Sometimes a simple question can literally change your life. In late April, I found myself in the BEST HOSTEL IN GUATEMALA (possibly the world) chatting with a handful of fellow travelers turned friends. During our conversation, Arnanto innocently asked, "why do you say 'axe' instead of 'ask'?" Shocked I stammered out, "I do?" Then defensively, I brushed it off as part of my Philadelphian accent. In the brief seconds that followed I chuckled while mumbling, " I can't believe I've been saying it wrong" until tears filled my eyes (I know, I know I'm extra). But it wasn't that funny. I was so embarrassed of all the times I unwittingly pronounced 'ask' as 'axe' in corporate meetings, first dates... you know, the circumstances when you want to seem educated, well spoken, and impressive. Possibly sensing my shame, Jesus causally stated, "Who says you have to change? Be yourself...you don't have to change."
Nearly four months later, and I am still processing what it means to be brave enough to be myself. Granted, I've asked this question countless times before, but it was something about the vulnerability of that specific moment, the affirmation of a friend, and the authentic people I encountered that shifted my perspective permanently.
I should be clear...in Antigua, I camped out to witness an active volcano erupt, explored ruins, took mini trips to nearby attractions, salsa'd the night away, but I also learned I can be myself. Quite frankly, traveling is a concentration of these liberating moments - moments where I gain insight into who I truly am and move closer to becoming my authentic self.
And this is precisely why I love travel so much!
Maybe you already make room for self discovery while you're discovering a new place. However, if this is the last thing you are thinking of when planning a trip, might I humbly suggest that you're missing out on some amazing benefits of travel...and who doesn't like a free perk?
Adding this element to your travels is simple. All it takes is connection and reflection. Connect by finding common ground with locals or other travelers and by taking a moment to understand their story. Be brave enough to be transparent about yourself. Once you've returned from your vacation, process through your experience. You will be amazed at the personal insight and life lessons you will gain from reflecting on the various circumstances and interactions (good or bad) of your trip.
So whether you are a travel vet or a jet setting newbie, my prayer for you is the same.
May every trip you take deepen your sense of self worth and appreciation for others.
May every experience abroad give you the courage to live authentically (even when you're back at home).
May your travels be enriched with meaningful, life giving connections.
May every barrier inhibiting travel in your life (finances, fear, friends, etc.) become inconsequential.
May every new travel adventure provide you with some clarity and direction for the questions you face.
May you spend more time enjoying the magical moments of your travels instead of photographing them.
And may blessings, peace, and joy accompany you every step of the way.
Meet Abena -- a girl desperate to find beauty in the world wherever life takes her. This is her journal of discoveries organized by location and featuring tripod iphonography.