Back in 2013 it felt like my life was falling apart. I had just separated from my husband and had moved back to Southern California, leaving him in Japan. I’d spent the previous five years helping him build his career and hadn’t put much into building my own as a marriage and family therapist. I didn’t know what direction my life would head in at that point, and the sadness from losing my marriage made me feel completely stuck.
A chance meeting with a woman at my yoga studio opened up an opportunity for me to travel to Europe for the first time in my life. She invited me to meet her half way through her summer trip to Spain. Pretty much everyone I told about this potential trip thought I was crazy. They told me it wasn’t a good time, that I shouldn’t spend the money, that I should focus on my career and divorce instead of traveling half way around the world to meet a woman I barely knew.
Despite the disapproval from those around me, I said yes anyway. But yes, I was scared! Not only was I traveling to Europe for the first time, but I had to get on a flight, make it to the train station, take a bus to the town my friend was staying in and then navigate the winding streets— all on my own.
Pretty much everyone I told about this potential trip thought I was crazy. They told me it wasn’t a good time, that I shouldn’t spend the money, that I should focus on my career
Saying yes to that travel opportunity changed my life forever. I was able to find my way to my girlfriend and spend an amazing two weeks in southern Spain, soaking up the sun and culture. I met expats from all over the world, shared nightly dinners and discussions at a little beach bar on the sand, celebrated San Juan under the full moon, and ventured into the beautiful nearby city of Malaga to eat the most amazing food I’ve ever had.
One of my adventures led to a chance meeting with a pair of Norwegian men who were visiting southern Spain for a holiday. My girlfriend and I spent the day touring Malaga with them, then we all ate and drank well into the night. Before heading back home to Norway, one of the men invited me to his family island. I said yes, and spent two weeks at the end of the summer exploring Norway with him. Although I once again felt scared to venture off to a country I knew nothing about with a guy I had just met, I said yes anyway.
My girlfriend headed back to the USA alone, and I decided to stay for another six weeks in Europe, by myself. I was afraid of spending so long on my own in countries I’d never been to, but I quickly came up with a plan and set out on yet another adventure. I spent the next six weeks exploring Paris, the Cinque Terra, Milan, Naples and the beautiful islands off the coast of southern Italy.
Not only did I fall in love with Norway, I fell in love with life again.
There were times when I was afraid, hot, exhausted, and could barely carry my suitcase to the next train platform. There were times I wished I had just flow back to the safety of home with my girlfriend and ended my trip after the first two weeks. There were times when I was lonely and sad. But there were also countless times that I sat and marveled at the beauty in the world, the kindness of strangers, and at who I was becoming because of this amazing adventure.
By the time I headed to Norway to meet my new friend, I had acquired a confidence I’d never had before. The two weeks I spent with him and his family were, by far, the best two weeks of my life up until that moment. Not only did I fall in love with Norway, I fell in love with life again.
Although I once again felt scared to venture off to a country I knew nothing about with a guy I had just met, I said yes anyway.
I flew back home at the end of the summer with a new purpose in life. I was so inspired by the Norwegian Government’s conservation efforts that I contacted a professor at a university there and applied for a position as a PhD student. Of all the applicants, I ranked number two and was not offered the position, but after having considered moving my entire life to a new country, I felt like I could brave anything back at home.
Everything I learned during my travels that summer prepared me to be brave and to face everything waiting for me when I got home. I faced my divorce, rebuilt my career, met an amazing man who is truly the love of my life, and began writing about all of my experiences. Saying yes to that travel opportunity changed my life and, even though I was scared, it ended up being the best decision I have ever made.