I can’t believe it took me 22 years to have a thirst for life. TWENTY-TWO WHOLE YEARS… of saying, “one day…” Or saying, “once I reach this point in my life I will do blah, blah, blah.” Everything I wanted to do was just a far distant dream with no plan or end in sight. It took a heavy loss in my life to wake me up and realize we aren’t even guaranteed tomorrow.
After my best friend passed away, I went numb. Not the kind of numb where you stay in bed and cry all day. The kind where you go about your life trying to process it all. I was a functioning human being, I just wasn’t living. Weeks passed and my only thoughts were “Ten seconds at a time ash, make it through these ten and you can do the next ten.” At one point, I reflected and asked myself the question of how would I feel if my life ended today. I started listing out all my accomplishments. In a couple of months I would be the first to graduate college in my family, have an engineering degree, have a full time job with a top Fortune 500 company, blah, blah, blah… but how much had I lived? Had I done everything I dreamed of outside of my career? Not even close.
My original plan for after graduation was to go explore Europe with JP. I had started learning German on Duolingo and he was really excited about Italy so, as in all relationships, we compromised. I couldn’t handle the idea of exploring Europe without him so I cancelled the trip and decided I would give it some time to decide where I wanted to go. The thought of staying home creeped in my mind, but deep down inside I knew I needed to step outside of my comfort zone. Weeks passed and something drew me to Southeast Asia so I booked a ticket to Thailand and began my journey.
Here is what happened when I stepped outside my comfort zone:
1. Broke down crying on my 16 hour flight from Newark to Hong Kong because I still have TWO FLIGHTS left until I reached Phuket, Thailand and I WAS SO TIRED. – December
2. Even though my friend backed out, I nervously went ahead and kicked butt completing my scuba certification in Thailand –December
3. I survived a MoPed accident in Ko Tao, Thailand with only minor knee wounds. –Christmas Day
4. Broke down crying in the Taiwan airport (man I have a habit of crying in airports) not really sure if I wanted to continue my journey of backpacking in South East Asia. I was exhausted. – January
5. I refused to turn around so I continued on to the Philippines where I swam with Whale Sharks, jumped off a 15 foot cliff, rode a tuk-tuk, almost got scammed by a taxi driver, and saw slivers of how strong yet emotionally fragile I was. -January
6. I encountered a new level of loneliness and missed him more than ever. I discovered emotions abroad can sometimes be amplified. So I decided to take a break and head home to reevaluate what I wanted to do with my five months of vacation left. Thank you Katie for ALWAYS being there. – January
7. I bravely decided to turn down an internship offer and go travel like I had planned. What that meant was I chose to get into debt for the experience of traveling, even though I wasn’t sure if I could emotionally handle it. – February
8. I did what I feared most and chose Berlin, Germany for my next destination. I figured if I could go to Europe without him, I could do anything. – March
9. I realized facing my fear of going to Europe without him was one of the scariest yet liberating things I had ever felt. I was on top of the world and that momentum propelled me. -March
10. I took a chance and met up with a girl in London from the Girls Love Travel fb group. We instantly bonded over our love for Harry Potter and until this day have kept in touch. Thanks Amandine for a great time! – March
11. I slightly got my heart hurt by a European. So as all sane people do, I instantly booked trips to Scotland, Paris, Rome, and Croatia. #catchflightnotfeelings – April
12. I met up with my an old friend in Paris where I made two new friends. Madeline & Kathy. Thank you for being the friends I never knew I was missing in my life. – April
13. I tried tinder/ Bumble in Europe where I met some pretty cool guys! I even asked one of them not to “rufie” me as he got me a drink. We laugh about it till this day. – April
14. Just when I started feeling inside my comfort zone I decided to push a bit and take a trip to Marrakech, Morocco even though my mom pleaded me to reconsider. I was a bit nervous but once again I took on what I feared. After my trip my mom texted me, “Wow, I want you to send me to Morocco on a trip when your sisters go to college.” – May
15. Before I knew it, my time in Germany had come to an end. There were nights were I went to bed with a smile on face and others with tears in my eyes telling myself to take it “ten seconds at a time.” – June
16. Once again my mom pleaded that I don’t go to Istanbul, Turkey after last year’s incidents. I went anyway and had an amazing time. She insisted I stay in a nice hotel by the airport but I instead stayed in a hostel near the Blue Mosque and splurged on a Turkish bath, where rumor has it the Temple of Zeus once stood. – June
17. On my flight back to the States, I got free WIFI where I got asked out on my first romantic date since high school. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this but I embraced it. – June
18. Didn’t prepare properly and almost died of hypothermia (not really, but felt like it) on Acatenango volcano in Guatemala with my best friend. #lessonlearned – June
19. Ran my first and LAST half marathon in San Francisco (of all places) all because I told my best friend “I was down” and once I say I’m in, there is no turning back. A mindset I developed through my time traveling. –July
20. Came up with the name for my blog “ash just goes” because it really spoke about my new mentality. I no longer have dreams but instead goals and I refuse to let the but’s and if’s stop me. -July
21. I fell for a boy, but got up and moved on. – August
22. Once again my mindset shifted: I always thought my 9 to 5 job would limit me but I’ve been exploring just as much and making wonderful friends. Kristy thank you for being such an amazing roommate. – Present
23. Most importantly I learned the thirst for life.
Traveling became more to me than pretty Instagram destinations. It’s the fuel that keeps me going when I have rough days. It’s what I look forward to, when I come home exhausted from my daily tasks. It is what I thirst for in my life.
“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” Walter Anderson