Someone once said, if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.
Ten years ago, I would never have predicted that I’d be where I am today. I didn’t speak Spanish, and had given little attention to Central or South America. I had done a fair bit of traveling, but never could have foreseen how unexpected life can be, and the adaptability that I would need to navigate its winding roads. I hold a powerful inner compass that never lets me down. It always guides me when I take a risk, and keeps me true to my values so that I make choices with intention.
This year I turned forty. I’m publishing two books, growing my business, all while raising my young daughter in a foreign country. I have been living in Colombia for a decade, responding to the interesting array of opportunities that life has presented me.
“You’re so brave, I don’t think I could do that. How do you travel so much?” I’m often asked. I would respond, “All you have to do is buy the ticket and get on the plane! The rest falls into place. You will figure it all out, but first, you must have an eager willingness to try!”
As we all know, however, life is not always so cut and dry.
With this same willingness, I stepped into many of my adventures. In the summer of 2008, I returned to the U.S. from China where I had been teaching for a few years. Feeling a bit lost, I needed to lick my wounds and recover a sense of self. I hit refresh out of personal and emotional necessity. Though I had no plan, I had a hunch. I felt like growing tomatoes and basil and getting my hands in the dirt. Learning to make goat cheese was calling me too!
With no more clarity than that hunch, I moved back to my home town in southern Vermont, a rural paradise as far as I’m concerned, with more cows than people. I moved into a friend’s cabin. I planted an extensive garden, bought goats on Craigslist, and started a new chapter of my life with a single-minded focus.
I was sure my hometown was a heaven, but hadn’t lived there since I was four, and in retrospect, I had warped expectations. I had not taken the economic down-turn into consideration and was oblivious to its wider implications.
The only work I could find for miles was a summer babysitting gig and a job at a great little pizza place. I thought this would suffice, as there was a promise of a part-time library assistant position in a school two districts away, once the fall semester resumed. The position offered $9 an hour without benefits. I had a master’s degree in Education and years of experience. This was shit and I knew it, but times were tight for everyone. My friends were all feeling the crunch.
That little idyllic valley was not like I remembered. Adultery and alcoholism were rampant. Most of my friends were laborers or unemployed. We had plenty of free time to enjoy ourselves, which during the summer months was grand. But I realized soon enough it couldn’t last, and knew that the winter would be brutal. When I spent the last $5 I had on a can of soup, with my gas tank empty, I now needed to rethink the whole endeavor.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and that week challenged me to consider new possibilities. My farm life experiment wouldn’t survive the winter, and I needed to hit refresh yet again. That Thursday, I searched for teaching jobs abroad. On Friday I applied to three schools that caught my eye. One was in Bangladesh, one in Chile and another in Colombia. It was late summer and it was slim pickings. All the great jobs are usually filled the previous year. By Monday I had an interview and by Wednesday I was offered a job in Colombia. I accepted the position on Friday and had seven days to move to a brand-new country.
The game was on. For the second time in six months I was recreating myself. I quit my three jobs; sold my goats on Craigslist (again), gave away my vegetable garden, donated most of my belongings, put my truck up on blocks and packed my whole life into four suitcases. Because of a restriction, I had to leave two of those precious bags at the airport. I flew to another life, without looking back.
I dove head first into teaching and adventure. I spent the next five years at a bilingual school in Bucaramanga, Colombia, earning enough money and time for regular trips. During the summers and holidays, I traveled to the Middle East, Spain, Cuba, Panama, Argentina, Costa Rica, Turkey and the Mediterranean. On long weekends, I got to explore the Amazon, Cartagena, and dozens of beautiful colonial villages. All along I learned Spanish with each new task and skill. I’d go back to the States for weddings, funerals and family visits on an annual basis.
It sounds amazing because it was. Life can hand you incredible things if you let it. But I hit a roadblock. Despite asking for more responsibility to continue to grow in my career, my requests were denied. So, I put in my resignation. I planned to take a sabbatical, which is a respectable way educator say “I am taking time to figure out what I’m doing”. But life had other plans for me.
