“So, TallGirl…. Why are you traveling…

What’s your budget….

Why sell your house… What are you going to do when you return…

Does global recession or a devalued dollar ring a bell…Aren’t you scared???”

These were the more common questions asked when I told folks I was putting the career on va-cay, selling my house to travel the world for 7 months. Oh, and being restricted to one 27” suitcase and one pair of GAP jeans.

What I found interesting was the question “where are ya going” rarely came up before I left the great USA. Maybe it’s because Americans place not just a monetary value, but a moral value on work. It seems to be immoral to take more than three weeks of vacation per year. We pride ourselves in NOT taking vaction. So, there’s GOT to be something wrong if you take too much time off of work. We automatically assume you suck at your job. You’re a trust fund baby. Or, work for the Russian mob. Super sad….

OK. Need to focus. Back to the questions… Given our 35-second attention span, I can easily rattle off a 15-second sound bite, putting those bold enough to ask the questions posed above, at ease. Verbal is one thing. Moving thoughts onto paper is whole other beast. Here I go taking a stab at answering the “why” and “where.”

I tremendously respect writers who can magically translate their thoughts into simple prose to move, entertain or jolt. For me, it always has been a struggle. Plus, what I’m about to write about is deeply personal. It requires honesty. I’m not sure where answering the “why” will take me. But, it’s terrifying – more for me than any random who happens upon these words. This is not my story to tell. It’s God’s story.

I’m not traveling because of I woke up one morning and decided to “chuck social norms and conventional wisdom.” Or, because I’m “fed up with my life, my career, my man, or my leaky pool.” I wish the answer was that easy. For these explanations fit squarely in a box and can be stored on the shelf of the easily understood and digestible.

To keep me honest, I’ve asked for advice. An inner voice said if you are going to write about this, then imagine you are sharing a seat with a New Zealand hunk in route from Bangkok to Auckland. You are on your second glass of wine. And, this NZ hottie is super interested in your story. And, by the way, you will never see him again. This may work because I seem to be more honest with strays, than myself.

OK. Focus on the NZ hottie. Need the visual. Here I go… He raises his glass, looks into my eyes and asks, “So, tell me…Why this trip around the world? Have you lost at love? Trying to find yourself?” Freshly showered and coiffed TallGirl, throws her head back with laughter and whispers – “Do I look lost to you?” Game on!

Selling my home, taking a sabbatical, and inhaling the globe has little to do with finding myself. I’m not 100% sure what “Finding Yourself” truly means, but my soul tells me, I’m found…..Even on those days I want to be lost.

It was living in the land of despondency, desolation and despair where God found me, broke me, and put me back together bit by bit. Tegucigalpa, Honduras and her 100+ orphaned boys purged my pride. She taught me about listening. Communicating. Seeing. Hearing. And, knowing. Knowing a soul where God lives. A soul that has No Color. No funny Accents. No social classes. And, No Borders.

NZ hottie looks confused. I jumped tooo fast into the spiritual God talk. Looks like he’s ordering more wine. OK. Need to step back for a minute and tell the story. Shit…. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this. How do I communicate that this journey is much larger than me???? No clue…

OK. When I was around twelve or thirteen, I heard God for the first time. I mean heard Him inside my soul. Not the voice inside you telling you “the guy is a creep..stay away” and you question whether it is “God,” or your mind playing tricks. Either way, you don’t tell your friends for they’ll think you’re luanny. Hearing voices and all…

Here I was. At a Younglife retreat for pre-teens obsessed with rock-stars, surfers and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. Yes, it was a christian retreat, but God was just an ancillary thought. Earlier, our youth group leader, Jim Spencer, asked all of us to go outside and be by ourselves for a FULL ten minutes. I supposed he gave us a thought provoking question but I don’t remember. All I cared about was making sure I was sitting in the field close to Julie, Kate or Katie.

The stars were bright. Moon was out. I laid down in the grass. Looked up and waited. Ten minutes is a long time to be silent. I waited. Stared at the sky. Waited… And, then this sensation of well-being fell over me. A sense of certainty. An understanding I’m no longer in control. This is not my life. It’s God’s. He’s driving. And, I’m just along for the ride. I remember smiling. Feeling free. At ease. Like a burden had been lifted.

Tears rolled down my cheeks. All of this was so unexpected. I thanked God for I’m no longer alone. Thanked Him for carry me, for I’m not a lite load. I asked for forgiveness before we kicked-off the adventure. Because, I know I will stumble, fall on my face, make wrong decisions and exhibit stubborn, pain-in-the-ass tendencies at the most inappropriate times…

I remember looking up at the stars. And, seeing for the first time this world is much bigger than me. God lives inside me. I’m just a spec. And, God is inside of me. Unbelievable. And, how did I know it was God? How did I know God is real? My soul knew.

