Note to Self: Don’t Forget These Moments

The idea of going home has left me feeling a bit out of sorts these days. When I first bought my flight back home, I was excited to tell my close friends and as soon as we started making plans on what to do when I came back, this deep feeling inside of me began stirring. The feeling slowly developed over the next few weeks into dread, fear, and sadness. The idea of saying “I’m going home.” almost made my heart stop. It’s this idea and concept that I haven’t had to face in what feels like forever. Home was just this place I knew I would be coming back to at some point, I just didn’t know when. But now I do. And it’s close. What felt worse was having to tell new blog fans that just wrote me a nice message about how inspiring I am a message similar to, “Aw thank you that is so sweet of you. But I’m actually heading home for a bit in a couple months…” I felt like I was letting them down or giving up in some way on “living the dream”.

This is where I feel like I can’t communicate that what I’m doing is not just a far off dream world. I’ve had some friends back home say things like, “Well you’re probably scared to come home because you’re coming back to the real world.” It almost offends me when people say this. As if I’m living in a fantasy or not working as hard because what I’m doing is not as valuable as making money to buy a house and live the American dream.  I understand that yes there are moments in my life where I feel like it’s a scene straight out of a movie, but that is the wonderful beauty of doing what you love. When you do what you love, you appreciate every moment of life. The point is, this IS my life. It can be yours too if you truly want it. Where there is a will there is a way. And it’s all about priorities and working hard.

For over a year my life has been traveling. I left home without much of a purpose, other than to be alive wherever I am. I tried to volunteer as much as I could, but when I decided to just let go of the anxiety of the “need” to do something “productive” with my life, I was able to live freely and go where ever life decided to steer me. Once you’ve surrendered to the knowledge that there will joys and obstacles in this journey, you can move forward with the realization that this is your life and you can live it any way you want to. You can gripe about being mentally exhausted from the bureaucracy of working for state government just as much as being physically exhausted from working in a vineyard in Italy. Whether it’s a 9-5 job projected from your degree, or traveling around the world, in either situation you will meet new people who will impact your life (big or small). And in the end, it’s all the same. We all want to live meaningful and happy lives and taking different paths in life is truly a gift.

And now, I’m being steered home for the time being. I’m finally excited to see my friends and family again. But before I go home, I wanted to write a note to myself to not forget the lessons I’ve realized over the past 13 months. I know the morals and the memories will be harder to remember as life goes on, but I know it will be especially challenging as I move back to a “normal life” (as some people say). So here I am and this is my cheesy “zen-self-reflection” to conclude my  “self-discovery odyssey”. Whatever that is supposed to mean.

Dear Sandy:

I know you’re programmed to dive right in and absorb yourself in whatever you do. But before you let the typical stresses of work, family, and friends take over, take a moment to breathe and remember these feelings and lessons you wrote down:

– You are a lot braver than you think you are. Remember how you handled disaster in Turkey, creepers in England, and the uneducated men in India. You can fend for yourself when you need to, and you can be a lot more gracious and understanding than you initially thought. Always keep an open mind and heart.

– Never forget the fear and awakening you experienced when you faced dangers in the world. Many people live with these risks on a daily basis. Be thankful for your safe surroundings of home.

– We are human. We make mistakes. We are free to make our own choices in our walk of life. What has happened in the past shapes us, but never defines us.

– We all want the same thing: To live a happy and meaningful life. Having privileges doesn’t mean you have a better quality of life. Use your privileges to make choices that serve others in search of a better quality of life, but do not act out of pity. Act out of respect for humanity. After all, it may be them that pity you.

– Live in the now wherever you are. We are just specks on a planet, in a universe, and the only “accomplishments” in life you should be worried about is how you make the most of your time in this world.

– Peace and tranquility can be achieved anywhere. It’s not about surrounding yourself in the Himalayas or being in the presence of His Holiness or swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. These are amazing moments, but remember that it is a feeling that develops from you. You have the power to create your reality.

– When you do what you love, it shows.

– Remember the love and kindness you have been so blessed to experience just as much as the unpleasant ones. Life isn’t always picture perfect, and that’s how you know you’re alive.

– Feelings of love, anger, and sadness will always pass. It’s up to you how long you want these feelings to stay.

Moments to cherish:

– The way Giacomo and Giulia share sibling love and the way they always make my heart smile. Their simple innocence and amazing personalities.

– The way Corrado makes every day things so much more enjoyable. They way he smells a glass of wine, tastes his food, sifts through soil, or admires his vines. “Guarda questa roba. Stupendo! Fantastico! Guardo li!” 

– The way my thoughts get lost listening to the sounds of tiny sugar spoons clinking against coffee cups after lunch. How they echo off the walls and the wonderful melody of different sipping sounds from everyone having coffee after a meal.

– The feeling of being free, happy, and content while walking through three-feet tall wild mint in between vineyards, spreading fava beans by hand. I almost feel like Cinderella feeding the chickens and mice. So peacefully happy.

– Drinking wine, jamming out to The Doors and playing air guitar under the stars with Corrado, Giulio, and Roberta. Some of the best memories happen with spontaneity. The idea of “school nights” don’t exist in Italia.

– The way Corrado and Valeria gaze at each other so adoringly as if they were still on their honeymoon.

– The sound of waking up to hot air balloons at sun rise every morning outside my turkish tent on the roof of a cave hotel. The wonder and awe of being in a foreign and magical scenery.

– Bathing with Elephants. Probably won’t ever forget that moment, but still a good one to jot down. 🙂

– The moment you realized you were sitting in the snow in the middle of the Himalayas. How peaceful and content you felt for achieving a dream you weren’t even sure you would ever make.

– The indescribable moment of sitting on the floor surrounded by Tibetan refugees, monks, and children and realizing how happy and fortunate you are.

The list goes on really…but that’s what you have your journals for. Don’t ever think that your journey ends when you return home. It’s just another beginning and another way you can carve your own path in this life. Walk forward knowing this, look back but don’t linger, and love those who have walked beside you or even carried you at times, and be open to the ones that will play a role in your future. Take this time to rejuvenate your heart and soul to share with the world.

I am so proud of you, and you don’t need anyone else to tell you that. You set out what you wanted to do, you did it, and now it’s time to check some other things off the list. You may feel like this is one of the biggest accomplishments in your life, but that’s because there is still so much more to do. In a few years from now, this is going to be just the stepping stone of your experiences.


Me (Sandy)

P.S. You really need to work on trying to figure out how to get back in touch with Mr. Kelly. Seriously.


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