The thought of solo travel never crossed my mind. Until it did.
I hadn’t been married for more than three months when my husband told me that “we had made a mistake to get married”. I went from a blushing bride in a poofy wedding gown to signing divorce paperwork in a matter of months. From saying vows to feeling incredibly betrayed. Needless to say, over the course of the next year, massive changes ensued. I went from married to divorced. From living with the same person for 9 years to moving back in with my parents at 32. It was an awkward transition, and I definitely did not see it coming. Who could? But isn’t that how life works sometimes? Oftentimes, our most uncomfortable moments set us up for the most incredible growth. We just aren’t ready to see it at the time.
After months of therapy, wine, and yoga, not simultaneously – I finally woke up, ready for something to change. I got out of bed and decided that I wanted to be happy. I mean, really truly happy. How? By doing all the things that make me feel good – like traveling- and leaving behind the things that didn’t. Like working in corporate America. So simple even a toddler could have figured it out. Knowing what makes my heart smile, I saved up, quit my job, and flew to Quito on a one-way ticket. Goodbye old predictable life. Hello, new, beautiful adventure.
And so began my first ever solo travel expedition. I had a chunk of change in my bank account, and no idea when I’d be back. I was shaking with nerves and excitement when my dad dropped me off at LAX, where I quickly learned that there were many things I didn’t know. Like how Copa Airlines won’t let you board the plane if you don’t have proof of exiting the country you are flying to. I had to quickly buy a ticket on Orbitz to get out of that one! Or how about that some routes are safe to take at night, and others certainly are not. You know, the “basics”
As I traveled slowly and deliberately from Northern Ecuador to Mexico, I learned so much about myself – about who I am as a solo traveler and as an independent woman.
I built houses, slept in hammocks, and had “vacationships” with men from around the world. With no societal constraints holding me down, I found I was fully expressing myself. I felt freer than ever before. I was also the happiest I had been in a long time.
Solo travel brings about major clarity. If you let it. You can distract yourself with all the new friends, adventures, and experiences. You can also journal, reflect, and find time to really think about things and process them. I did all of it.
Eventually, I came to terms with my divorce. I started sharing my story with other backpackers, locals, and sometimes even the taxi driver. Hey, he asked for it – Where’s your husband? Your kids? You’re how old? Sharing is such an important part of the journey and what makes backpacking what it is. Initially, I felt embarrassed and ashamed to tell the truth. I felt like I was flawed to have gone through a divorce. How could anyone understand what I had gone through anyway? I quickly learned that these self-imposed judgmental thoughts were all in my head. The women I told respected me. The men did too. We all agreed that I was better off and deserved nothing but the best. It took time, but now I truly believe it. I can clearly see how the end of a relationship set me on a beautiful trajectory that I would never have imagined. I certainly never would have found myself solo traveling around Latin America.
Everyone has a story on the road, and as I shared mine, others opened up to share theirs as well. Whether telling about life experiences over cheap beer and instant noodles or staring out to sea together for 21 hours on a cargo ship, connections abound. The backpacking community became real and sharing my story in this space was incredibly healing. All I can say is thank you, fellow travelers for listening.
Making the decision to return home was a difficult one, but funds were low and I felt deep down that the time had come. I was nervous yet ready to continue my adventures in the states for the time being. Nearly one year later, I bought another one-way ticket…this time from Mexico City to Tijuana.
When I crossed the border and returned home to San Diego, I knew I had no other choice but to continue down this path of happiness. It wasn’t time to settle. It definitely wasn’t time to return to my old life. How could I even consider such a thing after going so big and growing so much? I took stock of what it was that truly fulfilled me. I reflected on my travels and remembered a time in Nicaragua when a fellow traveler, who has grown to now be a dear friend, asked if I had ever considered becoming a life coach. I didn’t even know what life coaching was at the time, but it turns out that I was already on the path of becoming one. I was reading personal development books, listening to motivational podcasts, exploring my spirituality, listening to others, and inspiring them to go big.
I took the plunge and signed up for two trainings. Months later, Asia Dawn was born. Launching my own women’s empowerment coaching business was one of the scariest things I’ve done so far and I continue to push myself every day as I work to grow it and help other women. My dream is to take it with me around the world. I’ll be moving to Mexico City soon, a city I fell completely in love with during my travels. I cannot wait to see what lies ahead. Life can be incredibly fulfilling and full of adventure, no matter where it takes us.
I now see that the Universe doesn’t give us anything that we cannot handle and that our thoughts are super critical in what we attract into our lives. I managed to turn what I thought was a terrible experience into something positive; all it took was a leap of faith and a mindset shift. I’ve learned that I can use my experiences for the greater good. That I am a badass and no one can hold me back from pursuing what I love. And finally, that I can share my story to inspire others and help those who may be going through a tough time like I did.
So here’s to women supporting other women. I love you, and I love me too.