If we take a trip down memory lane together, I am confident I am not the same girl I once was. I would say most people change between the ages of 18 and 24. I sure as hell know that I greatly improved.
Looking back at my 18-year-old self, I would tell her, “it gets better.” I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship from ages 16 to 18. I was with someone who brought me down at every turn. He made me feel “less than” constantly and would tell me that’s because he loved me.
Currently, my 24-year-old self can identify that this behavior is always unacceptable. However, back then my younger self could not comprehend this because I was continually being beaten down by my then long-term partner. I yearned for more. I always believed there was a lot more to life and spent the majority of those years getting lost in beautiful travel images in books that took me to faraway places. So that often I could escape the hell I was always living in day to day. I often caught myself whispering words of encouragement to my soul, such as “someday.”
One day, something within me changed. I knew at that moment that nothing would ever be the same. I broke up with my terrible boyfriend. Instead of throwing the costly promise ring he gave me down the drain, I decided to do one better: I drove down the street the next day and sold it to a pawn shop.
The owner of the pawn shop excitedly took the ring in exchange for five hundred dollars. I decided I was going to take a leap of faith and use the money to apply for a passport. I decided at that very moment to no longer be a slave to shame and resentment. The ring represented a harrowing and challenging time in my life, whereas the passport was a beacon of shining hope and symbolized to me a fresh start. What followed shocked me, in a significant way. I turned a painful memory, into a new beginning.
Healing through Travel
Getting that passport is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It was a significant catalyst in my healing process. I genuinely believe it set me free. That following year, I used the passport to study abroad in Madrid. While studying abroad, I visited nine additional countries solo. If you had spoken with me a year before that I would have never believed that I had it in me to do something so fearless and bold.
As someone who has just about read every novel in the “self-help” section in the bookstore I know that sometimes in life, there is no perfect time. Often, if not always, you will not get the sign you are looking for from the universe. Take the leap of faith. Trust me, just do it. Ditch the promise ring, get the passport, and book the plane ticket!
If I could say anything to my 18-year-old self, I would turn around, and give her a huge bear hug. I would say, you are more than a survivor. You are a warrior. I am now about to visit my 35th country and I have zero plans of stopping anytime soon! You are in control of your destiny, no one else. Everything you truly want in life is on the other side of fear. See you out there!
Hi I’m Danielle! A travel enthusiast. I’m passionate about empowering women to travel solo! I have been to 45 countries. My goal is to give you as much inspiration as possible to travel the world! Please reach out to me on Instagram @whereintheworldismybackpack