What I Learned About The World By Recreating The Flight Of My Namesake

There are two types of people in this world: those who sit around, staring at photos online of people having adventures, and those who decide to get off the couch and become the ones in the photos.

For a long time, I fell into the first category.

My excuses were endless: not enough money, nowhere near enough days off work, too many responsibilities back home.

I was daydreaming my life away, watching other people have all the fun.

Then, something hit me while I was doing some serious soul searching about the legacy I wanted to leave behind. I realized I could either be the one double-tapping her way through life, or I could be the one in the photo, experiencing this world, leaving a lasting mark.

Last year, I transitioned from the one dreaming of adventure to becoming the youngest woman to fly around the world in a single engine airplane, recreating the flight of my namesake, Amelia Earhart.

No, I'm not related to the first Amelia, but my famous name inspired me to symbolically complete the flight she never did.

I quit my job as a television news reporter to dive headfirst into living out my version of a fully alive existence. It was 28,000 miles of flight, 108.6 hours in the cockpit, 14 countries, six equatorial crossings and 18 days.

There were also endless insights into how big and beautiful this world really is, if we choose to see it.

I trained, planned and made it happen, and along the way, I learned a few things about the world, but only after flying all the way around it.

1. The richest among us are “Memory Millionaires.”

My friend Peter Joli is a world-renowned surf photographer and self-proclaimed “memory millionaire.”

We met on the tiny island of Namotu during a recent trip I took to return to the South Pacific. He had the best perspective I have heard about money, travel and life.

His thought is that when we go, we can't take piles of money with us, but we can take a beautiful bank of memories spent traveling, meeting new friends and seeing the world in all its beauty.

We can lose our cash or spend it away, but no one can ever steal the memories we create during our personal adventures.

2.Our daydreams are juiciest when we live out our greatest goals.

Adventure breeds adventure. Exploring the world in order to appreciate and soak up as much of it as I possibly can is the one addiction I'm happy to have.

During the world flight, I allowed myself to daydream without restriction. I put no limits on what I imagined for my future. After flying around the equator in a single engine aircraft, now I want to fly pole to pole — because why the hell not.

Making daydreams into reality is now my ultimate pursuit of happiness.

3. Kindness is the only universal currency.

Men with guns who spoke no English? No problem. Angry customs agents who didn't want to stay late to inspect my aircraft? No worries.

When we imagine the worst thing that could possibly happen to us during travel, we often forget that 99 percent of people in this world are compassionate and after the same things we are: human connection, love, empathy and joy.

I found that during my trip, something as simple as a gift of snacks I had on the plane or taking a selfie with someone who has never used a smartphone were enough to connect two strangers and allowed us to find common ground.

4. Being scared sh*tless is a good thing.

How often in our daily lives are we honestly scared? Maybe someone cuts you off in traffic and you scream out a curse word, but for the most part, we are pretty damn comfy in our lives.

When I flew from Honolulu to Oakland in a single engine airplane, I found my senses were on fire — colors were brighter and emotions were deeper because if at any point my engine quit, my only option would be to ditch the aircraft in the water.

Being on edge brought me to life; it reminded me that there are so many juicy, beautiful, joyous parts of life to live for. When you only have one option, you take that option very seriously.

5. Exhaustion from doing what you love is the most gratifying feeling in the world.

For 18 days straight as I flew around the globe, my head would hit the pillow around midnight in a heap of sweaty, drained, completely spent fashion.

I'd lay, staring at an unfamiliar ceiling — sometimes the stars —, with the biggest, goofiest, healthiest smile on my face. When you give your all toward a goal that you consciously decide to believe in, you will know true joy.

Strive to be exhausted. We either wear our or rust out, so choose wisely.

6. We must leave home in order to appreciate a return.

Before my flight, home seemed like the most boring, stable, non-changing environment. I could not wait to leave.

But, after 28,000 miles in flight and 108.6 hours at the controls of an airplane, all I wanted was the comfort of my familiar kitchen, the cold tiles under my bare feet, food in the fridge, my teapot and my view of the Rocky Mountains.

You have to leave home to want to come back to it. Simple, yet oh-so true.

7. Not everyone will or should understand your journey.

Personal journeys are just that. Not everyone will understand why you simply must get away in order to figure out who you are, where you are meant to be or what you really want out of this big, beautiful world we live in.

There is no right way to explore this world and if your adventure takes you all the way around, so be it.

It's your life — you are allowed to make it your version of perfect. Oh, and by the way, cheer people on when they decide to do the same. Help them rock their journeys and you'll find that yours will come more smoothly as well.

8. Everyone wants to connect with other human beings.

Why do we act so awkward around strangers in elevators, in lines and on commercial flights? We fear that the person we are next to doesn't want to connect. Most of the time, we are wrong. Say hello, engage and learn someone else's story.

I had a rule for myself during my flight around the world: greet everyone I meet with a big smile and a genuine question about who he or she is and what he or she loves.

This rule was damn hard to adhere to, but when I was fully engaged, I made deep connections with other open, smart, interesting, adventurous, loving people.

Potential lifelong connections are literally everywhere.

9. Adventure is the catalyst for discovering our greatest selves.

Why is it easier to get up at the crack of dawn when we have something we are looking forward to doing?

Because we have told ourselves that this is something to look forward to.

You must define, create and act out what makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. You must teach yourself to wake up an hour earlier to live an hour longer because adventure brings out your most fit, most mindful, most alert self — one that decides that each day will include something great.

You don't have to summit mountains each day, but you do have to harness your ability to see every task as an adventure.

10. There is no perfect place to live, which is actually great news.

Falling into the trap of thinking there is a “perfect” place to live is a false truth. Someone in a city may think an island life is perfect because of its simplicity, while someone living on a tropical island may feel stuck with a lack of resources to start a business.

We travel to see what else is out there, but coveting someone else's lifestyle is something we all need must give up.

I met people in 14 different countries during my flight and they all pictured the states as the “perfect” place to live, but I saw their lifestyle as far superior to my own. Each location comes with pluses and minuses — enjoy them all.

Seek out the great, eliminate what you don't like and most of all, always know that you are in control of how you perceive each situation.

11. CS Lewis said, “Sometimes the longest way around is the shortest way home.”

That silent, yet powerful urge you feel to hit the open road? Own it. Plan it, anticipate it but mostly, DO IT.

Take the scenic route — the long way around — to find out who you are in the quiet moments; the moments when you have no idea how you will survive, the moments where you forget where you came from and where you're headed.

You must got a little too far to know your own limits and these trips — these journeys — will lead you to the best version of yourself.

Passports are meant to be stamped. Get up, get out and be the one in the photo, rather than the one double tapping his or her way through life.