How Travelling Ruined My Life
When I first realised that the public’s perception of me had turned from supportive spouse to heathen whore, I was wounded. There was no way that I could have anticipated how my whirlwind trip through Turkey, Greece and Italy would bring about the disintegration of my life as I knew it. But it did.
You know when you go travelling and you have all these revelations about how you’re going to change your life when you get home, but in the end nothing changes because you just get stuck in your old routine? That isn’t my story.
Travelling ruined my life.
Granted, the life it ruined turned out to be one I didn’t want, but that didn’t make it any easier to give up.
It started with a blessing in disguise when I fell down a flight of stairs at work. This happened three weeks prior to a trip my then husband and I had been planning to take as part of the Masters of Ministry program he was enrolled in—a trip that loosely followed the footsteps of St. Paul up the coast of the Mediterranean. After hobbling around in Europe for a few weeks, I was still unprepared to return to work. Between visits to physiatrists and physiotherapists, I began to notice that the three pillars of the life I had created—mortgage, career, marriage—were starting to crumble.
At the age of 22 I had gotten married, started a career and bought a house. It wasn’t until after this trip that I realised that I didn’t really want any of these things. The question I desperately needed to answer was, how the fuck do I get out of this one?
I should have recognised the growing discontent bubbling under the surface when instead of being upset by my injury, I found myself extending thanks to the collective powers of gravity and inertia. Rather than panic, I found myself experiencing incredible relief at the prospect of leaving the business I had spent years building in the hands of others. How long had it been since I had felt satisfied with spending my days making seven-and-a-half-pump-soy-no-water-extra-hot-no-foam-chai-lattes? If my daily stress-induced regurgitations were any indication, it had been a while.
By the time we left for our trip, I had spent three weeks on the couch watching Netflix flicker by while my husband fed me narcotics and oranges. This trip, unlike others, had to be taken at a slower pace as I limped down cobblestone streets with my walking stick. Had I not been forced into this more contemplative mode of travel, I would have likely missed a lot of the lessons I learned along the way.
Lesson #1: Experiences are more important than things.
I should have known that I was in trouble when I started giving away most of our household possessions in between Oxycodone induced stupors. My husband came home from a business trip complaining that he could hear his voice echoing in our empty living room.
“Where did that shelf go?”
“What happened to the fajita maker?”
I heard these echoes for weeks.
“I gave them away. We never use them.”
I told him that being in Assisi and learning about St Francis had inspired me to minimalism. As the CEO of a national evangelical organisation, he couldn’t really argue with that.
Lesson #2: Time is more important than money.
Our discussions about divorce continued in our cramped hotel room in Florence after a walk along the Arno River. He reiterated that he would have to resign were we to separate because his reputation would be ruined. I reiterated that maybe he should resign anyways seeing as his work was his entire life. We rehashed our standing argument about me quitting my job to pursue my music, then reached another stalemate. I went to sleep with tear-stained cheeks determined to lie in the bed that I had made.
But something had broken in me. I began to wonder if the life that I had fully participated in building had any semblance of who I had become. The reasons why I needed to maintain my life as is fell in quick succession. I needed to stay in my job so that I could pay for the house so that we could preserve the lifestyle that we had decided on together. But had it even been my decision? My doubts dominoed until there was nothing about my life that appealed to me anymore.
With too much time on my hands, I spent most of my days reading and trying to figure out what was next. I was beginning to think that I might have been given an easy out from my soul-sucking job, and while a life of chronic pain wasn’t something I looked forward to, it made my imagination run wild. What would it be like if I didn’t have to work in the job I hated… if I could live the simple life I wanted… if I had the freedom to make my own decisions…
The dam of ifs had broken.
It took eight months after our trip for me to muster the courage to do anything. By this time I had quit my job after a number of failed attempts to return to work as an injured person. As a result, my husband offered me a job as his executive assistant—a last effort to have anything in common. I persevered for two months…
Lesson #3: Creativity is more important than consistency.
…and then I left my husband, my job and my home in one day. Marriage to a money-driven man, out the window. Three bedroom bungalow in the suburbs, gone. Career that allowed no time for creative outlets, quit. To figure out how to live by new pillars I had to allow the old ones to fall.
What was left? Only the entire world. I assumed that the unshakeable joy that washed over me the morning I left was temporary and that I should just enjoy it while it lasted. Only it didn’t go away. Having abandoned my need to meet the expectations of others, I was flying high.
Unfortunately these decisions did a number on my reputation. In order to save face, I was painted as having had not only an identity crisis, but a crisis of faith also, having so obviously left my husband for another man. (Please read as sarcastic.)
When we were in Turkey, part of the curriculum was to read a book of Rumi’s poetry and to visit his home in an effort to be more open to other religions. I think this leg of the trip left a larger impact on me than was intended. Rumi wrote,
“Run from what’s comfortable.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Having run from the comfort of my cushy life, letting my safety net fly behind me in the wind, I willingly left my reputation in tattered pieces behind me—my sullied white flag. I had finally surrendered. I began to discover that notoriousness suited me. And while I’m no heathen or whore, I do appreciate the alliteration.
Cover by Alex Wong