Laura Laulainan

5 Things I Learned While Traveling The World After My Marriage Fell Apart

When I think about my solo trip over the last four months, I am overwhelmed with a heavy mind and heart. When I think about my journey over the last year as a whole, I can barely let it hold my attention before discomfort forces it away, desperate to make room for the optimism and courage that I know is hiding in there somewhere.

Life is crazy. In late 2015, at 30 years old, I went through a divorce and consequently left my entire life behind to travel the world. Part of the reason I wanted to take the leap and embark on this journey is because I really want to live my life, to be my best self and to feel every day.

I wanted to stop letting time go by and thinking, “Maybe someday things will be different.” I wanted to actually take a stand and attempt to live up to what I feel is my potential and my contribution in this world. Some might look at my life before this and wonder what about it made me feel like I wasn't living, and that's OK. We all have our perspectives.

In the process of leaving, I asked for adventure, I asked for emotion, I asked for a challenge and I certainly got all of that and more, tenfold. I have learned so much. I have felt so much more than I ever realized a person could feel. I am still in the grips of exponential personal growth, and I am different.

I am strong. I am confident. There is no going back to how I was before this trip, before this journey. Nothing that happens can ever take these experiences and lessons away from me, and I value that. I have worked hard for them. As part of my contribution, here are five lessons I want to share with you:

1. Raw life is real life.

So many people, my previous self included, go through this world not only seeing through the proverbial rose-colored lenses, but also carrying a rose-colored shield. There is a certain status that our society and social media demands of us, and we are all so quick to prove we are worthy of it.

If something “bad” happens, the rose-colored lenses shatter, and we are quick to shut down and feel judged and unworthy. In my opinion, this is complete bullsh*t. The truth, as it turns out, is that living — truly living — means hurting, daring, loving and losing. Those who experience these things and come out stronger will live all the more.

2. Speak up because it matters.

Rose-colored lenses be damned. We don't talk about real life enough. When I finally spoke up about my divorce on my blog, I received an incredible amount of messages, comments and emails from my readers thanking me for sharing something so personal. Many of them said that they also have been through a divorce.

The shame that goes with an experience like divorce is immense. But, like Brené Brown so brilliantly writes, if we speak shame, it disappears. As soon as we talk about things like this that matter, we take a huge step in truly getting through it.

It's true that life sucks sometimes, but it's also true there are people in all of our lives who love us and want to see us overcome obstacles. It's our choice to speak up and let them in, and — as I have learned — so many people are in the same boat. You never know who is watching or listening and will be inspired and encouraged by your own story.

3. Talk to yourself like you talk to your best friend.

Don't get stuck in a shame cycle. It's easy to let shame put us down with words like “You're never going to get there. You can't do it. Say goodbye to that dream.” Would you ever say that to your best friend? I have struggled with this in the last year, mostly because when my rose-colored lenses shattered, I was ashamed. I didn't reach out to my friends; I let shame talk to me instead.

Again, this is bullsh*t. This isn't going to get any of us anywhere but down. Now if I find myself slipping back into the shame cycle, I either speak up and reach out to my best friends who are so quick to be there for me, or I rehearse in my head what I would say to them if they were in my position. It's a completely different story, and it always helps.

4. We have to act on our own dreams.

What is the thing you've had in the back of your mind for a long time, but never acted on? Take me seriously when I remind you there is no better time than the present to make big things happen because time will keep ticking away.

We only get one shot at this life and these dreams. But, there won't be a way unless you truly create the will. Stepping up to the plate this year and speaking my truth and following the path I've been avoiding was the single hardest and bravest thing I've ever done. But, I was the only person in the world capable of making it happen.

5. When in doubt, travel.

If you think for one second there isn't something waiting for you on the other side of the world, you are wrong. There is nothing in this world like traveling to foreign places and getting so far outside your comfort zone that every second is a learning experience.

Open yourself up to being changed by the experience itself. Forget Cancun. Get out. Go far, go deep and lose yourself until you find yourself.

I don't have a home in Montana anymore. I left it. I put my stuff in storage. As I'm going through the hardest of the lessons overseas, I don't have a “home” I want to return to. Do you know what that means? It means I am home. There is nowhere else I'd rather be than where I am right this minute, which happens to be on a plane from Spain to Argentina. But, my answer was the same yesterday when I was in Madrid, the week before that when I was in Austria and the month before that when I was in Germany.

With nothing but myself and my backpack as my constant companions on this journey, I have everything to gain. Solo travel is for the faint of heart. That's exactly who it's for, as it has absolutely everything to offer that everything you already know can't possibly give you.

Travel, even when it requires sacrifice. You will come out stronger. You will come out a better version of yourself. When I think of everything I have gained as a result of everything I have lost in the last year, tears come to my eyes, but they are tears of courage.

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