Now, this is when you get into all the faith/feeling talk. This is how I see it. We all have felt sadness. Sensed anger. Shared dreams. Known love. None of these are scientifically real in the sense of measuring, weighing, touching or seeing.

Let’s take love. We consume hours calculating, debating, sharing, explaining, analyzing (and drinking vino!) with friends about how we know love. Hate love. Embrace love. Love love. Love feels real. It is real. Try to tell someone whose in love for the first time or just had a baby, the love they feel is not real because you can’t whack it with an atom smasher. Hey, why do you think those Vampire books were such a hit. Because everyone person around the world either has experienced or yearns to experience a love like Bella and Edward’s. (Can’t BELIEVE I just said this…) So, what’s the difference in knowing love and knowing God?

That night, God spoke to an awkward girl’s soul. I remember walking back to the dining hall/rock-n-roll room, feeling relieved. And, looking around to see if anyone else felt the same. I don’t really remember because the college rock band started playing Modern English, I’ll Stop the World and Melt with You. Eighties bands unite!

Fast forward to high school graduation. My friend Julie and I went to Cassadaga to meet with a psychic for fun. We’re both moving to Washington, DC and wanted to ensure fame, fortune, and tequila were in our future. The ESP-man on the couch took one look at me and started to laugh. I remember thinking, “is he going to tell me I’m going to become a comedian?” He startled me for he described all the angels surrounding me. I mean, like in detail… Instantly annoyed and discredited the dude for I wanted to hear about hot boys and margaritas, not some silly spirits. He went on to say I will be working with the poor, far away – a place that’s really dirty. He also said I’m a spiritual person, will work in communications and blue surrounds me. Red is my favorite color. NONE of this was good in my mind. I wanted a refund.

In Washington, DC, I worked for our elected officials. It took time, but it was there I saw what I did not want to become. Putting your interest, not your constituents’ interest, first. Taking a position to prove you have the power. Taking pleasure in playing with people lives, the same way a child plays with dominoes, only to knock them down for the pure sport.

Someone said to me, when you hit the 3 to 5 year mark you begin to question DC, its people and yourself. If you make it past five years, you become one of “them.” I was drunk at a bar that night and still can’t believe I remembered that comment. It stuck with me… Well, the three year mark came, and the morphing into “them” set-in. Here I was – young, immature and clueless – and had .00000001% impact on one of the biggest pieces of legislation to hit DC in years – Welfare reform. My pride grew for I had access to Members of Congress about whether to support or oppose certain amendments.

I found a little Presbyterian church in Old Town Alexandria and began attending. What I heard each Sunday, which may be different than what the pastor actually preached, was whether I’m giving back. Being a blessing. Making a difference.

My pride answered… “At just 24, I’m single-handily reforming the US welfare system. I’m saving welfare moms. Getting people back to work…You know, the usual 9 to 5 gig…” I write those words and laugh. So far from reality… When, I asked God, His response was, “You’re not doing much small, french-fry….”

Here was my struggle. I didn’t even know one welfare mother, yet I’m part of a decision making process severely impacting their lives as well as their babies. This is NOT right. I looked around in meetings with all the lobbyist, members of congress, staff and others who more than likely never met a welfare mom, yet talked as if they were their BFFers.

Yes, welfare was my wake-up call. I could write more about how God led me to Honduras, but that is another novel. So, short story longer, is I asked God to lead me to the place He wanted me. Be careful what you pray for because the next thing I know this pasty body is sitting in the second poorest country in our hemisphere. Yes, Honduras was the perfect place to purge my self-centerness, greed and pride. Hence, the breaking and rebuilding of my soul.

When I returned home, I apologized to my mom for being such a brat growing up. For being ungrateful. Disrespectful. Annoying. Her response in her thick southern accent, “We should have shipped your ass off years ago…” I agreed!

After Honduras, I miraculously was accepted at Thunderbird, International Business School, secured a great job at Enron, and started my own marketing/communications consulting practice in Orlando. All learning, failing, climbing, succeeding, laboring along the way.

This brings me to this year’s journey. God has gifted me with heart of exploration – heart of curiosity – heart of communication. Even when looking for a university, my only prerequisite was as far away as possible. Who cares about SAT scores or school rankings. For me, it boiled down to learning from different people, with a different view in a different part of our country. That’s it.

OK. Need to focus. Back in September/October 2009, I was talking to my friend Stephanie. We’re planning a trip to Brazil. Our conversations seem to involve traveling, men and careers – most recently it was which workplace was the most hostile. We would get a kick out of “one upping” each other on the toxicity meter for we both worked for people who subscribe to the management of dissatisfaction motivation. My workplace actually had a leadership training chapter devoted to such topic. The more you tell your employees they “don’t get it” or question their intelligence, the harder they work. Talk about sucking the life out of you…. For the inquisitive, dissatisfaction management does not work.

