“balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.”
everyone assumes i have a perfect life. traveling to europe once or twice a month, watching sunsets from norway to malta like it’s nobody’s business. on those days, my life is pretty damn perfect. picture perfect really, check my instagram if you don’t believe me. i do have to say though, that a lot of that is who i am as a person. i am happy, i love enjoying every experience life throws at me, i am constantly evolving as an individual, and most importantly, i love trying to find the best in even the worst of situations. i have had all of my valuables stolen in africa, have been stuck at a dismal airport in dakar for 13 miserable hours, have had the worst jet lag ever where i didn’t even know what day of the week it was. i have slept on airport floors because of cancelled flights and lack of money, had my luggage lost for days at a time, i’ve been to countless restaurants alone, and have felt the pang of sadness enjoying some of my unforgettable adventures without anyone by my side….yet i still keep at it. i’m a constant thinker, so this makes me wonder, can you have it all? am i missing a key ingredient for living a complete life because it feels like something may be missing here? can you travel the world and also be in love (with a human, not a dog or country), have a home life with your friends and family, a successful career, a mortgage, a car?
the funny thing is, people always glamorize travel, and social media makes it feel like the journey getting there is either as perfect as that crystal clear blue water you’re floating in or not worth discussing at all. (side note, i recently learned that i tend to be a little bit more creative when i drink…so here i sit, typing away during my almost six hour layover in philadelphia on my way to visit country #43, lovely liechtenstein, with a bottle of beer. not so glamours afterall, eh?). you never hear the stories of what it actually takes to get there, what you have to give up to get there, and how it feels when you come home and life has gone on without you and you’re playing catch-up. it’s a constant balance, a constant struggle and a life of compromises. my desires, wishes and interests have literally ended relationships in my past. i don’t have a car. i live in a one bedroom apartment that costs waaaay too much with my snoring, drooling bulldog. i want a garden, i don’t have one. a veranda overlooking the water, sign me up for that. a gas stove?!? i would murder someone in the face for that. i have traded a life in boston, a city i love, for a life on an airplane in a timezone far, far away. i had a boyfriend literally say one of the reasons for ending our relationship was that we had different travel expectations. i mean, if you want glamour, look elsewhere my friends.
as i said, i’m a thinker, but can i also be a doer because i’m left with this, how exactly do you do it? how do you balance the real world and the world of travel goals, dreams and bucket lists? because everybody’s got them these days, so how do you fit it all in (that’s what she said)? i can only speak for myself because every person who makes the decision to make travel their priority does it for their own reasons. maybe it’s to escape, or just the curiosity to see the world. to get away from a breakup, to avoid extradition, to eat, drink and be merry? to learn a language, to find love, or maybe a mix of the above. maybe you’re wondering what lead me to my decision to reprioritize my life? curiosity only killed the cat, so you’re in luck. take a seat, grab a glass of wine and keep on reading.
i made the decision last november to take time off for a year and use all of my resources (time, energy, money, mental bandwidth for dealing with idiots) for travel. a major change in my life had just occurred, i was single at the time, i had very little responsibility (by design) and had always had a burning desire to see the world. for the first time in my adult life i felt like i had control over my life and my own destiny. i was gone for two weeks or so at a time, flying here, there and everywhere. i went to japan at the drop of a hat for six days, i flew to ukraine in the middle of the winter (yes, it was cold), because why the hell not. i was off, up and outta here. seeing, doing, living. when i returned back to boston my friends were always excited to see what crazy cori had been up to and we spent hours laughing at my latest and best adventures. i, in turn, asked routine questions about the kids and the husbands, how the jobs were going and what about the siblings and parents? alas, no one ever wanted to talk about that stuff though because to them, it was never as exciting as my time rolling through europe. “i love your life” i would hear the second i opened my mouth, but as soon as i landed, i was off again. solo traveling at its best, am i right? (cue the dramatic music, dun dun dun…) however, a few trips in, i met someone and things started to change for me without even realizing it.
