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Member Spotlight – Rachel

Do you have a plan for your life? I always did, or so I thought……..

Growing up, I was ALWAYS drawn to anything travel. I remember being 10 years old and my best friend had a National Geographic book titled “The World.” I was fascinated by this book and whenever I went to her house, I was in heaven flipping through the glossy pages and reading about countries all over the world.

female travel

In my high school years, my top choices for careers were a travel agent or a psychologist. I hadn’t traveled much except with family but I would find myself researching and planning fictional vacations just for fun. As it turned out, I didn’t choose either path, and both because of fear – a travel agent didn’t make much money I was told and a psychologist had to go to school for a LONG time to get a PhD. Either way, all I could see was MONEY – a lack or a debt.

So, at 19 years old – a time when many people were taking a year off to travel, I decided to go to school for Marketing. I graduated with Honours 2 years later and was immediately hired by an international advertising agency in Toronto, ON. I had visions of moving to NYC or Las Vegas (my dream was never the typical Canadian dream – whatever that is).

I somehow managed to convince my best friend that for our college graduation gift we should go on our first vacation as adults and so we booked a week to Puerto Vallarta Mexico. Her and I would talk endlessly about our dreams to travel and have our own business in adventure tours or work in the hospitality industry but we were young and had NO idea how to make this happen.

Upon returning home, I started my new career as a Media Planner in Toronto. I was PUMPED…..that was until reality hit HARD. The commute was exhausting and the pay was basically poverty level. After just 3 months of a 2 hour commute one way to work and literally HALF my pay going to transportation costs, I quit without any idea what was next.

Once again, I found myself applying for school. I wanted to leave my small town of 20,000 people, so my friend and I decided to move 3 hours away to Windsor and start school in the Fall of 2002. I was 22 at the time of this first refresh, and little did I know it was only the beginning.

My passion for travel was once again leading my decision making, and I decided to become a teacher so that I could travel the world and teach! Brilliant!

female travel

However, during my first year of university I found myself in a relationship that lasted throughout my entire education. When I graduated in 2005, I was proud of my accomplishments yet I still felt stuck. Again, I made a choice out of fear and stayed in Windsor because I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend and travel/work solo overseas. He was already secure and stable in his career. We had been together for a few years and I saw a future with him, so it was either our relationship or my passion for travel. Well guess what I chose?

One thing I have learned on my journey is that you can never make a wrong choice. You are always where you are meant to be and even if you choose something that makes you unhappy, you can always find your way back. Nothing is permanent.

I continued on this path, but always felt a void. I tried to secure full time employment and follow the status quo of going to school, getting a career, buying a house, getting married, having kids……you get the idea 🙂

I have been told a few times by employers that I have quite a plethora of experience with my work history. I’ve worked as a teacher, behavioural therapist, vocational counselor, marketing coordinator, media planner, hospital ward clerk, child & youth worker, city parks landscaper – to name a few – before landing a full time job with the Government of Canada in benefits administration in 2009. It took SO much of my time, energy and soul trying to find a full time job that paid well and would allow me to be with my boyfriend in the same city so we could start our life together.

Fast forward to 2010, a year into my new career, and my boyfriend proposed. We were already living together at the time and had been dating for 9 years, so logically the next step was marriage right? Well, for me, something felt wrong and instead of being excited about the life I was creating, I was TERRIFIED. I loved him and hadn’t even thought of life without him at this point so I said YES and we were married a year later in June 2011. I wish I could tell you it was wedded bliss, but it was far from it in my mind and heart.

Throughout our 9 years as a couple, we talked about moving to Central America one day. I became obsessed with expat forums of Canadians and Americans living in Panama. I was consumed with living abroad and had high hopes that our time in Windsor was limited. However, after we got married, I soon saw that this dream was looking more like a fantasy. It became apparent that he had different beliefs and goals and I found myself unhappy in nearly every aspect of my life. I felt deflated.

In 2012 I was accepted on a scholarship to an online program to become a certified Life Coach. Once again, I was excited that this was a career that would allow me to mentor and guide people without the psychology degree AND allow me to work from anywhere in the world.

It was shortly after I graduated from the program, that I had another MAJOR dose of reality. In the first few months of 2013, I announced to my husband at the time that I felt I wasn’t on the same page as him. I didn’t want to work in a job for 35 years because it paid the bills and I didn’t want to start a family because we were in our early 30’s and that’s just what we ‘should’ do. As difficult and painful as it was, I walked away after only 18 months as a married couple and a total of 12 years together. We shared what felt like a lifetime together and I felt lost and scared of what was to come, but I knew I wasn’t happy and I couldn’t settle.