I had met a guy. Isn’t that always how life throws you for a loop? We had a hot and fast romance. He was literally a soap opera actor! And, like in the movies, things aren’t always as they appear. Quite quickly the sparkle wore off. The reality was not tenable.
The summer of my sabbatical, I completed my 200 hours of Yoga Teacher Training, and by the end, I discovered that I was pregnant. That threw a wrench in my vague plans to travel, let me tell you. I entertained my romantic aspirations a bit longer as we tried to stay together for the baby.
In the same week, my mom experienced traumatic domestic violence, where she was beaten and kidnapped by her then-husband. Her well-being took priority, and I returned to California to support her. I helped her sell her house, face the court and her attacker/husband. We decided to hit refresh together, and started a new life in Medellin, Colombia.
I opened a yoga studio there, hoping my pregnancy would not interfere too much. I wanted to build a life that would allow me flexibility to be the kind of mother I hoped to be. Soon enough I was to far along in my pregnancy to teach all the classes and needed a lot of help. I decided to design a volunteer internship program and a language immersion program for new yoga instructors. It turned into a brilliant success, one born out of my willingness to try something new.
A month before my daughter was born, I ended my relationship with the soap opera actor. I was clear what was important to me. I couldn’t pretend any longer. The break up was messy, as so many are. It was a choice I still stand by today, and time has supported me. What we say yes to in life is as important as what we say no to. We always have a choice.
From the moment I discovered I was pregnant, I wanted a home birth if possible, so I trained as a doula and gave birth in a small pool in the back of my yoga studio. Three wonderful Colombian women attended my daughter’s beautiful birth. I brought a small human into the world and was determined to create a life where both of us could thrive.
I kept following the possibilities presented to me by getting certified as a Reiki Master, starting a second business mentoring women, and dedicating myself to raising my daughter. I said yes to opportunities that lit me up, and I had to pass on some things that weren’t right for me. I kept clarity on my priorities as the ultimate guide. I was constructing a life I valued and was proud of.
All the wisdom I’ve received from supporting the enrichment of women over these years has inspired me to write. I am now publishing one book called “Dating Yourself”, while another on “Women’s Circles” is in a publisher’s pipeline.
Based on my twisting and turning journey of the past decade, I can’t possibly predict how the next ten years will unfold. That is the gift of hitting refresh! Though there is no telling what life can bring, I’ve learned that I can decide what I bring to life. From here, I am trusting the path. I recently pulled an oracle card that asked, “If you knew you would be supported, what would you do?” It sits on the windowsill near where I write. I am practicing asking myself this question and then leaning in to the possibilities I hear.
I make sure I am supported. I cultivate community wherever I go. I seek out heart-sisters, and guidance from others who are out on their own limb, living and risking with their whole hearts. I am making space for trying and failing, and trying and failing more. When I am not willing to try or fail, my life gets predictable. The true failing is not trying at all. And true success is stepping up each time I fall, rising strong.
I am playing on my growing edge, stretching out my muscles to see what I am capable of. The big changes for me have started in incremental micro-shifts, little by little, rather than all at once. I now practice initiating small changes intentionally, so I don’t pull my adventure muscle. Small, regular risks snowball into confident steps toward the mysterious unknown.
My book “Date Yourself”: A Practical Guide to Becoming the Most Important Person in Your Life is my new baby. My new uncharted territory. It represents the culmination of what I have learned from my adventures, and most importantly, my work inspiring women to embody the eager willingness to go forward. I am stretching in many ways and feeling the strength from trying a new thing.
So, I ask you: “What is your uncharted territory? What is the dream you are curious to explore”?
Follow me on Instagram and on LinkedIn, click here for my “Integral Women Mentoring” Facebook group. My website is Integral-Women and don’t forget to pre-order my book “Date Yourself”: on Publishizer. Share your own Date Yourself stories with me [email protected] or schedule a Free 20 min consult.
Member Spotlight highlights stories of inspiring women from our She Hit Refresh community. 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.