35 lessons to learn in life

35 lessons to learn in life

Well. I’ve done it. I’ve hit 35. And, in my infinite wisdom, I have been sitting here thinking all day about lessons to learn in life. Lessons I have learned in life. You know, this things you wish you knew then, but you know now.

When I started this blog, I was in what I defined a full-on 30-Life-Crisis. I had no idea what the hell was going on in my life, only that the life I had dreamed of was, in fact, the life I was living, but no longer the life I wanted. So, I did what any sane (ha!) 30-Life-Crisis person would do: I ditched it. I headed to  a foreign world to soak up different languages, cultures, foods, experiences, and then, when that ended, I came home, decided it wasn’t for me, and then moved to Thailand.

I think today, it is safe to say while I may be hitting that 35-year-old milestone, I’m certainly not in that head-spinning mode I was in five years ago when I lived in Atlanta and was trying so desperately to find out that one thing in this world which would save me. Editor’s Note: if you are curious about that one thing to save me, spoiler alert: it’s me. And, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it was me all along.

At 35, looking back, there are so many things I wish I knew at 30. So many things I wish I knew at 29. 25. 21. 18. Every year we get older and wiser, but these days, I find myself just wishing I knew then what I know now. If I could go back and bestow the lessons learned to my younger self, these would be them:

30 Life Crisis Blog Blog Featured

Behind bars in Ljubljana: Hostel Celica review

Ljubljana Hostel Celica

You’d think sleeping inside a former military prison would be creepy. I even ask the manager of the property as she guides me down the dark, damp stairs to where solitary confinement used to be, a stone cave-like basement, if it is haunted. She chuckles and responds with a simple “no.”

In fact, other than the darkness of that solitary confinement area, Hostel Celica, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, is anything but creepy. It is perhaps the most vibrant and energetic hostel I’ve ever rested my head.

Seriously.

30 Life Crisis Blog Europe Hotel Reviews Reviews Featured Slovenia

This time will be different

“This time Israel will be different.” I tell everyone who will listen to me, not really for them, but to remind myself how much I have changed.

“This time, I’m going for different reasons.”

“This time, I won’t be miserable. I won’t cry into my too expensive glass of wine each night, wishing away my time here. I won’t sit on the beach and close my eyes and feel like I am sinking, sinking, sinking into the soft sand. I won’t wander the holiest city in the world and only see it in one dimension. This time …”

A sidewalk in Tel Aviv

It’s been eight months. That’s it. Eight months since I last landed in Israel. Eight months since I last wandered Ben Yehuda in Tel Aviv, hopped on a motorbike and checked out the flourishing street art scene in Tel Aviv. Got so drunk, I cried myself to sleep. For three nights.

30 Life Crisis Blog Israel Middle East

10 things traveling solo taught me about life

Today is March 7 … exactly four years ago today I boarded a flight to London and embarked on a seven-month solo backpacking adventure through Europe and parts of Africa.

A London phone booth

First stop of the solo backpacking: London

For months before I booked the trip, I teetered … I dreamed of traveling, but was it the right time to quit my job, mid-career, to hop on a plane across the Atlantic?

As I grew more miserable in my job, my career, the answer became clear: GO.

So, around Christmas 2009, I got on the phone with United and arranged for my solo backpacking trip.

30 Life Crisis Blog Travel Tips

Love and the airport

The two are cuddled next to each other. He strums on his guitar in the middle of Bangkok Airway’s lounge. Annoying considering I want silence so I can watch “Shameless” and his hectic playing penetrates my headphones blocking my ears from outside noise.

But her?

She looks at him with goo-goo eyes. Clearly, in love.

Later, I am sitting at the gate, waiting patiently to board my plane.

A girl is sleeping, her Chuck-laden feet draped across a guy.

And, across the way, another couple exchanges little kisses.

I think back to elementary school … you know … when boys threw mud at girls and girls ran away crying.
Romantic Heart from Love Seeds

They’ve conquered that. They’ve met their match. Sometime, somewhere in the world these people met their match. And now, they are sitting at the airport, putting that match-love-thing on display. They’ve overcome that “I’m single” hurdle and are in lovelovelove. Congrats, couples. You’ve done well.

