The World Needs You to Come Alive

“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman

Three years ago, I found myself in the biggest predicament of my life.

I had finally found what made me happy. I knew that travel ignited a part of me that otherwise lay dormant. The foreign sights, sounds, flavors, and language of a new country are what make my heart pound, my blood pump, and my soul bloom.

I love everything about traveling, and how it impacts my life: the Greek words I add to my vocabulary, the delicious cuisine of Morocco, the relaxed evenings in Italy. These are experiences that I want in my life.

Traveling makes me a better, more well-rounded person, and it makes me exquisitely happy—in a word, alive.

Travel was my dream—a massive, untouchable dream. A dream that didn’t involve multiple phone lines ringing, my cell phone buzzing, and my inbox flooding as a 40-hour workweek merged into 60 hours.

I compromised my dream because I was working—for a promotion, for validation, for the almighty dollar. Blindly contented in this role, I kept settling, assuring myself that the day would come when I could fulfill my desire to travel.

One day the Tiny Buddha weekly email arrived and “10 Questions to Ask Yourself before Giving Up on Your Dream,” by Lori Deschene, loomed out at me.

I read the questions and tried to defend my current life choices, but I wasn’t able to satisfy my own inquiring. I knew travel made me happy, and I couldn’t justify giving up on that.

The rest of the day I fought a battle between my head and heart. I knew the right choice, no matter how terrifying, was to follow my dreams.

Within a week, I bought a one-way ticket to Greece and started writing my 60-day notice for the office.

Naturally, I was scared. That crippling, nagging feeling came to sit with me—doubt. I doubted myself, my plan, and the decision to leave a great job in a bad economy.

When I put in my resignation, the General Manager did his best to discourage me, saying, “You’ll never get another chance like this… You think careers are just handed out? You’re making a mistake.”

It wasn’t too late to take the resignation back, cancel the ticket, and settle into my job, saving travel for retirement.

As I patiently listened to the reasons that I wouldn’t succeed, I vowed to myself to try.

Instead of giving into doubt, I opened up my email and wrote the answers to the 10 questions, solidifying my faith in my decision, reminding myself of why I can’t give up. Using my answers as a personal accountability tool, I kept my vision at the forefront and doubt at bay.

On March 3, 2010, I made the journey to Greece. As the plane lifted from the tarmac, I felt myself come alive. The world was nothing but possibilities, and I was free to pick and choose from them.

I spent the next eight months traveling in Europe, North Africa, and South America. Feeling alive every minute, watching myself mature and grow, I spent every day grateful that I made the right decision.

Eventually the money I’d saved ran out and I realized I needed to return to California, to “the real world.” I accepted this and flew home, but felt an incessant nagging in the pit of my stomach.

I thought, “This isn’t what you want to do, Brandy; this isn’t what makes you happy.”

I returned to my moral compass, my 10 questions—more importantly, my 10 answers, which gave me accountability to myself.

Knowing the transition back into my old life would not offer me what I needed to nourish my soul, I sought out international options.

I believed if I put my heart into the decision-making process and left myself open to new opportunities, things would work out. Within two weeks from making the choice to continue my life of travel indefinitely, I received a job offer to teach English to children in Madrid, Spain.

I was terrified at the idea of living abroad, but much more so at the idea of returning to my old life and retracting the promise I made to myself to continue doing what I love.

Refusing to give up my dreams, I bought the ticket to Madrid. I’m thrilled to say I’ve been living there ever since. Teaching fulfills me on many levels, and I have each summer free to travel for months at a time. I’ve found the perfect place for me.

Many friends comment, “You’re so lucky.” It’s not luck that has landed me where I am today, rather self-examination, courage, and an unwavering belief that following my dreams will always pay off.

I used to believe my dream of travel was an impossibly large wish that would only come true if I found a genie in a bottle, won the lottery, or waited for retirement.

I removed the obstacles that were obstructing the path to my dreams, using my answers as a compass. It worked! Whatever your dream or passion is—what makes you come alive—it is achievable.

