It’s been a while since I’ve touched base, and I want to give you an update on everything that’s been going on. I have been posting a lot on Instagram, so if you want to hear daily updates after reading this novel of an email, you can follow me on Instagram here.
Three weeks ago, I left NYC on a one-way ticket to Thailand. I’ve always wanted to buy a one way ticket, and I’ve always wanted to travel solo for a long-term trip, so with the help of really supportive people around me, I made my dream a reality. I organized my business in a way that would allow me to more or less take 6 weeks away, and I prepared for what I knew would be an adventure into the unknown.
Many of you have asked how this trip came about and why, so here’s what I knew about my “why” when I booked it: I wanted adventure, I was craving travel, I felt a need to step away from the day to day of my business in order to plunge forward in a more profound capacity when I returned, I wanted a mental and emotional break after an incredibly transformative year of my life, and I just wanted to have fun.
That was basically my thinking… but of course, life has it’s own plan for you and this trip has already been so much more and so much different than I could have imagined.
My trip started off in Bangkok, where I was enamored by the buzz of the big city. Everything was new! And absolutely nuts! I couldn’t believe I was actually on this trip, and I could physically feel the adrenaline coursing through my body. The city stole my heart, and looking back, I’m still not sure if I loved the city itself or if it was just the beginning of my adventure and I was in love with what I was experiencing. Either way, I felt great in Bangkok. I met cool people, my eyes feasted on all of the interesting day-to-day happenings around me, and I eased my way into the Thai culture. I had one or two days of feeling alone and defeated by the chaos of the big city, but overall, I had a great time there.
Next, I took a short flight up to Chiang Mai, a much smaller city in northern Thailand. Everyone had told me I would love it there, but frankly, I did not have a good week there. My week in Chiang Mai was a struggle for me and I hit a lot of personal walls.
I felt very much on the outside – everywhere I looked, people seemed to be hanging out in groups or pairs, and I felt so alone. I chose not to stay in hostels, so I felt very on the outside of the “backpacking culture” and this brought up a lot of insecurities in me about feeling left out, not as “cool” as other people, and like I was doing it wrong or something was wrong with me. I grappled a lot with this – why couldn’t I settle into how I wanted to do this trip? Should I just let go and stay in hostels and be a part of the larger group? What do I want? What matters to me? This was supposed to be an amazing trip, but it doesn’t feel amazing – what’s wrong with me? I hate all of this mental anguish, why can’t I just enjoy myself? (ok, I did enjoy myself with this elephant…)
I was really beating myself up in Chiang Mai and not enjoying most days there. Sure, I had some awesome moments, but overall, it was tough. I had to dig deep, get to the root of my mental tug-of-war, and find my true self.
By the time I left Chiang Mai, I had shed some tears, done some inner digging, and was more committed than ever to try to stop looking at the crowds, and to follow MY heart and see where that led.
Then, I hopped on a bus to Pai, a small hippie town even more north that I had heard was amazing. I got on the bus feeling more myself than I had felt all trip, and I had a good feeling about my next step. As soon as I got off the bus, I felt at home in Pai.
Pai is so much smaller, so I felt less pressure to do anything. Whereas in Bangkok and Chiang Mai I felt pressure to go, see, and experience all of these attractions, in Pai, all the pressure to do anything was lifted. I felt like it was the perfect place for me to just explore myself and become interested in what I wanted to do. It was the perfect place for me to practice following my own gut and my own heart.
In Pai, I also decided to spend my first two nights in one of the biggest party hostels in town. I wanted to see what this hostel thing was all about and explore if I liked it and how I felt there. I’m so glad I did that, because it really helped me break down my elevated image of the “hostel / backpacking culture” that I felt left out of. Once I stayed there, I realized that way of life is no better or worse than the way I was choosing to travel. No way is cooler or less cool, it’s just simply a choice as to what you want to experience.
While those two days were fun, it was so clear to me that personally I can only handle a couple of nights in that environment at a time. It was time for me to move out into my own bungalow down the street!
I got to my bungalow (where I currently am), which is part of an inn with about 20 other bungalows, and woah – I have never felt more chilled out and relaxed in my life. Life here is deliciously slow. Like, so so delicious. I am finally relaxing. I read, I write, I sleep, I hang out, I talk to the other wonderful people here, I eat. As someone who likes to be quite active, I’m surprised by how much time I’ve wanted to spend doing nothing around here. I guess it’s really what I needed.