The next year was a blur, trying to find my way as a single 31 year old woman wasn’t easy. Through the hurt, I saw hope in my life again. I decided that I was going to head to Central America regardless, even though I hadn’t been before and didn’t really have a clue where to begin……..so I did what I loved and entered into intense research mode. It. was. ON.

female travel

At the time, I had my eye on either Panama (which was my first choice), Nicaragua or Costa Rica. Once I was ready, I searched flights to all 3 countries.

San Jose Costa Rica for the WIN!!! The price was WAY cheaper than traveling to Panama City or Managua, Nicaragua so I went for it and let my budget guide me 🙂

On January 31, 2014 I set out with a friend to finally begin exploring the part of the world that had been calling to me for several years (even though I really had no idea why).

From the moment I stepped off the plane into the airport, I felt like I was home. To this day, I have never felt that same feeling even after traveling throughout the Caribbean, Canada, US and Europe. For some reason, Costa Rica was my heart and soul. After just one week there I was devastated to leave a country with such beauty. I cried and resisted coming home, but I felt I had no choice. I had a job to return to and responsibilities especially now that I was supporting myself and needed to make ends meet.

Arriving home to the middle of snow and winter was depressing to say the least. I spent time daydreaming about how I could get back to Costa Rica as soon as possible. I didn’t have any savings at the time after coming out of a marriage where I literally left everything but my beloved cat Rico.

Over the next 2 months, I devised a plan that would allow me to take 5 weeks off of work on an income averaging leave. I didn’t have a clue how I was going to afford taking a pay cut, but this seemed like a good compromise and would allow me to return to the country that felt like my long lost home.

This would be my very first SOLO trip and I was SO full of fear. I was worried about making it on my own and feeling safe in another country traveling without any friends or family. Through a series of online research, I found my way to a website for a yoga retreat called Anamaya in Montezuma, Costa Rica.

I remembered a few years ago, meeting a solo female traveler in Spain and she said one of her favourite places was Montezuma because of the laid back hippie vibe and reggae music. As luck would have it, Anamaya was holding a week long retreat starting April 28, 2014 which was the FIRST week of my 5 week leave. The only drawback was the cost, but I decided to email about availability regardless. Well, wouldn’t you know, they had ONE space available and it was in a one person room with a twin bed and a balcony. It was pretty last minute (I believe I booked about 3 weeks prior) so they even offered me a discount. Without even so much as a second thought, I pulled out my credit card and booked it.

It was official! I was going back to Costa Rica!

I booked my flight to San Jose, and another domestic flight to Tambor where I ended up being the ONLY passenger with a pilot and copilot. It was an insane and scary 30 minute bumpy ride landing between 2 mountains on a dirt runway. When I arrived at Anamaya, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking! I never felt so empowered and free in my life! Yet, I still had no idea what was to come on this very first solo adventure, at 32 years old.

female travel

The yoga retreat was nothing short of amazing and I met a group of wonderfully warm and welcoming women who were all on this journey for different reasons. At the end of the week, we went our separate ways and I headed by water taxi over to Jaco to spend the week at a surf camp.

I wish I could tell you this next leg of my trip was bliss, but I was struggling with mixed emotions about being away from the security and comfort of the retreat center. I pushed myself anyways, and I signed up for surf lessons and spent the days hiking or at the beach. I dined alone at times, and planned my days around what I wanted to see and do. This was HUGE for me and I was way out of my comfort zone, but after 4 or 5 days I felt in flow with my life again. I felt hopeful for my future and started spending some time with new friends I had met. As my departure date was fast approaching, I decided to do something I had never done and change my return flight home for a week later, arriving on May 15, 2014. This would still give me 2 weeks off of work and time to pack & move into my new apartment for June 1.

I felt like I won the vacation lottery!!!

Yet, still, my departure date was looming and on May 14th I woke up feeling anxious and sad knowing it was my last full day in paradise. I spent the entire day lounging at the pool, praying, wishing, hoping for something that would allow me to stay or return for longer. I spoke with friends back home who were excited for me to return to hear all about my adventures, but I just felt sadness because I did NOT want to leave.

female travel

You know the saying – be careful what you wish for?

My new friends wanted to make my last night memorable in Jaco, so we drove down to a  cute restaurant on the beach for appetizers and margaritas. We played on the swings and watched the sunset over the Pacific. It started to rain and we decided to head back to the condo where I was staying. Unfortunately, on the 5 minute drive back, the driver of the car lost control trying to brake in the heavy rain. We slammed into the center median and our car was launched over the highway, rolled, and landed in a ditch.

Luckily, I was unconscious so I don’t remember the impact, but when I came to and I realized we were upside down in the car stuck in a ditch, I obviously panicked. My first thought was “OMG we NEED to get out of here before the car goes up in flames”……..followed by “OMG i’m supposed to fly home in the morning. I don’t want my family to know, I don’t want them to worry.” I didn’t even consider my injuries at that point, I just wanted to find a way to get on the plane in the morning without anyone knowing. I guess that’s what happens when your body goes into shock…….total absolute DENIAL.

