I often get comments from people about my lifestyle, the fact that I leave the country at every given opportunity, sometimes they are really positive comments like “Good for you!” and “Fantastic!” and other times, the words that are strung together are nice but you can feel the judgement dripping off them.
Life is about choices, things you choose to do as well as the way you choose to deal with things in life.
Only a few close friends really know what’s been going on with me and why I leave whenever I can. It’s about finding myself and appreciating who I am, as well as regaining my independence and free will. I spent a large portion of my early adulthood in a relationship that was emotionally and psychologically abusive; it started off great but over the years it got worse and worse and when we finally broke up I realised I had no idea who I was. I no longer knew how to make decisions for myself and I didn’t know what I enjoyed doing because I wasn’t being told these things anymore. At around the same time as the breakup, I lost my father to cancer. My dad was always my best friend and my rock. My whole world crashed around me and suddenly I was at a loss, I spent the first three years functioning in survival mode. I ate, slept and worked according to routine. I lost weight. I lost motivation. I lost interest. I walked the dog whenever I could drag myself off the couch, but mostly spent a great deal of time staring at the walls. On top of the things going on in my personal life, I was struggling at work and had some really challenging students, it got to the point where I was fighting tears on the drive to work every day.
By mid-2012 I was miserable and barely functioning any more and realised something had to change. I spent about 12 months on a mental health plan and my psychologist was great in helping me regain some perspective. One of my best friends came up with a concept called ‘Project Beans’ which was about helping me get my ‘beans’ (energy) back, and he has been super supportive along every step of my journey. Also it sounds a bit silly, but the way my dog paid attention to me and loved me no matter what, was a great source of strength. While my life didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped, I realised there was still plenty of enjoyment to be had and it was time to focus more on appreciating the small things in life and doing more things that made me happy.
So I travel, it makes me happy. I love seeing different places and experiencing different cultures, setting myself different challenges along the way – like hiking to the top of Mt Kinabalu in Borneo or skiing Whistler in Canada or even just going out to dinner by myself (a concept I used to find terrifying, I still find it scary, but not terrifying). When I am at home I work hard on maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime, because they have a huge impact on my mental health. I place a lot of importance on appreciating and spending time with my family and friends, and I have no hesitation in telling them all how much I love them. I also try to appreciate little things, like blue skies, white sand, a smile from someone I walk past as I am out walking my dog, noticing an architectural feature in a building I have walked past a million times but never really looked at.
As I have told a few people lately, my focus for this year, and in the years to come, is me. Finding enjoyment in little things, doing things that make me happy, and getting back to being the true, positive version of myself.
So I have a grand master plan, which I am calling Project Beans, though I have upped the ante on what the name traditionally referred to. While I am focusing on being a happier, healthier person physically and mentally, I am also going to be working my butt off and saving as much money as I possibly can so that I can take most of 2015 off work and explore the world.
The Project Beans adventure list currently includes: Africa to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, swim in the Devil’s Pool at the top of the Victoria Falls, do a safari and see the ‘big 5′; South America to hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, see the spectacular Iguazu Falls, as well as visit places like Buenos Aires and Rio De Janeiro; then a move to Europe, to spend most of the time living and travelling around Spain and Portugal, learning Spanish along the way and maybe even attempting the El Camino De Santiago; hopefully I’ll also fit in a visit to Legoland in Denmark.
While I am taking the brave step of planning a year long (realistically probably closer to 10 months) solo adventure, I’d love some travel buddies to share in the fun adventures along the way! If any of the things I plan to do are on your bucket list, feel free to join me! Or if you want to go to Europe, tell me when/where to meet you and we’ll hang out!