This trip so far has been something I can hardly really describe or put into words yet, because I just don’t know how to talk about it. I’m not sure if I’ll really know how to talk about it until I get home and am able to look at it in hindsight. But here are a few random (all over the place!) thoughts and takeaways so far:
1. Making a dream a reality almost takes a new way of thinking:
Sometimes I can’t even believe that I’m here. I remember the day (around Thanksgiving time) I sat in my coach’s office and told her I had the travel itch and I rambled about a dream I had to travel solo for a couple of months. However, these kinds of dreams never felt like reality to me. I didn’t think about them like that. But she said… “if you’re thinking about that, we should make it happen.” And I said “are you serious? I can’t really do that. (insert excuses like work, etc.)”. But I could. I just had to start thinking about my dreams differently. A lot of people have said to me “man, I wish I could do what you’re doing…” and I want you to know that you can. It will take a new way of thinking about your life, but you also can. Anytime I have made a dream a reality, it has been a bit of a mind – f&ck, because we are not wired to think that way. But we can.
2. I’ve loved showing you an unedited version of me and my life:
One thing I grapple with as a business owner with a very personal business, is how I can be more of myself with you. While I think I am quite vulnerable, I always hit my own walls. Should I share this much? What if they don’t view me as a coach if I share too much about my own struggles? Does anyone give a shit about me and my life? You know, the normal things I’m sure most people think about! But for some reason over here, my walls have come down a bit and it’s been so nice to share more of myself with you – the ups and downs of my trip and therefore of my inner world, and even venturing to Snapchat (follow me @jamende) to show you really unedited, real glimpses into my life instead of always producing a beautifully edited Instagram photo. I think that the more we grow into ourselves and our own self love and acceptance, it’s easier to take down those walls and let others see the real us too.
3. I think a lot about love and being “alone”:
Traveling solo has been a really interesting experience in so many ways. While I have never really felt lonely on this trip, I have focused a lot on the fact that I am alone in my life right now. After a breakup last year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the “relationship” part of my life. For a while after my breakup, I wasn’t ready for a relationship. I knew I needed time alone, and I found myself unable to commit to anyone I was dating because something deep inside me knew that as scary as it was, being alone was what was best for me. While I dated here and there, I knew that it wasn’t the right time for me. Now, it’s been over a year, and I’m beginning to explore my heart again. Am I ready? Do I want this? What am I scared of? What could be holding me back?
Ever since I was a really little girl I have loved love, been a hopeless romantic, and desired a deep and meaningful relationship. Exploring this current desire, while also wondering if I’m ready, and simultaneously enjoying my single life as it currently stands, has stretched me in major ways these past few weeks.
4. There are always new ways to follow your heart and get to know yourself:
I did not think that I would have such a hard time over here being “me”. In NYC, I know who I am. I know what I like to do, how to spend my time, who I like to hang out with, etc. But here, it’s like all of that got thrown out the window. I was astonished by how I never seemed to feel like myself over here for the first couple of weeks. I never knew what I wanted. I had analysis paralysis when it came to making decisions. I constantly had to check in with myself to see if I was happy doing whatever I was doing. Things just always felt weird. And then on top of that, I was beating myself up for not knowing how to feel at home within myself over here!
Of course, over time, I’ve found my groove, but man, it took a while. I learned to go easy on myself, and that when you put yourself in an entirely new situation, you’re going to have to relearn how to navigate your heart. You’re exploring new territory within yourself that you haven’t seen before, and it’s okay to flail around for a while before settling in.
5. Not having a plan whatsoever is 25% annoying and 75% incredible:
One of the cornerstone characteristics of this trip so far has been that I have been planning as I go. I began the trip with only 3 nights planned, and the rest I have figured out day by day. This concept challenges so many parts of who I am — the parts that want to know where I’ll be, love my calendar and schedule, and like control. But as I’ve settled into the unique ability and opportunity to completely go with the flow, I have learned to absolutely love it. It’s rare that we get that kind of opportunity, and I know that when I go back to NYC it won’t be as easy to do, so I am really trying to sink my teeth into it while it lasts.
Okay so my stomach is grumbling so it may be time for some curry! Oh, I have LOVED the food here. My gosh, I never knew how much Thai food I could possibly eat! It’s all I ever want here – forget Western food, I’m all about the fried rice, curries, stir fries and noodles!
Before I go, I want to say a deep, heartfelt thank you for being so supportive of me embarking on this massive adventure and following my own heart.
As I research my own self, I am growing so that I can continue to help you get to know your own heart and soul better. I am so devoted to your happiness and growth, and am always thinking of you as I go through my own personal experiences.
I truly feel so grateful for our community and love you all so much.
I’ll be in touch again when it feels right, likely in a couple of weeks. And FYI, I will be back mid March!
Lots of love,