I love it when I explain to people that I am travelling around the world and they respond "Oh have you just finished Uni?" Urm... nope. I'm 28 now complete with wrinkles. I was however the 'over-achiever' who believed all the lies and chased her way from Law degree to London Stock Exchange to Sydney advertising world and worked insanely hard with lots of determination to succeed. Ambitious little number I was but one that lost sight of her dreams.
That said I needed to work; I had a ridiculous amount of student debt to tackle and a ruthless determination not to depend on my parents for financial support after University. So my gap year was belated and aptly timed with my quarter-life crisis that involved breaking up with an amazing boyfriend and best-friend, leaving my wonderful mates, the beach view apartment and quitting my career in time to miss the award ceremonies whilst obsessively taking up Bikram yoga and herbal tea wondering what the hell I truly wanted in this life (thanks to friends for showing up at this time). I remember sitting down with my boss and mentor Andrew Wynne, after being at the company for a mere 9 months, explaining 'I have to go' as being one of the scariest things I'd ever done in my career. Incredibly and much to my surprise he said 'we'll have you back when you're done Jess'.
My 'gap year' has been more of a giant poop-my-pants leap year. And actually not really a gap year at all as it nears plural status. However, I can say that at 26 years old, my decision to leave pretty much everything to go on a journey of self-discovery and adventure until I 'run out of money' has been the best possible gift to myself. Incredibly frightful nevertheless especially as I initially allowed my inner child to take the reins. A bad-ass tomboy who likes extreme sports, rolling in nature, doing crazy things like getting lost up mountains, hanging out with rebels and inevitably one that had to relive a sense of self-abandonment. Strength in adversity proved true.
|Being the change I wanted to see in the mountains|
By living in the giving and being detached from what comes back; This is how I feel I've walked into abundance. Of course money is practical, and a means of survival in this material world, but it is not the only thing we can offer in exchange for a positive experience in life. In fact, just being awesomely true to oneself and others has its benefits; people actually enjoy your company for one thing! And working from the heart on projects gives a natural high (look how much I am buzzing in this pic!) and genuinely giving a damn about the world in a hands-on way can reward in ways that transcend the illusion of 'give to get'.
I remember locals asking me whether I got paid to collect garbage (read my little PR rant here) and were somewhat confused when I said no, I do it for love (and garbage on the path kinda pisses off this British earth mother). And for me, obviously, it really isn't about making money - that's what I did to afford the journey in the first place and I'm committed to keep traveling until it runs out so I may as well make myself useful. Miraculously, it seems to stretch the less I worry about it and the more humbly I live. Importantly I've also learned to accept the kindness of others; which is difficult when pride kicks-in. I'd say the biggest miracle had to be when my tax accountant emailed me to say that I didn't have to pay him his fees and for me to see it as a contribution to my travels. When your tax accountant says that - you get busy!
If you are blessed enough to live within the top 5% of the world's richest (if you're reading this, that is likely to include you) then I hope this message resonates on some level. Some of the most inspiring people I have met were happy to trade their services or just happy to give in anyway they could. In fact the lovely circulation of seasonal clothing in the backpacker community is really awesome as is couch-surfing and that doesn't go to mention my surrogate family in Parvati family who were so humble that my heart is still broken.
I have also realised that real friends are the ones that want to see you shine. And I hope in a way I can make that happen for 'my crew'. I've loved being a photographer on adventures, making videos, offering strategic communications advice or just showing up when my intrepid soul brothers and sisters could do with a chat, cuddle, bed or a cook up.
You see something I have learned is true appreciation for life before anything else. The mere opportunity to be alive is pretty awesome not to mention to be born in a developed nation. Then I could go in to the things I am super grateful for: my family, friends and also importantly; me. I have truly proven to myself that I can grab life by the balls on my own. Eeeeek! Well ‘alone’ is really figuratively speaking as ‘no man is an island’ however, I have to remind myself that all I am left with is a bit of courage when things don't go to plan, I get seriously sick or my heart gets broken.
|My surrogate family in remote Himalayas|
Like kryptonite to Superman's soul the toxic self-talk and uncomfortable situations did nothing less than drag me down and yet challenge me once again to keep going when all I wanted was to hide away somewhere or 'fly home to Mum'. And no word of a lie, while I love a challenge there comes a point where peaceful surrender becomes the best resort to the battle. To embrace Lennon and let it be. To rise to the challenge with faith that whatever will be will be and work really bloody hard at ensuring that each day is still fully lived and each lesson is learned. That I show up to life despite its 'moments' and keep being positive because there's always something to smile about.
Traveling alone can be hard as hell. I’ve missed my family, my friends, my home comforts, my mind at times and I’ve even missed having a man to share those romantic moments with. However I know I have given myself space and time to get to know Jess, I've made some wonderful friends and learned to take full responsibility for 'me and my story'.
There are times when I really just want to find a base and hide away in a cave of comforts, a nice wardrobe, some pretty jewellery, a network of stable friends on my doorstep, have my family on call, my own kitchen(!), the routine and security of a 9-5 job but then I remind myself I have lived that life and will have the rest of my life to live it again one day. So I'm keeping the dream alive while the Universe invites me to and working very hard to share as much kindness on the way while preserving my sanity i.e. knowing when to walk away. That to me is a much more powerful currency than money and a powerful thing to trust in through personal experience. Sadly an intellectual understanding of karma, philosophy and wise idioms didn't cut it for me… I had to learn it myself through some raw experiences.
So that's how I've survived my relentlessly changing and challenging world. The non-stop scenery and costume change of these last 22 months. I hope my sentiments aren't too self-indulgent. Perhaps they are. I have to write my ramblings somewhere and crazily people read my drivel (thanks if you made it this far).
But perhaps these words might even inspire someone to take life by the balls too, to follow their heart, live and give a little if not A LOT without being afraid of scarcity.
G'waaaaan, what's the worst thing that can happen?
It's not like we're getting out alive.
“Indeed our hearts are golden treasures, but a true tragedy would be to conceal your inner gold because you are afraid of someone stealing it or it falling and breaking. There is no love in fear. The great wisdom of the ages always tells us the more we Love the more of it you receive. Love is not a giving or a taking, it is a state of being – a one way street of allowing, accepting and holding a space for all things to be exactly as they are.
Fear not that your heart will be broken or stolen. Love becomes love. Give it away with no expectation of return and soon you will be having a love affair with the whole world!” - Jackson Kiddard, author & polymath.