When I was 24 years old, I found myself at my most lost and acutely displaced point in my life.
I was working a job in cosmetics that I loathed with every tiny little fiber of my being. I hated selling people sh*t they didn't really need (no one needs a "primer" for their primer).
I felt as if I lacked a general sense of purpose in the world and was sifting through the great expanse of a cloudy universe like a meaningless ghost. I was a lost girl-kitten, shivering down the lonely back streets of New York City and feeling disconnected from everything that surrounded me.
When you feel so disconnected from yourself, it's impossible to connect to anyone or anything outside of you.
One day, I was mindlessly walking to my job, my headphones blasting out the sweet sounds of Jenny Lewis, when it hit me like a ton of scalding hot bricks to the surface of my bare skin: I needed to get the f*ck out of New York.
I'm not one of those girls who believes everything happens for a reason. I'm the opposite of that girl.
I don't believe in the zodiac. I don't think karma is real. And I certainly don't trust “The Universe” (What's there to trust? The world is FALLING apart).
However, I do believe in my own intuition. I believe all of us were born with incredible instinct, and it's up to us to decide whether we are going to choose to listen to it or choose to toss it aside.
That fine, mid-July day in Midtown, I firmly decided to listen to my pressing intuition, which was telling me that I, Zara Barrie, had to embark on a journey abroad -- solo.
So, I made it happen. I moved back into my parent's house. I broke up with my partner. I took on every shift at work possible. I took on side jobs (shot girl, promo model, who cares? As long as it paid).
I put every cent I earned into savings and suffered through living under my stifling parents' roof for the first time as an adult so I could travel. I knew it was what I needed to do, and nothing was going to stop me from getting there.
I mention this because I'm just as tired as you are of reading essays from Millennials urging us to drop everything and travel. To listen to your wanderlust.
F*ck you, and f*ck your wanderlust. It's not that easy.
The truth of the matter is that traveling is an amazing, wonderful, mind-expanding experience that is imperative to our personal growth.
But it doesn't happen by magic, sweet kittens. You have to work hard to come up with that money (unless you have a massive trust fund teeming with an endless surplus of cash, in which case I'm wildly jealous).
I digress. To cut a long story short, I went to Europe. Alone. For a year.
And let me tell you: Even though it was at times terribly lonely and bleakly dismal, and I felt the bitter pangs of homesickness, it redirected me back into who I am.
So if you're feeling lost, I urge to you to travel alone. When you're ripped from the anesthetic of comfort and company, you're able to explore the real, raw, badass YOU.
You can only be yourself when you don't have anything to hide behind.
When you're stripped out of your comfort zone and are traveling by yourself, you can't hide behind the mask of your friends. The sweetness of familiar language. The soft sights that your eyes are used to being penetrated by.
You're left with just yourself and your own stream of thoughts. It's only when we are without the distraction of company that we are able to tap into our real selves, the person who we really are without the influence of others.
Your senses are stimulated.
Nothing will stimulate you like fresh sights, smells and sounds. You will feel alive again when your eyes, ears, nose and mouth are penetrated by so much awesome newness.
You will feel re-energized and wildly inspired when you take in the new senses of a new environment.
You realize you don't really need that much.
When you're traveling, you don't have those material items you've come to so deeply rely on. You don't have the American coffee creamer you NEED in order to enjoy your morning coffee. You don't have the big drug store adorned with every single product known to man.
And the coolest, most fierce, most brilliant part of being stripped of your material comforts is you realize you don't f*cking need any of it.
In fact, maybe the coffee is better on its own, anyway.
You can fall in love for a fleeting moment.
When you're traveling with friends, you cancel out the possibility of meeting that special person -- a person in a dimly lit bar, also traveling alone. The person with whom you engage in an epic night of mind-blowing sex and conversation, only to never see one another again.
And that's beautiful. Hot, fiery, fleeting romances remind us we can fall in love for a brief second, but that love doesn't define us because we keep traveling regardless of the amazing night we experienced with him or her.
You won't ever forget the incredible girl you met in Rome at a nameless bar. But she won't stop you from the adventures you will embark on. Love is there to fill us up and make us feel, but we don't need it to keep us alive.
You're free to have moments of deep reflection without distraction.
When you're not distracted by your friends and family blowing up your phone every five minutes, you're able to have moments of incredible reflection.
You're able to just sit and peer out into a beautiful view and think back about the course of your life. You have time to ask yourself pivotal questions, like, “What do I really want? Where am I really going? Am I even f*cking happy?”
Asking yourself these questions is the roadmap back to finding yourself again. These questions force you to look yourself in the eye and ask the hard questions most people spend their whole lives attempting to avoid. But the answers to real fulfillment and happiness lie in these pressing questions.