Yeah, airports make me think about that shit.

I remember when I was growing up (a teenager) and my friends would ask me why I didn’t have a boyfriend. I’d shrug my shoulders.

No idea, I would tell them.

“Well, don’t you worry,” they would all reassure me. “You will totally find your one. And when you do …”

Like it’s my God-given right to meet my match. Like every single person gets that.

But, you know what?

At 33, I am beginning to think its isn’t my right to meet a guy to settle down with. That my story doesn’t involve being involved.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was in a play with about 20 or so women of all ages. I remember very clearly sitting outside one afternoon after rehearsal in Tacoma Park with a woman named Angie. She sat on a bench, smoking a cigarette, clad in a cotton candy pink skirt. She was 40. And single.

I remember feeling so sorry for her.

“You don’t want to be with anyone?” I asked.

“No,” she said, taking a deep drag from her Marlboro Light. “I’m OK with that.”

How can you be OK with being alone?

My teenage, dillusional heart went out to her. And, I promised myself I wouldn’t be 40, sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette and wearing a cotton candy pink skirt and saying those words to a teenager.

And yet … here I am. Closing in on true grown-up life. Living as an expat in Chiang Mai, and the truth is this: I am that 40-year-old. Clad in a cotton candy pink flow-y skirt, telling people I am OK with that.

Berlin May 3 8 Amsterdam May 8 11 053

Is it true?

Yeah. Kindaofsortofnotreallybutsure. I mean, we are all dealt our hands in life, and some of us get fairytale endings in the form of love and kids and homes and such. My fairytale ending doesn’t involve that. If you asked me today if I would be at the airport with someone I love, my answer would be a staunch “no.” If you asked me tomorrow, my answer would likely be the same.

Does it mean I’m not happy?

No.

There are nights when I sit up late with my friends, indulging in Sangsom, laughing, talking, relishing our shared bond of living life as an expat in Thailand. And, then there are the other moments. When those same people pair off, head off to their respective beds and I head home where I wonder … is there more?

Airports seems to have an effect on people. The couples. The love. The traveling together, experiencing things together. At times, I relish the fact that I don’t have to report to someone. I don’t need to make sure my decisions jive with someone else. Then, there are the other times. Like on my way to Samui, or other places, when I see the unapologetic displays of affection, and I feel my life isn’t up to par with the others passing me by. The ones who have their someone else. That they get to experience these amazing things, this amazing world, and are able to turn to each other and say “Damn. This is one of the most fantastic experiences of my life, and I’m sharing it with you.”

Does it get to me?

Absolutely.

Then, I return home. To my house. To my life in Thailand. To the numerous blessings I am constantly showered with. It makes me feel less alone. And, of course, I hear from those with the “others” who bitch. Who moan. Who constantly berate each other for being too boring, being too hard-working, being too  whatever they feel like complaining about in that moment … and I realize I’m lucky. I don’t need someone’s legs draped over me to give me meaning. To give me a sense of self. (Not that all of the people who are doing the draping or are the drapees necessarily find their definition of who they are in gestures or companionship either.)

Although it isn’t always easy, sometimes I think I have it easier than others who are with someone. Granted, who doesn’t want to embark an exotic adventure with someone they care about? Then again … I’m living the exotic adventure and I’m doing just fine.

What do you think?

 

30 Life Crisis Blog Thailand

Ditch the excuses … it’s time to travel

“Oh, I wish I could do what you did and just travel but [insert a myriad of reasons why Person X just can’t possibly travel,” says most people who comment on my travels.

Which, of course, makes my blood boil.

Why?

Because — you know what? You. Can.

So, I’m calling bullshit. Yup. Bull. Shit. The only person holding anyone back from chucking it to travel and follow their dreams (even if it is just a bucket list type of dream) is THAT PERSON.

If I can do it, you can, too.

