When there’s a perfect storm of those things we really don’t want to have happen to us – job layoff, divorce, loss of our home (for me, all three at once) – what do we do? Get depressed, angry, frustrated, feel like a victim, cry to the Universe, “Why me?” I did all of those things. But when you stop to listen and the Universe whispers back “isn’t there something you’ve always wanted to do, a dream to follow; what else do you have to lose?” maybe it’s time to hit refresh and take a big leap. So I did!
Well, not at first. I fought it for a while, tried to find another job and do the respectable, responsible thing – work long hours for little pay to afford a place to live that I wouldn’t have much time to spend in, pay for a car (with insurance and gas and maintenance) to get there, and clothes to keep myself looking presentable, not to mention the ever-increasing expense of health insurance that in the US is generally tied into our jobs. But this wasn’t working – I was 56 years old, there weren’t many jobs, and I was noticing the effects of age discrimination in the workplace. So one night, after yet another interview, I threw up my hands and said to whatever invisible power might be listening, “Fine, if I don’t get this job, I’ll do it – I’ll buy a one-way ticket to somewhere and travel around the world, like I’ve wanted to do since I was a child.”
Then something amazing happened – doors started opening, one after another, of opportunities to make this dream possible. A message came in via Facebook, through a group where I’d put my idea out there, from a woman I’d never met in Australia, inviting me to not only stay with her, but connecting me with several of her friends all over her country. In researching what to pack, travel bloggers’ posts on other subjects came up, idea after idea of ways to make travel affordable. Was I afraid to do this? To sell all of my stuff and take a leap without much money into the unknown? To travel to other countries when I only speak English? Absolutely. But I kept moving ahead, a step at a time, including that step onto the plane that took me to Sydney, from piles of snow in a Michigan winter to a warm, sunny summer in Australia.
An auspicious start, to meet incredible women, who opened their homes to me and showed me things like wild kangaroos, the Great Barrier Reef, the famous rock called Uluru, and all that great cities like Sydney and Melbourne have to offer. But that was just the start. In those first 12 months I visited 14 different countries, including incredibly scenic New Zealand, where I hiked, swam with dolphins, helped rescue a penguin, and flew over glaciers in a helicopter.
I sat in silence for 10 days at a meditation retreat and swam with elephants at a rescue center in Thailand.
World Heritage sites like Angkor Wat in Cambodia followed, where, with the help of a friend back in the US (I had the time, she had the money) we helped a young man buy a tuk tuk so he could start his own business.
I wandered through bamboo forests in Japan, island hopped in Croatia, visited a fairytale village in Slovenia, and had my first couchsurfing experiences outside of Venice, and in the heart of Paris. Yes, I couchsurfed in my 50’s! People ask how I afford to travel, am I rich? Rich in cash, no, but experience? It was only the beginning.
After discovering house sitting, I had even more ways to travel on a shoestring, exchanging my services taking care of people’s homes and pets in exchange for free accommodations. I found myself living in a beautiful home amidst sunflower fields in the south of France, lounging by my own private pool with 2 little poodles, and later on, hiking the highlands of Scotland with a crazy Border Collie named Hamish while staying in a Victorian mansion with a hot tub overlooking a loch. I’ve also slept in Airbnbs in places like London and Dublin. It was a magical year, and I didn’t want to go back to the US. So I didn’t. Instead, I went back to sunny Thailand, where I rented a place to live for $156 a month and ate dollar pad Thai for half a year, while writing a book about my experiences. I’ve now been living as a full time nomad for almost 4 years, and just turned 60.
Do I miss having a home of my own? Sometimes. I miss my own pillow and bed, and I get tired of lugging my backpack around – even with only a pack full of clothes it sometimes feels like too much stuff. Do I miss those possessions I got rid of? No, not really. I love books, but gave my collection away – they’re a bit heavy to travel with. Now I have a Kindle, and thousands of books at my fingertips.
Was it lonely traveling solo? No again. When people travel alone, others are eager to include you in their fun, especially at places like hostels. I’ve met more people when traveling by myself than I ever did when I’ve traveled with a companion. Was it hard, only speaking English? It wasn’t! English has become the primary international language. Besides that, there’s acting things out, like charades, or drawing little pictures, and now there’s Google translate to help you communicate. On my birthday, in Thailand, a group of friends I’d met there from several different countries sang me the birthday song in each of their languages.
Will I keep going with a nomadic lifestyle or settle down somewhere? I don’t know yet. As a natural planner, it’s been a challenge to let go and see what the Universe brings me. But when I do let go, that’s when the magic happens.
Through this journey I have learned that making this kind of leap can seem hard because we’ve been taught that it’s selfish (it’s not), and that it’s always better to give than receive (wrong again – there have to be receivers in order for there to be givers, and sometimes we need to switch roles). And I’ve learned that a story like this doesn’t have to have a stereotypical fairy-tale ending in order for us to be happy (we women can find great happiness on our own adventures, and there are many different ways to fall in love with the world!)
It often seems we’re taught that the older we get, the less value we have to offer, but the opposite is actually true. We have a wisdom to share that comes with age and experience. My 50’s have been the most interesting and exciting decade of my life so far, precisely because I was willing to let go and hit refresh – let go of preconceived ideas of what life is supposed to look like as an older woman, of listening to what other people think I should be doing, that doing what feels the most right is selfish, and let go of the limiting beliefs that I’m not strong enough, brave enough, or rich enough to follow my dreams. Maybe it’s time to dust off your own dreams and hit refresh!”
You can read more about Lynn and her travels on her blog Travelynn Tales on Instagram and Facebook.
1 thought on “Member Spotlight – Lynn”
And along the way, we met! You will be an inspiration to all you meet! Grandbaby adventures, then one day off to who knows where!!