“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.” -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I wish tonight’s sleep was going as planned, but unfortunately I’m wrestling with my pillows and blankets like I’m fighting for the heavyweight title of the world. I’m repeatedly body-slammed with fear each time I close my eyes.
Just a few hours ago, I had been so sure I was going to follow my dream and travel around the world that I would’ve jumped on the next flight out – but now, each toss and turn seems to only realign me with reality. A reality that says hey, in order to be a jet-setting travel journalist you, at minimum, should probably own a camera and have some sort of writing background. I have neither. I have never written so much as a short story in my life, and I don’t know the first thing about how to focus a camera. So when I readjust my pillow for the umpteenth time, doubt attacks once again, and I continue to fight to relax.
As the morning starts to bleed through the color-coordinated curtains I used to be so proud of, I wake to a body dominated with excuses. Fumbling my way to the bathroom, I question the motivation behind every step. I’ve lost all that energized me the day before. I know returning to my 9-5 has completely lost credibility, but I’m dead, no momentum. I stand there in the shower, water cascading off the chin I inherited from my mother, excuses squabbling inside my head.
I can’t spell, I don’t know how to work a camera, and even if I did know how to work one there is no way I’d make any money doing that sort of thing.
I linger around my apartment for most of the day, trying to disconnect the parts of my old life, and continually finding reasons why I can’t. Looking for a distraction I reach for a magazine, but as I lift it, a stack of credit card bills topples onto the floor. It feels impossible to get out of this never ending cycle of bills and work. I plead for divine intervention in the form of a million dollar check, but as expected, my request is only met by an apathetic bark from my neighbor’s dog.
Even though resentment sets in, I begin to accept this fate because writing, filming, and photographing my way around the world with no experience seems so utterly ridiculous anyway.
But before I could return to my copy and paste life – a long, deep breath. And this is the one I need. My heart steadies, my thoughts stop whirling, and the dream I seemed to have given up on floods back into my body. On my next inhale it sinks deep, like a broken wave returning back to the sea. It tends to the wounds from the battle I lost last night, by reminding me how irrational it is to give up on a dream that I haven’t even attempted.
It’s in this breath that I stop thinking about how far I have to go in order to become a writer, filmmaker, and photographer – and start thinking about how quick my growth could be, since I’m a complete novice. When I realize that I don’t need to become an expert overnight, and that the road can teach me everything I need to know – I smile. Racing over to my desk, I frantically push aside spreadsheets and service records before remembering that what I’m looking for is in the metal filing cabinet beneath my desk. I dig though several manila folders until I find the world map that has gathered as much dust as my dreams. I hold it up against my chest like it’s the Holy Grail, and then hang it on the wall in front of me. Have I mentioned it’s huge? It’s huge. It’s all I can see when I look up from my laptop.
Then I start from the bottom and begin to search the internet.
I type in photography for beginners and then do the same for filmmaking and travel writing.
Next, I google how to build a website and asked the internet questions like, ‘What is a travel blog?’ and ‘What kind of immunizations does one need to travel around the world?’.
As day turns to dusk, I write down all the things I need to learn in order to meet my dream halfway. I write my filmmaking to-do list across the top of North America, and Southeast Asia becomes home to my photography checklist. As my black permanent marker begins to lose its permanence, South America takes ownership of my travel writing, and Africa agrees to keep track of all the things I need to do in order to build a website.
After I break everything down into manageable sections, I put the most important thing right in the center of the Atlantic Ocean: a postcard I was given in Kenya by an Indian couple I met in between the bumps in the road during a three day safari in 2012. They had seen the world apart and then together, and everything they said over the course of our time together danced along a rhythm of deep inner peace that was as simple and timeless as a Hemingway novel.
I can still remember the sincerity behind Roshan’s words as she read her wish for me when we said goodbye, “Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you. Live long, laugh often, and love much.” As I stepped back and took in the blueprint for my future, I promised myself that I would make her wish my new reality.