Don't let this be the only airplane in your life. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons nostri-imago

Don’t let this be the only airplane in your life. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons nostri-imago

Here comes the slashing of the excuses

Money

Not having the money to travel is the biggest excuse I get. Yes, traveling costs money. But, so does going out to dinner, drinks, shopping, rent, etc. If you want to travel bad enough, you can make ends meet and do it.

When I decided I wanted to travel (before I actually became an expat) I did what I had to do. I worked a job, and then worked side jobs to save money. The money I made from those side jobs went directly into my savings account. I didn’t touch it. I stopped going out as much. I stopped buying shoes. And purses. And bottles of pricey wine. I went grocery shopping and (gasp!) cooked — and coming from me, who is a definite kitchen nightmare — I made ends meet.

Career

It’s the American Dream to have a successful career. To make enough money so you can retire comfortably. But, doing that means you sacrifice a little piece of you — that wanderlusty beautiful piece — for a future you may or may not have. I’m not bashing the career-focused people. Having a career is great if that is what you are after. Having goals, dreams, ambitions … they are all quality traits.

But, I can promise you this. If you go, your career will wait for you. Taking a trip — a month, six months, a year, longer — does not equate to career suicide. In fact, it makes you an even stronger candidate when you get back to your “normal” life.

I had a strong career in public relations when I decided to up and leave and travel long term. Just before I returned home, I started putting queries out to friends, former employers, scouring job searches, and more. Within a month of landing on US soil, I had interviews and then a job.

Travel actually makes you more marketable. Every company or person I interviewed with was bowled over by the fact that I decided to be unconventional and take a career break. That I decided to say “screw what is expected, I’m going to do what I want.”

And, it paid off.

The house/apartment

You own a home? OK. No problem. Work with a property management company to rent out your property while you travel.

You rent? Even easier. Chuck your stuff in a cheap storage unit or sublease.

When I was living in Atlanta, it broke my heart to give up my gorgeous 1920s apartment. I would sit there with my cats and stare at the gorgeous molding, my beautiful living room with sun filling the room with a gorgeous daylight glow and actually get sad about giving it up. But then, I remembered where I was going, what I was doing, and it didn’t sting so bad.

The pets

I am writing this assuming the people who read it aren’t married with children. If that’s the case, I don’t think this will help at all. But, pets are another story.

When I told my friends I was leaving, I got a lot of grief for leaving … my cats. I had two beautifully sweet cats I loved with all of my heart. But, the truth is, my sweet cats couldn’t keep me from living. I found someone to foster them and love them while I traveled. Sadly, this last trip which made me an expat, also made me give them to a loving home for a more long-term solution.

Bravery

“You’re so brave,” people used to say to me all of the time. “I could never do what you do … I’m not brave.”

Guess what? YOU ARE. I swear, it is deep down in there. You just need to trust yourself. To know that you are making the right choice by heading off to explore the beauty of the world. It won’t always be easy, but the world is full of people just like you. They stay at the same hostels. The same guest houses. They share train cars. They sit next to you on the long bus rides. There is an entire support system at the ready for those little moment when you doubt what you are doing.

And, if you need some additional reassurance, hi, my name is Diana. I will encourage the shit out of you.

Are there other reasons you need to get out and sorted so you can travel? Let me know.

30 Life Crisis Travel Tips

Being 30 and Single

Editor’s Note: This post is written by Jo Turnbull, a fellow 30-Life-Crisis-Screw-It-I’m-Traveling-Travel-Blogger. She’s rad.

Turning 30 is normally the age when you buy your house, settle down, have a couple of children and go to work every day for the next 30 years. I have done the complete opposite. I moved out of my apartment that I owned, I rented it out, moved into a shared house with friends, quit my job and went traveling. For those dreading turning 30 this year, I have a few tips for those who are not following the traditional route.

London Eye

London Eye

Don’t worry about the age

Yes I know it is easier said than done, but if you keep thinking that you are old, then you will always ensure age plays a factor in what you do. For example, you may want to quit your job, but as you are 30 you might think you have to be sensible and stick at it, that it will just get better.

It won’t.

If you want to leave and try something else, just do it. Don’t sit around waiting for a change. Make the change yourself — you will feel so much better as a result.