Anyway, Stephanie blurted out in frustration, “I just want to quit my job and travel the world.” A smile creept across my lips. I knew this day was coming. God put it on my heart to travel around the world and I was just waiting for the word. I was curled up on my lite brown chair pressing the phone close to my ear. Tears welded into the creases of my eyes. I inhaled. “Steph, It’s time. I feel it. I know it. It’s done…” She giggled. Probably thinking – it’s TallGirl talk again. Nope. Not at all.

January came and went. Work environment was stifling. I walked in everyday – is today the day? The toxicity meter kept rising and I saw myself treating my colleagues with same level of disdain and disrespect I endured. I did not like who I was becoming.

It was after another Gone with the Wind staff meeting lasting over three hours when God gave me the sign. I needed to meet with the big boss about some advertising numbers and campaign concepts. I walked up to him after the staff meeting asking to be put on his calendar. He looked at me. Smiled. Shook his head and laughed. What came out of his mouth was not surprising for he says this type of crap to everyone. Today was just my day. Next week will be someone elses turn.

He said, “I’m not going to meet with you. I’m over you. You don’t get it.” I exhaled and smiled broadly and asked him to repeat himself – to confirm what I just heard. Didn’t want to screw around with unemployment. Timing is everything. And, you got to love dissatisfaction management…

He huffed with esaberation for he could only assume that I truly did “not get it” and was “slow.” I looked out the window. It was a bright, sunny hot day. The room where we were standing was dark. His words were weighted with annoyance. I looked at him squarely in the eyes and smiled, “Thank you! And, trust me. I do GET it.” I jetted off with purpose and style. Heals going click, click, click at a rapid pace back to my office. Closed the door. Resurrected my computer. And, I began typing my resignation letter. This was the sign I was waiting for.

A few days later, I walked into his office. He shook his head back and forth laughing and told me that “he did not want to see me.” I told him, “Not a problem. This would take seconds. I’m giving you the notebook you requested and my letter of resignation….This is all I wanted to say. Thank you for this opportunity. Good bye.”

I think I shocked the shit out of him. Quite frankly, I shocked the shit out me too. I was shaking. I headed straight to my car. I had to catch my breath. Shit. Shit. Shit. What have I done here. Say goodby to cash flow…I snowballed into every worse case scenario. I believe prison time and moving in with my sister were part of the equation. The word shit seemed to be the word of choice. This faith thing was feeling thin. Yet, I heard God say – “Come on. Calm down. Don’t worry. Trust me here…I’ve got you covered.” Can I please say, shit, again?

Fast forward. My next major anxiety was money to fund this trip to somewhere. Yes, I unexpectedly did much better growing my consulting practice than I previously thought. I don’t have kids, hate to shop and only spend $ on trips. Depletion of the retirement nest egg may be starting sooner rather than later. While you are living at the Villages retirement center, I will be sweeping floors at 7-11 – and smiling. That was my mindset…

Welcome to Feb/March. The morning after my second resignation (another story) – one of my closest, smartest, BESTEST friends with whom I used to work called. Here I was. In the bathroom. Face pressed up against the mirror. Plucking out my eyebrows. AKA: Anxiety Attack. I put her on speaker phone as I continued to pluck. She was in need of communications/marketing help. Her company is undergoing a merger and was looking to hire an internal/external marketing/communications specialist for a 3 months. It pays. And, she asked if I knew anyone?

Are you frigging kidding me??? I put down my tweasers. I just stared at my reflection. My left eyebrow is almost gone. Right one still intact. Just in time. I mouthed, “God, we’re really doing this, huh? This trip is real. You just solved my $$ anxiety. This is all You, not me. I’m just your vessel. Do what You want with me. I’m yours. Now, can you please have the FedEx guy stop by with the intinerary. We only have 3 months here…I booked us into a creative writing workshop in Ireland in July…”

My little sister listed my house with instructions to sell the concrete blocks with a leaking pool in three months. That’s all she had… And, she must sell the home in month three, for month one and two I’m busy. Her eyes got wide and she laughed and laughed and laughed.

She said, “You do know you live in Florida? State of foreclosures and depressed prices?” This trip is in God’s hand as is the selling price. I was not worried. God came through. By month three, I had two offers on my house. The cute couple were kind, did not require a FHA loan, giving me 2 weeks to move out. Insert “shit” here.

I claimed the last storage unit just blocks from my home at a discount and an angel came to help me move my stuff. Mom and Step-dad left for vacation few days prior to my house closing. Now, I have a place to stay with free HBO, lawn service and working fridge. I threw myself a Keg party to celebrate . Needed to spread the free joy.