I had 5 surgeries in Costa Rica to repair my severely lacerated liver and required oxygen to breathe as both of my lungs were badly bruised and full of fluid. I had broken ribs, fractured my femur and during all of the surgeries where I was left open with a bogota bag, I contracted compartment syndrome, sepsis, and a staph infection – all of which individually can be fatal – nevermind combining them all together at once.

I won’t get into the details of how my family came to my rescue not even knowing where exactly I was, my medical experience in Costa Rica hospitals and Intensive Care, my airlift home on a private medical jet (coolest part ever), my countless setbacks and health obstacles since then because that is a story in itself – one that i’m working on writing and publishing as a book.

It is a miracle that I am here today after the injuries I sustained in the accident. However, it was a gift from God – one that I never thought imaginable. This was nothing I could have seen coming, and no matter what I had planned for my future, this accident changed the course of my life forever. It was the catalyst that led me to deepen my relationships with my family, but more important with myself and with God.

female travel

Since the accident, i’ve been recovering from the inside out. I’ve learned more lessons in the last 4 years than I have in a lifetime. Shortly after my accident, a neighbour suggested reiki to help heal myself emotionally and physically after so many surgeries and trauma. I was reluctant at first, but open and willing to try.

After 6 months of sessions, I decided to become a reiki practitioner and crystal healer. I’ve taken courses in spiritual healing and I feel compelled more than EVER to share my story with the world. Although i’m still recovering and learning as I am on this magical journey of life, I am also planning for my next refresh!

I believe I am here for a reason and I dream of using my coaching and teaching education as well as my experiences to help inspire other women to lead a life fueled by passion and purpose. I want to help other women like myself hit refresh, despite fear and limiting beliefs…….despite feeling stuck, or being broke……..rebuilding their lives after a divorce, an abusive relationship, mental illness, a traumatic accident……..and instill hope that there is always a way to make your dreams come true if you BELIEVE and take ACTION.

Some advice…..

Do more of what makes you happy. What makes your heart sing? What ignites a fire in your soul? What makes you smile? Be honest with yourself.

female travel

This is often a very difficult task as many of us are focused on others – pleasing them, being there for them, and putting our needs aside.

What we may forget is that love STARTS with ourselves. I don’t just mean love in a romantic context. I mean pure, radiant, unconditional love – for everyone and everything in our lives. When we learn who we are, and honour that woman, develop respect for your true desires…..you are unlocking your potential to love.

Sometimes it can be very difficult to feel and practice love, gratitude, forgiveness when we are presented with some of life’s greatest challenges. Letting go is one of the most difficult things to do but it’s also one of the most important in terms of being happy. We often get ‘fixed’ on a perception of what our lives should look like or we get so attached to the outcome that we fight to hold on when things seem to fall apart.

What i’ve learned and continue to learn is that if something or someone is meant to be in our lives, it will happen. We will not miss out on something or someone who is meant for us. Sometimes people or things such as jobs or situations are only meant to be a PART of our lives……this goes back to nothing being permanent. Not everything or everyone is supposed to stay. Some people are here to teach us lessons, some are here to inspire us, some are here to mirror the challenges we have within ourselves, and some are here to join us while we walk our path for a chapter in our lives…….some will stay and some will leave.

Once you are able to see life from this view, you can accept that there are many different roles that people play in our lives. Some are not always as they seem or appear to be and sometimes you won’t know the reason until you get further along your path and look back and reflect. This is what makes life what it is…….it’s challenges are also beautiful in their own way. It’s just a matter of our perspective.

female travel

Thank you Cepee for giving me the opportunity to share my story for the FIRST time publicly. I really appreciate your patience and I apologize it took me MONTHS to get this piece submitted……..just another example of life happening and going with the flow of healing at our own pace 😉

Thank you to all of you who follow She Hit Refresh and took the time to read my *short* version of my story.

I will be writing and releasing an ebook version of my longer story with action steps to create an authentic life sometime later this year. If you’re interested, please send me a message and i’ll add you to my list for updates and tools to help you create a life that lights you up!

You can connect with me on my personal FB page as Rachel Lynn or IG as carroll1234. I can also be reached via email at [email protected].

Member Spotlight highlights stories of inspiring women from our She Hit Refresh group. We hope that by sharing their stories of change and travel we can expose the unconventional paths that thousands of women 30 years and older have chosen.  There is no one way to live a life, just your way.

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1 thought on “Member Spotlight – Rachel”

  1. Karina Howell

    Wow girl what courage to follow your dreams. Reading your story moved me so much. Just wanted to say if you even come down South American way I’d love to hang out with a fellow fearless refresher.

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