“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