In 2017 my husband, Liran, and I decided we wanted to travel for a year. My parents had just given us money for our wedding, and all we knew for sure was that we didn’t want to spend it on one single day. We wanted something different. So after much thought we downsized our home, had a small wedding and said farewell to Arizona a year and a half later.
The initial plan was to travel for three months in and around the Pacific Northwest before heading abroad. We had always wanted to see this part of the US, and I also wanted to learn what would (and would not) work while traveling and working full-time.
Boy, did we.
At the beginning of our trip things felt fluid and fun. We spent time with family and friends, were proud of what we had accomplished up until that point and enjoyed mapping out our upcoming adventures. We were excited, and felt strongly that the Universe was giving us clear signs to keep going along the way.
That lasted all of two weeks.
Things became stressful pretty quickly. Despite our best intentions, our savings had taken a hit from the wedding and we were spending money faster than planned. I was working a lot as a result, which was cutting into our personal time. And we were arguing often, which was not common. The grand finale came when someone got a hold of my personal information and tried to extort money from me on the internet.
Just two months after setting out on our big adventure, my anxiety was at an all-time high and things began to fall apart.
One evening as we drove through Oregon I began to cry. We had just shared a 6” Subway sandwich and chips to save money (because that was going to help) and we also weren’t speaking. It was becoming clear that we couldn’t continue in this way.
Once I caught my breath, I asked my husband if he thought we should let go of our trip. He was quiet for what felt like an eternity and then gently responded that for the time being, it seemed like the best thing to do.
I was devastated and relieved.
After a long, sad night we woke up the next morning and slowly made a plan. We had already intended on returning to Arizona to visit our storage unit, so rather than stay for a few days we decided to stay indefinitely. A week later I cried tears of relief as our plane touched down on the hot tarmac in Tucson.
While every part of my being knew this was the right thing to do, I felt a deep sense of shame and embarrassment. After all, I’m a life coach who works with others to pursue their dreams and create the life they want.
I felt like a complete failure.
To be transparent, I wasn’t very familiar with this concept. I hadn’t failed at much in life, much less in public for others to see.
But rather than feel how I was feeling, I found a way to make logical sense of everything. I crafted a story that hid and glossed over the painful parts of our experience and within a few weeks the whole thing felt scripted. Only a handful of people really understood the magnitude of our experience and disappointment. To everyone else, we made it seem like no big deal.
Now, there is much more to the story (spoiler alert: we moved to Hawaii!) and I also want to pause. There are so many valuable lessons from these first few months, and as my clients know I love to slow down for this sort of thing.
Here are some of the highlights:
1) Just because you receive the signs to do something does not mean it will turn out exactly as you planned.
In fact, it may turn upside down and that may be the entire point.
This is the essence of learning to appreciate the journey as much as the destination. And it applies to everything: new jobs, big moves, relationships, marriage and more. Leaping into the unknown can be scary, even if you’ve done it before — and for good reason. The outcome isn’t up to you. That’s why they call it a leap of faith. Faith requires trust in a plan that is greater than yours.
2) It’s okay to change your mind and do what feels easy.
In this case, letting go of our trip did not feel easy, but it did feel easier than continuing to push against what felt like a brick wall. Learning when to let go is truly a skill, particularly in a culture that glorifies working hard and outward signs of socio-economic status. It thereby takes time and experimentation to find the balance, and to know what to do when.
That said, letting go does not mean you’ve failed. It simply means you’ve chosen not to continue — and nothing more.
3) There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
If failure were real, we wouldn’t learn more from things that go “wrong” than we do from those that go “right.” This doesn’t mean things won’t ever suck (excuse my language), or that you need to like it when things go wrong. You don’t. The only things you need to do are be willing to learn, and feel the feelings that go along with not liking something.
4) It’s okay to feel what you feel (and avoid it too.)
When you are stuck in logic and storytelling, much like I was when we got back to Arizona, it’s usually because you’re scared to feel your emotions. We live in a culture that diminishes the value of “negative” emotions, when in fact they are often the key to unlocking joy and moving forward. As a result, we override this basic part of Self because it feels unsafe and unwelcome.
Feeling what you feel is always okay, even when it’s ugly. Feeling leads to healing, and mourning the loss of a life plan is just as important as mourning the loss of a loved one.
In addition, emotions are simply energy in motion (think “e-motion.”) This means they are meant to move through you. If not, like any form of energy that remains stagnant or trapped, it can lead to damage or an explosion.
5) Your body has so much wisdom. Pay attention.
Similar to the last point, in Western society we tend to use logic to override feelings in the body, so learning to pay attention to physical responses is something I work on frequently with clients. The fact that I felt viscerally relieved (even while feeling embarrassed) when we gave up our trip was key.
At the end of the day, we are animals. Instinct is important. Trust yours, even when it’s hard. Your mind was never meant to do all the work.