When it came to planning the trip – I was clueless. I wanted to see everything. Someone said to me – try to answer the question – what does God want you to see and do, then go there. Once I asked this question, the puzzle pieces of the world started to come together. And, they continue to come together today.

One thing about me is that I’m very good at procrastinating. By this point, it’s May/June and I knew I had to give myself a deadline departure date – one that can’t be pushed back. A creative writing workshop outside of Dublin, Ireland found me. This means, my flight needs to leave this great nation on July 10th. This gave me a little over 4 weeks to plan a six or seven month trip around the world and wrap up my consulting practice. I was on overdrive. Anxiety. Zit cream. And, online shopping ruled the day. That, and a lot of ice cream with sprinkles.

God led me to Habitat for Humanity. I drove by a project everyday in Winter Park, unknowingly. Now, the sign jumped at me. I goggled it. Low and behold, they have global village projects all around the world. Volunteering was on my heart. Now, all I needed to do was figure out the where and when.

I was going to visit Mary in London. See Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots in Scotland. Visit Jeff in Lebanon. Seeing friends in Egypt fell through b/c of Ramada so I opted to join a small tour group taking me through Jordan and Israel. A Habitat build project was to kick-off in Poland just days after leaving Israel. Poland was perfect because it’s in route to St. Petersburg, Russia where I’ll pick up the trans-siberian train to traverse across Russia, through Mongolia into China. There’s an elephant farm in Thailand and a horse farm in South Africa…Then, the hike in Bhutan… And, a lot of boys in New Zealand.

Inhaling different religions was a priority. I did not realize how much so at the time. Looked like I wold be dabbling in some Islam in Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Dubai. Judaism in Israel and Poland. Buddhism in Bhutan, Thailand and Vietnam. Hinduism in Cambodia. Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and atheism in China. And, layering in Christianity in places like Krakow – Pope John Paul’s stomping grounds – Israel, Palestine (West Bank), Lebanon, Vietnam, Russia, South Africa, Australia…And, we can’t forget skirting around agnostic England… You sprinkle on communism, corruption, crime and good looking men and it’s one big Part-ay. God is good.

Before I bolted to Ireland, I had a massage from someone my sister recommends. You always go where my sister tells you, for she is a tough customer. She said her massage lady is intuitive. She feels energy. Sees images. I do believe in angles. Intution. Energy. The world – universe – is large and in charge. I’m just a spec. And, use a very small part of this brain. All because I can’t read energy, does not mean someone else can’t.

As I laid there in silence, she started talking to me about my journey. That I have nothing to fear for there’s an angle – an Arch Angel – protecting me. This is one of the big ones… She rattled off some names. Here we go again with the angel talk. Now, I find it amusing, unlike before. Because I’ve sensed them too.

She picked-up something much larger is in control of this journey. That my soul still needed to learn more, absorb more, understand more and be challenged more to evolve more. I don’t yearn for social conventions – like marriage, children – my soul yearns for something much larger right now. The rest will come later. For now, I need to commit to soaking up the world. Cultivating relationships. Trusting my intuition. Staying open. And, feeling pain.

She went on and on – I did not say a word. I just let her words wash over me. I wanted to say “duh…. It’s about time someone else saw this.”

I rarely talk about this spirit and God stuff in answering the “why travel” question to randoms. It’s too heavy and only if people are fully present and prepared to hear, it’s not worth it. So, I just answer them with “I’m over IT… needed to travel the world to fill my cup up with joy.” It’s true. It’s a macro-answer. And, the listener can deduce what he or she will from the statement. But, my journey is more than “being over it.” There are days, I’m over just about everything, including traveling. I just want a real bottle of Advil, plastic clothes hangers, Cetapil soap and white, crisp linens on my bed.

One of the more exciting parts of the journey is to see where God will plop me come March/April. By then, the funds will have run out and I’ll return to O-town, land of the boy bands, to close the travel chapter and open a new one dedicated to re-balancing my work-ethic and restoring relationships.

A few days before I was leaving, I stumbled upon a bible verse. It was my little insurance policy. And, it answered the question posed above. As well as where I’m going…

Exodus: 23:20. “See, I’m sending an angel before to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I’ve prepared for you.”

Everyday, I wake up and asked God “to allow me to hear what You want me to hear…see what You want me to see…go where You want me to go…and, do what You want me to do…” Lead the way baby! I’m game! Yeeeehaaawwww! His people. His creations. Are awesome!

With that, hot New Zealand boy wakes from his coma-induced nap. I smiled and said, “What do you think?” He says, “That’s a lot of verbal vomit. Now, what’s the 15-second sound bite version? Oh, and let’s switch to vodka… ”

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