someone else became just as important to me as traveling and seeing the world. what. the. fuck. how on earth do i balance all of this?!? well, i can tell you i didn’t balance it very well at all, and sadly, things eventually ended. not one to stand by and let a valuable lesson go to waste, i was able to do a lot of self reflecting and realized that if you take the time, communicate and balance things the right way, you can have it all. it will never be perfect and it may not be what you want every second of the day, but it’s all there and all you have to do is reach out and grab it. you can solo travel, have a home base that means the world to you, have a partner and travel to bali together for a month on a budget, you can get a job that you love, and you can make time for the most important people in your life because you want to and you love them. end of story.
it doesn’t mean you have to plan every little detail out, it means you make sacrifices when you have to because you know what the end game is. you know what you want and you are going to do everything in your power to make it happen. you want to travel alone and have a partner or family? well, explain to them why it is important to you to do this alone and why you feel like it will be good for your relationships going forward. solo and just dreaming about traveling? just do it. start easy and go on a two-day trip somewhere close. get comfortable with being alone, with getting lost, with meeting amazing people on the same journey as yourself. do you have a partner who also likes to travel but you have your own goals in mind? (hi, this was me, fyi). FIND. THE. BALANCE., for the love of god. don’t let something like travel get in the way of an amazing relationship. meet in the middle, and if you know you would be just as happy in a cardboard box under a bridge with them as you would be flying off to two countries in four days for your own self-satisfaction, don’t ever let that person go. for me, it was a difficult lesson to learn that i needed a break from my own goals, my own needs and my own desires. i needed to take time to visit my family, who i love and do not see enough. i needed to take time to relax and enjoy the simple things in life that make me happy and smile every day. like i said, it’s a constant balance and sometimes a good kick in the ass makes you realize you need to adjust, readjust, and adjust again to get it right.
a real life that you can feel, see, and touch everyday is a necessity, but travel is an amazing thing. through all of the ups and downs what ended up happening was that i found myself along the way. i realized that i could be alone and enjoy it. i could share my life with someone i loved and it didn’t matter how many countries i raced off to in x-amount of time anymore. i found out that i could constantly reprioritize my life and be okay with that adjustment. i found out that i didn’t miss those expensive shoes, drinks and dinners i was accustomed to in boston. happiness cannot be bought, it comes from truly knowing what you want and figuring out how to get it. i found such a pleasure in finding an awesome hotel for under $100 a night right in the city center that it became a contest with myself (and for those who are wondering, yes, i travel on a budget). i ate like a local, drank like a local and used my own two feet to see the city in which i was staying. i was my own tour guide and the world was indeed my oyster.
i am not perfect and i sure as shit do not have it all figured out, but what i can tell you is that i have missed out on a lot. i have messed up, made the wrong decisions a time or two, and probably should own a car, but if you have stood under the hazrat sultan mosque in astana, drank delicious local beer from georgia, watched an unforgettable sunset on a medieval wall in malta, had home cooked local seafood in norway, sipped brandy at the airport at 9am in armenia, or walked down a former road that held cold war tank parades in minsk, it’s worth finding that balance. unfortunately it may not get that lost relationship back, it definitely does not make up for lost time, or for not owning a house, but it means you have made a decision and decided to live a life outside of expectations and outside of your comfort zone. you have chosen a path that will enrich your life longer than that car you couldn’t wait to buy that needs constant care and maintenance (unless it’s a skoda, then it will last for 100 years).
i remember the first time i ever flew on an airplane. it was 1996 and i had just turned 15 and was off to europe with my german class. i was scared shitless to be flying in the first place and to be going to several foreign countries without my family, are you kidding me?!? i still remember the fear and the tearful goodbye at the des moines airport, but damnit, i got on that plane and that trip changed my life forever. i started a love affair with cologne, which was the first place we stopped on our epic adventure, that still continues today as it remains one of my favorite cities in the world. i remember looking up at the kölner dom in complete awe, a kid from small-town iowa in front of something that outdated my own country by many, many years. jaw dropped and feelin’ it, if i could caption my reaction today it would be, “damn it feels good to be a gangsta.”
now, don’t leave me hanging here, go get your own gangsta moments and message me, i love to hear travel stories!!