Are you willing to ask yourself 10 hard questions? Are you willing to meditate on these and follow the direction your heart leads you?

Instead of silencing the dream that pops into your head at night as you fall asleep, try listening to it. Your dreams light you from the inside out. The world needs you to follow them.

Photo by Fah Rojvithee

About Brandy Bell

Brandy Bell is a learner, teacher, traveler, and writer. She recently launched the free/budget travel website where she encourages others to pursue their travel goals. Loaded with travel inspiration, budget tips, and the ultimate backpacking checklist, it’s a one stop site for achieving travel dreams.

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  • Nelsilya Huang

    Thank you so much for this post. It’s really inspiring. I’ve been looking for a job in other country but I haven’t got any reply yet, my contract with current company will be over on January, and I think if I still don’t get the job until that time, should I just go there anyway? I’m really scared knowing that I will be there alone and don’t get any job and go back to my country as a failure. But I’m going to take this risk because my heart tell me to follow my dream and you said whatever my dream is, it is achievable. Thank you for this post Brandy.

  • a_distorted_reality

    THANK YOU! I really needed to read this today! I recently decided to give up my permanent, pensionable, prestigious job to go freelance so I can move to another city to be with my boyfriend. I haven’t handed in my notice yet, but every day I wake up thinking “Am I doing the right thing?!” and getting myself into a panic about whether I’ll be able to find work, whether we’ll work when we’re living in the same place, whether I’m foolish to walk away from a good job in the middle of a recession etc. etc. etc. and imagining people’s reactions when I tell them – not least of all my parents, who will be so disappointed in me! Your post has made me really think about the reasons I’m doing this and reconfirmed my faith that it IS the right thing to do! The ultimate goal is for my boyfriend and I to travel the world together in a couple of years once we’ve saved up enough money – so who knows, we may bump into you one day, Brandy! 🙂

  • lv2terp

    TRULY INSPIRING!!!!!!!!!! This made me smile that you followed your passion and are happy and successful, CONGRATS!!!! 🙂 I truly believe the same, and try to instill this in my children because I love what I do as well! hehe…FANTASTIC!

  • The brave and the happy one

    This a great post…this is a great site. Blessings to you.

  • A Life Student

    Beautiful and inspiring.

  • thank you so much 🙂 hearing you’re inspired makes me even more certain i’ve made the right choices along the way.

  • thank you… hope you always stay brave and happy 🙂

  • what a wonderful gift to give your children; following their dreams will take them everywhere. thank you for the heartfelt comment, it warms me from the inside out 🙂

  • wow, what a wonderful story. i can tell you from the bottom of my heart that traveling the world will make you richer than any pensionable, permanent job.
    don’t be afraid of what people will say- you are the one who has to live with your choices- your loved ones will support any decision that leads to your happiness 🙂
    please stay in touch, i would love to hear how you progress in this journey!

  • That is one incredible and inspirational kick ass post!

  • As someone that knows Brandy…I am constantly amazed by her sense of adventure and her understanding of this journey we’re all on. Way to go Brandy…you go girl!!

  • Laura

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m heading over the the link for the 10 questions next. I really needed the inspiration to find what my dream is and to go for it.

  • Lol. Same here!

    (* goes back to finishing the 10 questions)

  • Thank you for your amazing story as I to am in a struggle with my self about traveling abroad in the health field. My mother knows my passion for this and has been my cheerleader to push me. I have just recently started studying and testing to get all my recerts updated and who knows maybe it will all come together. Thanks again for yet another piece of inspiration. Wishing you well!!!

  • thank you Alex 🙂

  • Heather, this is great news! Please let me know if you need any encouragement, inspiration or international healthcare contacts – there are many people out there willing to help you achieve your dreams 🙂 Thank you for reading and commenting on my story!

