A year ago today I began three very different and unexpected love affairs.
My First Love Affair
The first love affair started off like most other love affairs. Slow and steady, taking my time trying to get to know what I was jumping in to. As if anyone actually knows what they are getting in to when they go on the journey of a love affair. But I was determined to try to figure it out. I stepped off my small puddle jumper plane into the wicked heat of the Costa Rican jungle. The runway literally started at the edges of wild, impenetrable rain forest and the other end dropped into the turquoise waters of the Golfo Dulce.
I knew instantly I was on the edge of something great, little did I know that it was love. What that love would look like was a different story entirely. I spoke very little Spanish, was exhausted from 14 hours of traveling, and was wearing the wrong clothes. I felt out of place, but like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I arrived at Blue Osa, the yoga retreat center I would be volunteering at for the next “3 weeks” in the sweltering heat of the mid day. I was tired, hot, and kind of a mess, but I was peaceful, hopeful, and I somehow managed to start a very beautiful love affair that day.
Fast forward 6 weeks to April 11th, 2014. A year ago today. I was still at Blue Osa, but was packing my bags for Bocas Del Toro (Mouth of the Bull in english), Panama for a trip with my soul sister Lara Healy. My first day at Blue Osa we met, had a soul connection, and started talking about Panama. She was planning on going in a few weeks and wanted to know if I wanted to go. Day one in Costa Rica and my plan to spend 4 months in one country was already turning in to a spontaneous adventure elsewhere. I was officially Bocas del toro bound.
After spending a month and a half getting my travel toes barely wet I was ready to get on the road. And it hit me, my love affair I was trying to get in to slowly had already stolen my heart and completely ran away with it, with no hope of ever getting it back. I was totally okay with that.
Falling in love with traveling was something I knew would happen eventually, when I was ready. But I think it happened before I ever even saw it coming. It happened when I saw a photo of Costa Rica and the energetic pull literally brought me to it’s shores before I even knew what was happening. It happened when I was at a desk dreaming of getting on a plane to anywhere. It happened when I got on that plane, and stepped in to a new version of myself.
Travel had become my most intense and beloved love affair. It was everything a love affair was supposed to be. Euphoric. Transformational. Challenging. It pushed me. It made me a better version of myself. It gave and gave and expected nothing. But in end happily took everything I had to offer. It made me enough. It made me more. I had completely given my heart to the world. I surrendered myself and I just kept falling in love.
Expanding For Love
April 11th, 2014 marks the day that I took my first step not only in to real travel, in to my first love of the world, but something bigger was happening beneath the surface that was going to rock me to my core. Travel had opened my eyes, but this new love was going to change my heart, flip me on my head, and keep me spinning.
Packing my bags that day, two things happened. I let trusting the unknown take the lead, and I emailed a friend who had just done a similar trip a few months prior, to tell him I was going to Bocas del Toro and would like all the travel beta he had to offer. I spent the entire day laughing and getting tips, places to eat, what to order, where to play, and where to dance the night away, but also reflecting and meditating on how grateful I was for all of it. I felt overwhelming calm. And anyone who knew me before travel, knows that is kind of a big deal.
Notoriously the anxious over-planner, controlling micro-manager, everything has to be perfect or I will freak out sort of human, feeling calm, having no plan, and letting the control be completely out of my hands was totally new for me. And totally amazing for me. It might have been the 6 weeks of yoga, meditation, and living where the sea touches the jungle. It might have been that traveling had helped me expand as a human. But what I chalk it up to was being head over heels in love, nothing and everything mattered all at once, because I had fallen in love with something bigger than the world.
Trusting and having a relationship with the powerful force, that I like to call the Universe, was what had changed me the most. And this love affair with the universe was the one that caught me most by surprise. Just a few months before, I couldn’t grasp the concept that anything bigger had existed outside my little bubble of life and perspective. Then I saw this open door to the world, and somewhere in the night the Universe crept in to my consciousness and awakened my soul. Some call it God, or Allah, or the Spirit, or mother nature, I call it the Universe. The force all around us that leads us to exactly where we are supposed to be, the teacher that writes the message of our purpose on our hearts, the energy that says it will all always be okay, just trust me.
