Somewhere between the end of last summer and this spring, I lost it. It went out with a snap like a blown out candle, and I was only made aware that it was ever burning because of the lingering smell of smoke in the air.
It’s hard to imagine that just a little over a year ago I came back to Toronto feeling like I was on top of the world, a completely different person than I find myself today. For almost 3 years between 2009 and 2012, I had been living and traveling abroad. Two years were spent teaching English in South Korea, a job with a steep learning curve for this never-before-taught individual and a culture I had nothing to reference it to. But I adapted and learned the language, the culture, and how to fit in with a society that operated differently than my own.
Before returning to Canada, I was off on another adventure, this time backpacking for 8-months through China, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. With nothing more than what we could carry in our packs and only concrete plans for a week at a time, my boyfriend and I had an adventure of a lifetime.
We found ourselves in sprawling metropolises and simple villages, braved the overnight trains and buses, found “paradise” on an island off of Cambodia, came face to face with many historic wonders, stuffed our faces on delicious and cheap Southeast Asian cuisine, went scuba diving, surfing, and canyoning (all for the first time), road-tripped both Australia and New Zealand’s South Island, managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Hawaii, and stretched our travel budget from an original 6 months to 8. We were blogging regularly, sharing our experiences through videos and photos, and offering tips and advice to other travelers in the region. We loved every minute of it.
I went through a terrible bout of reverse culture shock and a period of depression when I came home. Everyone goes through the “travel blues” no matter how long of a trip you take. But I particularly didn’t know how to fit back into a place and with my group of friends which I had changed so much from in a 3-year period. I kept asking myself “now what?!”, a question I have yet to answer. At times I felt like I had been dropped into the middle of the ocean, water as far as the eye could see, and told to swim towards land. I so desperately wanted nothing to do with the term “settling down” and became very picky about which jobs I wanted to apply to. Months of unemployment and confusion took their toll on my relationship and myself. I’ve cried more this past year than I have my whole life combined.
Traveling gave me a sense of purpose and I didn’t know what that purpose was now that I was “back”. I struggled to write posts and put together all the video footage that I couldn’t keep up with on our trip. What once used to give me so much joy and pride, that allowed me to be completely creatively expressed, now reminded me of what once was, and I started to see the blog as a chore. That little voice in my head that used to undermine me and tell me I wasn’t good enough, creative enough, determined enough, the one I managed to stifle for 3 years had returned, and it came back with a vengeance. I wasn’t the same person who had been jumping off cliffs, dining in restaurants where no one spoke English, or haggling my way through markets.
I had lost my spark. I had lost my drive.
Some may call it a “mid-life crisis”, “finding yourself in your twenties”, or getting “stuck in a rut”. I call it losing my spark.
Just over a year ago, Expedia launched a video campaign called “Find Yours”, showing the power that travel has to transform individuals through personal travel stories. Two videos that have particularly moved me include; Find Your Understanding, the story of Artie who travels to attend his daughter’s same-sex marriage, and Find Your Harmony, the story of Dave and Deb, a couple who had grown apart in their marriage and through travel were able to rekindle that passion.
This campaign, in particular, really speaks to me because it shows what everyday people struggle with, told through the voices of everyday people. They are relatable, moving, and inspiring.
Expedia, in association with NFFTY, launched a contest to send one blogger to “Find Yours” in one of 6 destinations around the world and I want to find my spark in Morocco. I want to reignite it through adventure activities and cultural experiences. I want to see how everyday Moroccans live their lives. I want to be inspired by the sights, sounds, and tastes of the country. I want to learn about the country’s history through their cultural sites and why so many artists and creative types have flocked to Morocco for decades (with some never returning to their home countries). What makes this place seem so exotic?
Traveling is all about living in the moment. It’s about the present day, creating new possibilities, constantly having new and exciting experiences, pushing your comfort zones, being adventurous, meeting new people, forming new bonds with the people and cultures you meet, expanding your skill sets, challenging yourself daily, and deepening your understanding of yourself. That is why I love to travel.
Traveling is transformative on an emotional, physical, and spiritual level. I’ve always maintained that traveling is the best education. I am the best “me” when I’m on the road which is why I know that spark can easily be reclaimed.
A year later, I’m now starting to figuring out how to incorporate those things that travel provides me and transfer it to a single location. I’m learning to be adventurous in my own city, exploring new neighbourhoods, attending different events and meeting new people, and trying new activities. I know I can’t rely on travel alone to maintain my spark, but it’s the ignition to get this train moving again.
Have you ever gone through a period like this? What did you do and how did you get through it?