  • a little self exploration goes a long way… here’s hoping you narrow down your dreams and chase them with a passion! thank you for your sweet comments, Laura 🙂

  • that’s right, Robrick, back to the questions!! 🙂 good luck with them- please check back and let us know what you’ve found 🙂 thank you for the comment…

  • Matt- I am amazed by you and your endless enthusiasm! All the best to you and your new family!! 🙂 much love

  • Astha Kaushik

    In India we have a saying, I am going to translate it in English. We say, you should travel as much as you can in your life as life is really short, and even if you live a little longer, the years of your youth is comparatively lesser and you are going to be old soon and unable to travel. Its said by a famous poet Ghalib. I agree with you when you said its just not luck..its your determination. Travelling is my passion too and sometimes i had very difficult times handling situations like being extremely sick in China, coping up with European winters and unexpected snowfalls, convincing my parents to let me travel etc(in India its not very common letting girls go abroad alone)…but still at the end of the day i spent 10 mins to search new places and making new travel plans. Even when I am not very sure i will ever be able to go to all the places or not 🙂

  • Layssa

    I’ve found tinybuddha a few weeks ago, and just can’t stop reading it.
    Great ideas!
    Greetings from Brazil

  • sue

    Thank you so much for writing this! I am so happy to have found this in my email today. Since I graduated college in 2008, I have wanted to travel. I’ve always put it off to work more/save more money/etc… a few months back, i started to look into teaching abroad and am now more than ever motivated to really do it. Teaching English in Spain is actually #1 on the list!!! Thank you for the extra boost of motivation 🙂

  • shygirl06

    This is really truly inspiring post. It made me come alive.

  • Hooray for you! What an uplifting post about following your dreams and allowing them to lead you to places that you never thought you’d be. Enjoy your life in Madrid and all of your worldly travels. Visiting new places often beats going through the same ol’ motions day in and day out.

  • Astha, thank you so much for the translation, what a lovely excerpt from the poem!! It sounds like you’ve done more than your share of traveling- bravo! The time spent each night fueling your dreams no doubt keeps you determined and motivated to achieve your dreams as well. You’re an inspiration 🙂 please keep in touch and let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you reach for more travel!

  • Thank you so much Nicole! Madrid is fabulous, and serves as a great home base to check out the rest of our planet 🙂
    Agreed, visiting new places can even make our same old routine come more alive as we revisit our memories… ahh, travel!

  • Hi Nelsilya! You will be just fine 🙂 If your heart is set on a global job, then one will appear for you. Please send me a personal message if you’d like help in your job search, I know of several websites where there are international jobs listed which could help inspire your search. Thank you so much for your comments and sharing your story, I just know you will succeed in your dream!

  • Hi Layssa, so glad you’re enjoying all the variety of wonderful information and inspiration on Tiny Buddha, Lori does a great job collecting excellent material 🙂

  • Hi Sue, welcome to Spain! Please get in touch with me through a personal message or via my website if you would like more information on teaching English in Spain, I am very happy to provide you with contacts that could get the ball rolling– it’s really not as difficult as one imagines 🙂
    thank you so much for the feedback, I look forward to helping you grow towards your dreams, and even more so that I see you in Spain! 🙂

  • thank you for this comment, especially as a shy girl, I know how hard it can be to jump into the conversation- i appreciate it very much, thank you 🙂

  • Vishal Bhatt

    You made my day with this article, its saturday and i was from morning thinking about what i really want from life, you gave me inspiration man…Thanks

  • Astha Kaushik

    thnks dear….all d best for your future travel plans..n do write me in case u plan to visit India… its a must visit country 🙂

  • I had the same feelings towards travel and even though I was afraid of living abroad, I knew it was necessary.

  • yes Astha- I plan on visiting India in the next year, certainly 🙂 I will definitely write you and keep in touch, thank you so much!

  • and YOU made my day Vishal 🙂 I am very glad to hear you enjoyed a whole day of reflection and meditation. Did you arrive at your answers? Thank you so much for the comment, I truly appreciate it

  • good for you Brandi! I am thrilled to hear you made the right choice. are you loving it?