Don’t be concerned with what others are doing

You cannot deny it, we are at the age when people are getting married, or moving in together and having children. Don’t obsess about what your friends are doing, make sure you do what is right for you.  If you are single and have no ties, you are in the fortunate position to go wherever you want and do what ever you want. Think of it from a different angle: you are single so are not tied down to anything and can go anywhere at the drop of a hat while your friends with children struggle to get childcare for a rare night out.

Appreciate being 30

Do you really wish you were younger?  In your 20s you were more insecure, probably doing work for university or college, trying to get ahead in your job, working all those extra hours and for what? Oh, experience!  Now that you are 30, you do not need to worry about this as much. You probably have more experience and are able to advance in your career without working long hours and putting up with the demands from that annoying boss. In your 20s you may have been studying extra qualifications outside of work to get ahead in your job.  Now being 30, you have probably got that Masters or second qualification after university, so you don’t need to study at the weekend and have more time for yourself.

Rome

Rome

Live your dream

If you have always wanted to go traveling round the world or go and teach English in Japan, now is the time to do it.  Do not put it off any longer.  You are still young, you have the work experience, so getting back into work will not be as difficult as when you were a graduate. It will be much easier to save now as you have had a lot more practice, so you can go off travelling and exploring without worrying about having to find a job straight away.

Push yourself

Don’t think you have now done everything at 30 years old.  Continue to seek out new challenges. I was never good at running, but did my personal best at Race for Life when I turned 30. It has always been important for me to keep fit and recently I have joined British Military Fitness, which is the cheapest way to work out.  Gyms can get boring and if you are just working out by yourself, you may lack motivation. Find something you enjoy or a goal you have always wanted to achieve, perhaps you may want to run the London Marathon or take part in an Ironman or Triathlon.

Turning 30 is great.  For women being single and approaching the big 3-0 can seem daunting, but stop looking at it that way. Go out! Have fun! When you turn 30, itis the start of the time of your life.  You have more confidence, more money and you take less flak from people. Being 30 is old enough to known better and still young enough to do it!

 

30 Life Crisis Guest Posts

‘Twas the night before Expat Life

A tuk tuk driver races down the street in Chiang Mai

“You’re moving to Thailand?”

It’s been since February when I knew my future would take me to Thailand and I would become an expat. For nearly five months, my life has been in this stop-wait-move pattern.

Stop. Wait. Move. Stop. Wait. Move.

It gets tiresome after awhile. And severely emotionally draining.

Five months is a long time to know your future is right there, staring at you, banging down the door … and yet there is nothing to do but wait, wait, wait.

In March when I quit my job, I knew Thailand was coming down the pipeline. I just didn’t know when. Then, in April, everything was solidified. I had an offer at Save the Elephant Foundation. For those of you who are new readers, last autumn I spent a week at Elephant Nature Park and fell in love with the organization. In an instant, I knew I wanted my life to take me back to Thailand and back to the elephants.

Then, it was going to get my visa in April. Booking my flight for July 11.

It seemed like another lifetime until that flight.

Then, life became a whirlwind. A poorly-timed (yet awesome) trip to Sweden, followed by a move, followed by a drive across America, followed by two weeks to prepare for my new life.

Never did I pause. Never did I stop to think about … well … anything.

“Aren’t you scared?”

I have no idea how many people asked me that. Whenever I announced my plans, people would stop. They would stretch their eyes wide with a look of disbelief on their faces.

Scared? I am living my dream.

I never gave it much thought beyond knowing I was doing what I wanted to do. I was following my own set of rules.

My response would always be something to the extent of “No. I am not scared. I am excited. I am ready. I want to leave Las Vegas. I want to chase that dream I had back in September and actually use my talents to do something good. Something helpful. Something that will educate people about elephant tourism in Southeast Asia.”

“You’re so brave.”

Throughout all of my travels, that one statement has always echoed in my ears. From my friends. From people who don’t know me.

Brave?

It is really about being brave?

