My flight from Lisbon to the US took off leaving behind a mix of red roofs, ancient castles and a piece of my soul. Three months in Europe flew by like a flock of feathers on a breezy sunset: light, colorful, evanescent. I had just experienced one of the most remarkable chapters of my life. Earlier in the year I underwent a major surgery, quit my corporate job and disembarked in the old continent, all in a span of 30 days. Guided by my inner compass, I fulfilled a childhood dream to wonder in faraway shores with no set agenda, choosing destinations on the fly. Dream-like experiences were now forever etched into my skin. Someone wise said that there is something exquisitely powerful to be savored when you create space to step into your dreams, no matter how big or small. It may also come with notes of pungent bittersweetness.
For days post arrival, I was overdosing on a cocktail of feelings that kept me both joyfully smiling and heartbreakingly shedding tears. I was delighted to be home in Texas, finding comfort in the familiar scent of old paint and wood of my townhouse, in reuniting with my husband, in caressing my cat’s velvety fur. I was also grieving the loss of those seashores and mountains that sheltered my solo adventure and hosted a version of me that felt free, empowered, feminine, aligned. Could I bring those qualities to my domestic habitat?
As I suckled oysters at a hipster bar, my mind traveled to the oyster farms floating in the silvery waters of Cap Ferret, France. When driving in chaotic traffic, I reminisced magnificent limestone cliffs and turquoise Mediterranean horizons in a road trip in Gozo, Malta. While selecting white asparagus at my local grocer, I could almost inhale the divine lunch on a Danube River cruise in Austria, sweet spring breeze and swan sightings caressing my senses. Easing into the role of adventurer in faraway lands felt a million times easier than morphing back into my old surroundings when I had peeled off a significant layer of my identity.
My original plan had always been to take the entire year off, but once surrounded by the familiar, I didn’t take long to dive into old patterns of harsh self-judgement. Calling my wanderings overindulgent and listening to the criticism of those who couldn’t understand my longings, I froze in uncertainty. I thought that version of me had hanged from the Charles bridge in Prague months earlier. Some parts of us are hard to die, often the ones that want to keep us safe. Often the ones that want to keep us small.
On week two of re-entry, travel memories still flourishing but now with subdued intensity, I re-acquainted with meditation. In a moment of silence, I saw the eagle that followed me in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain and heard a voice, on and off like fireflies on a summer night: “Go on! Roam free, like your true nature!” I tried to quiet it with rational arguments, but my time in Europe had honed my mindfulness muscles. I was able to stop self-judgment in its tracks and trust my intuition. Within a month of re-entry, I was once again boarding a plane, this time to the blue waters of the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, back to the wilderness of my dreams, back to the shores of soul alignment.