I found a bigger love then I ever knew possible. Loving the world was something I knew I was capable of. Loving the entire universe forced me to expand beyond what I knew of myself and what I knew of the world. I had never lived a life full of trust or of love. I had lived in fear and worry and regret. Expanding beyond that only left love. So as I packed my bags for a new country and a new adventure, I unexpectedly packed my bags for a new version of myself. I didn’t worry if would catch the boat, the cabbie van, the two buses, and the last boat to the islands. I just trusted that it would all work out how it was supposed to. And it did, and with my two soul sisters, Lara Healy and Alex Kovacova we finally arrived in Bocas del toro, Panama. From that moment on trusting and loving the universe was not only my mantra, it was my greatest love affair, and I knew it was forever.
How the Universe and Travel Conspired
Trusting the Universe took me Costa Rica, to Panama, and then to Colombia on the greatest trip of my life. Then the universe brought me home just as quickly as it took me away from it. I had planned to continue traveling to Peru, then to Argentina, I had plans to never come back. I had plans to figure out a way to make money while traveling and make that my life. But the Universe had other plans.
Those plans began to unfold on a night bus from San Gil to Medellin, Colombia. I woke up at 3:00 am in a freezing cold sweat. The bus pumping cold air to keep the driver awake, as we weaved through the darkness. My head pounding, my body covered in sweat, and nauseous I tried to make my way to the bathroom in the back of the bus without falling on anyone. I threw up everything I had in me and my body kept trying to push out whatever invader had taken over, with no success. I sat dry heaving above a toilet in a cramped bathroom by myself, on a bus weaving through Colombian mountains, literally thinking I was going to die.
This is it. This is how I die. In a smelly bus bathroom, freezing, and crying. I was so cold my lips were purple. I looked pathetic. All I could do was crumble to the floor, next to the tiny floor heater, and hope we would arrive in Medellin soon. Soon was 12 hours later. After the longest night of my life, a day with my head in a waste basket, and a cab ride later we arrived at our Hostel in Medellin. I got a private room and headed straight for the hot shower. It’s a week of my life I don’t remember much of except getting in and out of hot showers to have a moment of relief from my cold sweats, my head in a toilet while everyone outside partied the night away, and a constant cycle of sleeping and trying to go back to sleep to get some relief. There are foggy memories of my friends bringing me water, which never stayed down long, and a couple trips to the ER.
A run of the mill virus they told me at the ER. Run-of-the-fucking-mill virus was kicking my ass. It was the sickest I have ever been in my life. I lost 15 lbs in a week. I was so dehydrated you could pinch my skin and it would stay pinched. I couldn’t eat, my body ached from being in bed, and I had sweated through all of my clothes. Twice. Combined with news that my 8 year old niece had to have brain surgery, I was running out of money, and I was so sick I didn’t think I could last another day, I finally surrendered and took my dad up on his offer to buy me a ticket home for the next day.
On the morning I was leaving I woke up feeling a littler better, still defeated, but had enough energy to pack and get my butt to the airport. On the flight I finally got a chicken salad, some chips, and a ginger ale down and felt like a new human. I could literally feel my body getting better on the plane ride home, and the sadness hit. Why did I leave? What was I thinking? If I could’ve toughed it out just one more day I would’ve started feeling better. It was a moment when I forgot to trust the Universe.
After recovering for a few days, I ran into Max, the friend I emailed for Bocas travel beta. Him and I had stayed in touch while I traveled and he wanted to hear all about my travels. We went out one night for drinks and ended up talking the entire night away, and after a month, we were inseparable. Today is a year from that day I messaged him for travel beta, something so simple, but the Universe had plans it was putting in to place even then. Plans that took me on so many adventures. Plans that took me to Panama City, then to Colombia, and eventually brought me home and brought me to Max, the love of my life. Traveling and trusting the Universe had prepared me and my heart for something I never thought was going to be mine. Travel and the Universe had opened my eyes and forced me to expand as a human, opened me up to possibility, to risk, to trust, and to love. And today I cheers that love, the love of travel, the love of the Universe, and the love who I plan on exploring every inch of this planet and my self with, here is to you Max.