I’ve never thought of myself as brave. I try to steer clear of adventures. The bravest thing I have done is get naked in Sweden and that … well … it’s definitely not the same as jumping from a plane.

I tend to think bravery isn’t really what flows through my blood, but more of a passion. A desire to follow my heart. To live life the way I want. I am not settling for what the American culture tells me to have. Instead, I am going after what I believe in.

 The full moon rises in Maryland

And yet …

Tonight …

After the bags were packed, after my last dinner with my family … that bravery thing kept repeating in my mind.

I’m not brave. I’m not brave.

And then, I stop. I think. Is this being brave? Packing up a life, putting it in storage, saying “see you soon” to everyone I know and love and hopping on a long-haul flight to the opposite side of the world?

I wonder.

Tonight, my brother called me to say he loved me and to wish me luck. As we spoke, suddenly, I was overcome. Tears welled up in my eyes.

There is just so much emotion I haven’t even touched the past few months of my life. So much feeling I packed away because I just couldn’t … couldn’t think about anything but the future.

Be brave, D.

Even a few weeks ago, when I was learning more about my position, I emailed a friend of mine in a slight panic. Know what he told me? “Go. Be brave.”

It’s such a weighted word.

And yet, as I sit in my bed, on my last night living in America, it hits me.

Maybe I am?

I don’t know.

All I do know is I am giving it my all. I am giving myself the best chance I know to live my life with no regrets. To live for the now, and not for the happily ever after.

Am I scared?

I don’t think so.

Right now, there is so much adrenaline. So much happy. So much awe at the chance of possibility I don’t think I am scared.

Am I sad?

YES.

Without a doubt.

I forgot how nice it is to be with family when I lived in Las Vegas because I was so caught up in my life. To be home, to be with the people I love … to spend time with my parents … it makes it so hard to say goodbye.

The plane waits for passengers at Dulles

This is the end of this chapter of my life. From here on out, it is all new. Beautiful. Awesome.

Now, as I type this, I will be on a plane in less than six hours. Embarking on yet another journey.

Fear has never crossed my mind. I have full faith everything will work out exactly as it should.

And yet, I want to cry. To bawl my eyes out. To grab my parents, my brother, my niece, my friends, and make them all come on this journey with me.

But, that’s the thing about life: it’s mine.

I am moving to Thailand.

A year ago, if you asked me where I would be, I would have shrugged my shoulders.

Funny how life changes.

Funny how we adapt.

Here’s to the next chapter. I hope you enjoy the ride.

30 Life Crisis Americas Asia Blog Expat Life Maryland Nevada Thailand

Coming home

Pulling in to my neighborhood, I can feel my chest tighten.

The trees. When did they get so big? The homes. When did they get so old?

The woods in a Maryland backyard

“Welcome to my house,” I say to Erica as I turn the car off.

Home. We. Are. Home.

I open the bright red door, the same bright red door we’ve had since my childhood and am greeted by my parent’s two dogs.

Then, Mom comes out and wraps her arms around me.

I can feel myself loosen. The  excitement to come back to Maryland, the sad over the end of the road trip, the anticipation of my closeness to being an expat … they all flood through my veins.

I whisper in my mom’s ear that I love her. That it is good to be home.

Tired hits. We drove for more than eight hours today, from Louisville to Maryland with a stop for lunch in Frostburg to see my brother, an artist specializing in metal work.

Coming home, that tired just takes over and I quickly crawl into my bed as Erica gets herself situated in her room.

“Can you come and sit with me?” I ask my mom.

“Really? You’re going to sleep.”

But she knows this game well. Whenever I need to talk, to soak up my mom, I always ask her to come and crawl into bed with me. Even at 32, just having her next to me makes me feel at ease.

That’s when it hits me.

The magnitude of what I’ve just done.

Flashbacks roll through my mind:

I’m sitting at Putter’s across from my apartment in Las Vegas, drinking beer and shots with Dave on my last night in the city that has been my home for the better part of seven years.

I’m tucking my cats into their carrying cases, tears rolling down my face as they meow their protests. As I drive them to their new home, I sob. And, when I get to the house, it’s even worse.

