idea the beauty that you're missing out on. And you'll never regret a day you've traveled. I promise you.