There was a time, about 11 or 12 years ago, when I started to have an inkling I wanted to travel. By that stage, I’d already lived in Singapore for a few years with my family and because of the central location of where we lived, I’d been able to visit a few places like Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia. But this small stirring had started to form within me, it was like a little hum, gently making itself known, pushing its way into my heart.
The hard thing at the time was I had no trust in myself, no idea what it meant to listen to my heart and very little self-belief. So I didn’t know if the desire to travel was real or not. A lot of the time it would kind of flit in and out of my mind quickly, so if I didn’t focus on it properly, it would just fade away, like a craving or a lost thought.
This is a difficult story for me to share, not because I don’t want to share it or don’t feel comfortable sharing it. It’s difficult because it’s one of those things that’s hard to put into words properly, it’s more of a feeling, one of those deep realisations you have, where something just clicks within you and you gain perspective. So, bear with me while I try to share this in a way that makes sense.
When these feelings of wanderlust started to stir within me I pushed them away, mostly because they didn’t feel real. Maybe I didn’t believe what my heart was trying to tell me, maybe I didn’t want to listen, maybe I didn’t think I deserved to travel. Whatever the reason, I pushed them away and ignored them. The idea of travelling felt unobtainable and completely out of reach. What did feel obtainable though was getting a good job, setting out on a trusted career path, buying a house, getting married and having kids. That felt real and it felt possible too. But when I thought about that future, it never excited me. Even now when I put myself back in that time and imagine that future, my shoulders slump forward and I sigh.
So, 11 or 12 years ago, these stirrings started to grow. They crept into my daydreams, my fantasies, my hopes and desires. They continued to expand until I found myself thinking about them all the time. It was around this time I made some new friends, friends who also spoke about travelling often. Most of them had already seen quite a bit of the world and the way they spoke about it made me realise it could really happy, it wasn’t just a dream.
I guess at the time I felt locked into one place. It felt as though my life path had already been set in motion and I was on it, unable to change it. It took me a long time to build up the courage to share my travel dream with someone, to say it out aloud, but one day I finally did. I confided in someone I’d known a very long time, sharing with them that I wanted to travel and see the world. They were completely shocked, it was totally different from everything else I’d ever said to them.
It wasn’t that I’d been lying to them, I’d just been lying to myself for so long it had become my reality. When you spend enough time trying to ignore things you think and feel, you can almost convince yourself they’re true.
My admission of wanting to travel came out of nowhere. The person I confided in had a look of total surprise on their face, they even questioned me about it, asking me where this had come from, because I had never, ever mentioned it before, not once in all the time we’d known each other and the hours we’d spent talking. It was a hard thing to answer. How do you tell someone you’ve been thinking about something for a very long time but have been unable to allow yourself to believe it, let alone give it life by telling it to someone else?
I asked them what they wanted for their future and they told me they wanted to settle into their chosen career path, buy a house, get married and have kids. It hit me like a brick wall… I did not want that. The more I thought about that life, the more I felt myself dig in. I could feel myself becoming focused, like a bubble of clarity had burst over my head. The realisation of what I didn’t want had suddenly made what I did want extremely clear.
The fear and doubt from that time didn’t leave me after I shared my dreams. In fact, it sat there inside me, dormant, lurking around my life like an unwanted passenger, and I have carried it with me for the last 11 or 12 years, until yesterday…
After my admission I felt I had to prove my desires were true. The person had questioned me so much about it, as though they didn’t believe me, that it instilled even more doubt within me. To be honest, it probably just confirmed all the doubt I already had within me, shining a very bright spotlight on it so it could no longer hide in the shadows. What it also did was cloak me with this cloud of uncertainty and I have constantly felt the pressure of needing to justify what I said that day all those years ago, to prove to myself, them and the whole world that I really did want to travel and everything that changed in my life after those words were spoken out aloud, was justified. I was justified. My dreams were justified. It was all true.
Speaking to my Grandma on the phone late last night, she talked with me about my work. She’s very proud of me, I know, but like any good Grandmother, she worries about her baby. On the phone, she said, “It’ll be so good for you if this all works out for you.” It was a casual remark, she meant no ill-will, just telling me in her own way that she loves and supports me endlessly and hopes my business works out for me. In that moment I felt a bubble of clarity burst over my head again. “There’s no ‘if’ anymore, Nan,” I said, “It has worked out. I’m doing it! I just filmed on location for a huge brand, I’m contributing to Lonely Planet, writing for CNN, shooting for Mitsubishi and I have incredible work offers come in each day. I’m a travel writer. I’ve done it. I’m living my dream life.”
In that moment, as things started to click in my mind and spread through my heart, body and soul, I felt a wave of relief. Like a huge release of tension and pressure leaving my body, a feeling of relaxation, calm and peace replacing it. I was free from my doubts and fears.
It was hard to know, all those years ago, whether my dreams were what I truly wanted. It was impossible for me to be sure my desire to travel was real, because I had no way of seeing the future or even being able to stand back and get a look at the bigger picture of my life. I blindly trusted a small buzz inside me and tugged at it, finding a loose thread in my life, and pulling at it more until it unraveled everything and showed me there was something incredible hidden there the whole time, something I never would have found otherwise.
I wanted to share this with you because I know a lot of other people have these feelings too. We feel trapped, confused and unsure of ourselves. We block out our hopes, dreams and desires because we aren’t sure they’re real. They aren’t tangible, so we can’t measure them or properly assess them to judge whether or not they’re worthy of our attention. I’m here to tell you, if they’re within you, they’re worthy of your attention. Regardless of whether they’re gently buzzing deep within you or kicking, screaming and fighting to get out… they are worthy. You are worthy.
Now, 11 or 12 years later, I see the bigger picture and I’m so glad the girl I was back then had the courage to whisper her desires, because she got me to this point today where I know for certain, they’re real. I also know I don’t need to do this to prove anything to anybody else anymore or even myself, I need to do this because it makes me happy and that’s more important than anything else I could imagine.
Your 11 or 12 years ago could be today. Today could be the day you finally listened to them, today could be the day you spoke the words, today could be the day you made the decision. So, be brave and be honest. Trust me, it can change your entire life.
Watch: our ’12 months in 60 seconds’ video
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.