  • friend forever

    Dear Brandy,
    I am 15 and my dream is to travel too. I want to meet new people, learn new languages, connect, mature, make mistakes, learn, grow, live from the heart and depart happily from this world. But, I still have to study and I can’t see how my travel dreams and studying aspirations can merge. Any suggestions?
    Lovely article by the way! Love ya <3

  • hi friend 🙂 You have such high aspirations for a 15 year old- only good
    things can be coming your way! While you’re legally (and probably
    parentally) obligated to attend school for the next three years, you
    should make the best of that time. Learn everything you can to prepare
    yourself for when you’re able to travel the world. Read books about
    travel (and of course, do your homework as well).

    Traveling is just like school, you are able to learn something all the
    time. Think of the next few years as practice for when the world is
    yours. Plan the countries you’d like to visit and learn about their
    cultures, traditions, and perhaps language.

    If that doesn’t keep you busy for the next three years, you can write to me and I’ll give you travel assignments 😉

    Your comments and eagerness make my heart explode into a hundred pieces
    of happiness — keep your dreams alive, feed them well and wait until
    you can release them!

    lots and lots of love for you.

  • friend forever

    A very encouraging reply Brandy! Thanks. I guess patience, hope, and enthusiasm are surely the only things that are going to help me got o the places that I want to. My mom’s brother lives in USA and my family plans to send me there as I would have some sort of protection when I leave my comfortable nest for the first time. But I wonder if this is right. Isn’t there a study program where you can travel and study at the same time?
    And that reminds me……. I need to turn over all of this over to the Universe and just do my best. I am sure the Universe will help me along the way.
    Thanks and loads of love <3

  • FriendinReturn

    Dear Friend Forever,

    There are tons of Study Abroad programs and scholarships available for you. Try asking your parents or your guidance counselor at school to help you explore the options. There are foreign exchange programs in the US that allow you to live with a host family while you attend school. There are also programs that allow you to live with a family as an au pair, which means you would care for the children and household in exchange for room and board. I think you should sit down with your parents and search the internet for words like “study abroad” “study abroad scholarships” “foreign exchange program” “student exchange program” and “Au pair in the United States.” The best of luck to you and never give up on your dreams!


    A Friend in Return

  • Shasha

    Love it and totally relate;))

  • TC

    I would just like to add that every decision we take in life is a RISK. In the above case the author’s decision turned out to be the right one. Recently I took a big job change risk and it’s proving to be quite positive but it has disrupted my other dreams so I’m at a stage where I am asking myself if I made the right decision. My former boss encouraged me by pointing out that I am only 23 and it will probably take quite a few years before I mould a career that makes me happy. When you’re young taking risks is your JOB. Come alive now so that you won’t have to struggle moving mountains when you’re old!

  • Brandy,

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I was in between making a decision and this helped me tremendously. You are an inspiration to me, to know that anything is possible. We just have to trust ourselves and pursue our dreams. Cheers to never settling! 🙂

  • renaissancegirl321

    Beautifully inspiring !

  • Brandy Bell

    well said, TC! it reminds me of a favorite quote of mine by Erica Jong: “If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more”.
    I am sorry to hear you’re having a bit of turmoil after the job change- but the water is always a but murky after we stir around… things will settle, and if you’re following your heart- it will work out.
    like you said, your JOB is to take risks. 🙂 Hope to hear more from you, TC!

  • Brandy Bell

    thank you! thank you!

  • Dr_SubhashDabir


  • Nelsilya

    Hi Brandy! It’s been 2 months since I wrote here, I want to tell you that I had some job interview by phone, don’t know the result yet, and today I woke up and felt this fear, and I remember your post when you doubted yourself and your plan, now I feel the same! How did you overcome that fear and how did you know that you took the right decision?

  • Anonymous Account

    Of course, most of the work that needs to be done isn’t anybody’s dream.

  • BellaTerra66

    It’s four years later. Have your traveled?? 🙂 I sure hope so!

  • Brandy Bell

    That’s so true, Anonymous 🙂 But sometimes that work does lead us to our dreams!

  • Brandy Bell

    Thank you!

  • Brandy Bell

    thank you 🙂

  • Brandy Bell

    Congratulations, Joshua! Anything is possible — one foot in front of the other 🙂
    Cheers to you from sunny Mallorca.