Reaching to the other side

Bethlehem | Palestine

I got a nudging in my spirit that day that this could be the year. Country 50.

I never wanted to do the ‘quit your job to travel the world’ thing. I live a normal life (whatever normal means), hold down meaningful jobs and relationships (getting married was a surprise), pay for college, grow in a career or two, pay my bills, plant churches, buy my own house, and just happen to see the world, too.

Somehow it all worked out. I remember starting out with $200 — and also clocking many cafe waitressing hours.

I was always a curious child. But a lack of opportunities in my childhood, coming from a family with basic education and finances, and later struck down by the financial crisis turning us homeless. It fueled my wild curiosity to explore life once “I am old enough”. As a child I was often told I could not have [insert things everyone could] as our family was just different. I was never encouraged to have audacious dreams.

Once I finished high school, I began seeing the world on my own. Often on one-way tickets.

I didn’t know how far I could go with how little I had — I don’t think “50 countries before 35” was a goal of any sort at all, it was just something that kept me in check. What kept me going was how much each place, city and country surprised me. There are books or shows that show us the world and perspectives, but owning your life and the experiences that shape it is something else — being challenged of preconceived ideas or notions while in a familiarly foreign land and making lifelong friends of all cultures. There is something needed about going over to the other side.

I guess I just wanted to make travel as normal as possible. Not some implausible, improbable, impossible ideal. I don’t even travel as crazy as the truly intrepid do. I’m drawn to places with history, romance and adventure mix in one. Just like a parallel of my faith with Him. That being on the road fostered it in a profound way for me — it’s been a wild romance. And crossing into my thirties feeling without an ounce of regret of how I had lived and loved my twenties was pretty special.

The thirties have been magical so far and but we are still getting started.

I am hitting three new countries with the husband this Summer and then two more in Fall, and which would potentially leave country number 50 for Winter. I have an idea of what would make a suitable location for the big Fifty for me (it’s really not a big number for a lot of travelers I know!) but we’ll see. I am as random as I am a planner.

Looking ahead to 2020 though, I do sense a season shift for me in many ways — for one I am either going to massively scale back or completely turn down film and video producing work. I am very, very content and pleased with all I have achieved in media and filmmaking, I don’t think there is anything that I’d like to try, be challenged or do that I have not done. But mostly, I would like to channel my full-time effort and energy into the world of sustainable fashion and living, including to launch a couple of lines or brands that I have in the back of my mind for a while.

And I do still think a lot about starting a potential sewing studio in Cambodia. Reimagining garment factories in Cambodia in a way.

In the meantime though, while I do foresee the occasional travel to meet manufacturers, on the whole, I’d also scale back in traveling in a way where I’d like to for the first time, start to sit down and document all my 50 countries of travels in writing in a way that is… meaningful? I am calling it “pilgrim” and I only have a very vague idea right now. But I suppose the big picture idea is to share my over a decade of travel stories in a way that would hopefully open up an appetite of curiosity for different cultures with a touch of romance, adventure and beauty.

This story is part of the #livebig series here.