I’m standing in my empty apartment, imaging where everything was. Seeing myself in my room. Playing fetch with the cats. Sipping wine on my balcony. Those memories seem so unfair as I stand there. The ghosts of the life I lived.

I lay with my mom and let tears roll down my face as I let the moments from the past month of my life sweep through my mind.

“It’s OK, D,” she says as I sit there, silently crying. “You’ve just done something major. And you are going to do something else major. You are allowed to feel like this. It isn’t easy.”

I know she’s right.

For now, I have two weeks to soak up my family and my friends in Maryland. And then, it’s on to Thailand.

30 Life Crisis Americas Blog Maryland

Rocky Mountains, sigh

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #winosontheroad series. Over Yonderlust and d travels ’round are road tripping and exploring America through June 27. Be sure to check out all of the posts of life on the open road.

The rustic smell of the wooden stairs hits me as soon as we walk in to Pine Ridge Condos in Breckenridge, tucked into the vast expanse of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

It smells spicy, like winter.

The view from Pine Ridge Condos in Breckenridge

I don’t think anything of it when Erica, Shaun and I begin our ascent up the six flights to our condo, carrying two suitcases (because you never know if the warm clothes are needed), my bag of toiletries, my bag with the hair straightener, and my bag with my electronics.

I take the first flight with ease. And the second, too.

Then, it hits me.

I can’t breathe very well. 

My legs turns stiff. My heart races. What would normally take a quick minute to climb the flights of stairs lapses into a story in and of itself. Pauses. Moments where I feel my pulse in my ears. Lots and lots of curse words and mumblings about why the hell the condos are missing an elevator.

I’m not in THIS bad of shape.

High up and feeling ... awful

I like to think I am exempt from all things that suck, like jet lag.

I learned my lesson about jet lag back in September when I crashed and burned hard after arriving to Las Vegas from Thailand (and a disgusting 14-hour time difference).

And, now, this.

I get altitude sickness.

Granted, Breckenridge, where our condo is located, is more than 9,000 feet above sea level.  But, I don’t expect to feel … so entirely shitty.

The three of us clamor up the stairs, heaving by the time we traverse the entirety of the building.

Later, we attend an event a top Keystone, some 11,000 feet above sea level.

“Be careful and drinks a lot of water,” warns our friend. “If you don’t drink water and drink a lot of booze, you could end up in the hospital.”

Gondola rides

I quickly recount the start of our evening, which included two gondola rides with my old friend Anna, Dave (who was my road trip partner from Vegas to Colorado), Erica, Shaun and me. On the second, we were handed champagne as we hovered a good distance above the life on the slope below.

As soon as our friend mentions getting sick so high up, I look down at my glass of wine. At the plate of food I have barely touched.

I don’t want to be that girl.

Even later in the evening, when our group heads down to River Run to drink at Kickapoo, her words repeat in my head.

The entire weekend, my body feels the effects of being in such thin air.

I can’t form sentences correctly. I know what I want to say, but the words just don’t come out right.

I can’t walk great distances without feeling winded.

Stairs? Forget about it. Instead of walking through the tunnel to cross the street safely from the Keystone Lodge to the Conference Center, I opt for risking it and hauling it across Route 6 instead of having to climb the little beastly stairs.

I moan. I complain. I feel like someone is punching me repeatedly in the stomach.

On our last night, as Erica and I discuss the merits of leaving the Rockies a few hours ahead of schedule, the final decision is made because both of us are not only excited to start our cross-country road trip, but to get the hell out of the high altitude and back down to some place where we can feel more normal.

As we crawl into bed, down in Denver, at 2 a.m., it feels incredible to take a big breath of air into my lungs.

Yes, the Rocky Mountains are gorgeous. And yes, by Day Three of being at such a high altitude, I was able to feel more like normal, but in order to get the most out of the region, more than three days are definitely needed.

When the two of us loaded into the car Monday morning, I gave the mountains one last glimpse in my rear view mirror, then smiled.

It’s time to go to Omaha, where we can breathe (a lot) easier.

30 Life Crisis Americas Blog Colorado