Your Story is a series by WonderfulWomen where you will read inspiring Guest Posts from women around the world. Here they share their experiences, stories and things that matter most to all women.
Today’s Guest Post is by Em Bambi from zebrasuitcase. Em is almost 30, but not yet 30. She has traveled to over 40 countries on 6 continents, pursuing her passion for inspiring people while being inspired by them. She has finally found home in Toronto, Canada, where she’s been writing stories about her life, drinking tea, and working on her new baby: 14 Days Of. A warm tea cup is optional but recommended for an ultimate reading experience of this post!
My Happiness is a Commitment to Myself
In general, people hop on planes when they are on vacation, or for a business trip.
But not me.
When I started my world tour in 2012, it wasn’t “vacationesque”. Nope. I decided to leave Canada because I felt lost, and I wanted to find myself. I thought the best thing that could happen to me would be to find a better version of myself, somewhere across the globe. In my heart I felt like nothing was left for me at home. I had to go.
When the two people I loved the most died early into the year of 2012, I would spend all my evenings at home drinking bottles of red wine, while running my online business in my home office, until the room would spin. Every morning I would wake up sleeping on my desk, the lips tainted from the wine of the previous night, I was on automatic pilot, and I was not going anywhere. I had almost no money, my business was at a very early stage. I would feed myself with cheap boxes of mac and cheese twice a day. I had no purpose. I just wanted to survive.
Back then, I was chatting with my favourite Italian signer online, whom was living in Milan, Italy. I saw in him not only a fantasy love, but also an escape. When he invited me to go meet him in Italy, I felt like I had a purpose again. I had somewhere to go. I had the hope of building a home, a life that would make me happy. He was my emergency exit, my starting over strategy.
I quickly bought a one way ticket, and then it all began. I sold everything I owned. It was too late to turn back. So with my plane ticket, and my suitcase holding all the belongings I now had, I left for Milan.
I knew Italy quite a bit since I had spent my summer there the year before. I could speak a very basic Italian, and was confident I would learn it quickly once in it. I was confident with my move because it was not too far out of my comfort zone, or so I thought.
I had no plan, no itinerary, no security, and also no intention of ever coming back to Canada.
I spent three weeks in Milan before I understood that reality and fantasy are two worlds apart. But that didn’t make me come back home. Instead, I hopped on a train. That’s when the real adventure began. That’s when I truly had no clue what I was doing!
It wasn’t always easy. To be honest, it wasn’t easy at all. Most days, especially in the first year, I regretted my choice bitterly. I was struggling with the pain of missing the people I love back in Canada. I felt guilty for leaving my little brothers behind, while they were grieving our mother’s loss alone. I often went to bed thinking I should just go back and have a normal life, but I knew that deep down there was an important reason why I had decided to leave, and my journey wasn’t completed yet. I had to finish what I started.
On my weakest days, I did my best to find the motivation and the energy to continue living. I would be lying if I said that I did not have to start the process over a few times, but I am proud to say that I never gave up.
People think that traveling alone as a single woman is dangerous, but I never really felt like my life was in danger. Traveling with no fixed plans and no finish line had gone from a frightening leap of faith, to a new normal. I became naturally accustomed to not having an address, not having a phone number, and not having an internet connection. I knew that no one was waiting for me anywhere, no one was expecting my call, no one knew where I was. Sure, if something would’ve happen to me, it could’ve taken weeks before anyone would find out. It felt a little silly at first. But then, I experienced real freedom.
I became a nomad. It was the lifestyle suiting me the most at the time. After spending my whole life working full time, always making plans, always following a schedule, always having deadlines… I now had a new luxury: Flexibility. The only thing I was dependent on, was myself. It made me feel like, for the first time, I was in control.
Through all my travels I encountered crimes. Sometimes as a victim, other times as a witness. All the things I’ve seen and lived made me sadly aware of what the human kind is capable of doing. We are capable of the grandest, most beautiful, and sometimes the nastiest. It made me become more aware, and less naive, but also a little damaged. I experienced panic attacks and general anxiety. I some days felt powerless and disappointed in myself. I knew I was the one putting myself in those situations, and I was too stubborn to pull back. I didn’t want people to know that I was afraid sometimes. Too afraid to step on an escalator. Afraid of heights. Staring at peoples pockets to see who’s hiding a gun. Screaming to the sound of fireworks, reminding me of bombs. Not sleeping for a few days in a row, with anxiety giving me chest pain. Unable to go out to feed myself. Feeling vulnerable. Accumulating traumas.
No one had a clue.
Somewhere in between the 6 continents I have visited, I ended up finding myself. I learned how to feel everything lightly. I learn how to calm myself down. Whenever I had something triggering my anxiety I would repeat to myself: That was then, this is now.
It’s not because I have been taken as hostage in a hold up that everybody rob banks.
It’s not because I got shot at by a stranger that I was in danger at every red lights.
It’s not because I dated a violent man that everybody would hit me.
That was then, this is now.
Lightly, slowly, I learned how to love and trust again, but I also learned how not to get attached. I knew that nothing ever stays stable. Nothing is ever certain, everything is temporary.
That’s why I have learned to genuinely love people, in the healthiest way. I learned how to love without expectations and promises. I learned not to take anyone for granted. I realized how precious is the luxury of having a bed to sleep in at night, and a warm body to share it with. I realized the chance I had to have that in my life and not be sleeping in the street. I also learned to put my trust into the universe. Life is all about trust. The universe doesn’t give anything to those who does not trust. When you trust, your emotions stop controlling you. This learning process takes time.
Looking back at my life now, I know I was privileged, but my story came with a lot of pain. It’s insulting when someone tells me I am ‘lucky’. Nothing that has died in my life has died easily. There’s been so many times I have lost or failed. I only am emotionally healthy and strong today because I have learned how to get back up after hitting rock bottom.
Being happy is not only a process, it’s also a commitment that I make to myself every day. Happiness is a safe place within myself. Happiness is keeping it simple. Happiness is treating people kindly. Happiness is getting rid of toxicity. Happiness is surrounding yourself with positivity. Happiness is letting go of what has died. Happiness is cherishing what is still alive. Happiness is learning how to give but also how to receive.
That’s what my mother told me, and she was always right.
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