January 31, 2012

Life-Changing Moments - And Why I Travel

When I think about the path my life has taken, a few moments stick out as truly life-changing. The obvious ones: graduating from high school and from college, getting married, etc... And there were the days I realized that I was never going to be taller than 5'2" and when I decided to stop getting blonde highlights. Another important day was when I met my best friend, Ashley, a girl from the city who came to my small, country town and toughened me up (and made me infinitely cooler). The day I learned to ride a bike (with purple and silver handlebar pom poms) in the circle drive of my trailer park was an important day of freedom. Similarly, getting my first car (and the only car I've ever owned) seems like a rite of passage that needs to be on the list. On a sad note, losing my dad when I was 19 was certainly life-changing, and I wouldn't be who I am now (the good and the bad) without that happening. I obviously have to include meeting Tom in this list of milestones. That milestone was the catalyst for a slew of other milestones - quitting college, moving to Boulder and then to San Francisco - all of which were terrifying but rewarding. And there's the first day I felt like a true grown-up when I realized I had a fully-stocked medicine cabinet and a chaotic junk drawer.

Boulder, CO - July, 2004
Two milestones in one pic!
My first car and Tom and I setting out to live in San Francisco!

But what was the biggest life-changing moment? On the trip to Jamaica in 2004 when I met Tom, he said something to me that shook my world so completely that I have never been the same person. After a whirlwind few days, Tom and I were quickly approaching a point where we couldn't see our lives without the other in it. It happened ridiculously fast and, while we're thrilled it did, we still look back on that time and wonder how the hell it happened. As my scheduled spring break week in Jamaica was drawing to a close and I was preparing to go back to Missouri and to college, I was very, very sad. In Jamaica, I was happier than I'd been in a long time - and not just because of Tom. In Jamaica, I saw the ocean for the first time in my conscious life and was beginning to experience a culture different from my own. It was my first time out of the country and I was loving it. The world as I knew it had expanded slightly and now included a small Caribbean island. And I wasn't ready to give it up. Two days before my flight back to Kansas City, I told Tom how sad I was and that I didn't want to go back. And he said, "Then don't." And I laughed at him. "I have to go back," I said, "Are you crazy?" (I'm starting a new paragraph because this is important.)

He said, "You can do whatever you want. There will be consequences to any decision you make, but you can make the choice to take on those consequences. You can do whatever you want."


It sounds like an obvious thing to know, but I had honestly never thought about my life as a series of choices. And it was liberating. If you read the introductory post of this blog (or you know us, which is the more probable answer), you know what I decided to do. I dropped out of school and stayed in Jamaica with Tom.

I was almost 21 before my world expanded for the first time. A short four days later, it only took those words and that realization for my world to expand as wide as the universe. So that's why I travel. And now I can't get enough.

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