I Left My Life Behind to Travel—Here’s the Most Important Thing I’ve Learned

I went on a date recently with a guy I was reasonably excited about. I know “reasonably  excited“ doesn’t exactly SELL my enthusiasm, but it’s the best I can do since Jude Law did not reveal himself to me when I arrived in England like I’d hoped.

Actually, let me backup for a moment, in case we haven’t met. I’m Caitlin, the former Social Media Manager and staff writer of The Everygirl, and one year ago my marriage with the only man I’d been with since I was 14 came to an end. Like any good millennial, I decided the answers I needed in the wake of this heartbreaking change and major identity crisis must be waiting for me in Europe.

 

 

To be honest, I had no real clue what I was doing when I booked my one way ticket across the pond. Landing in London was a major LOL moment. Like, “oh! I guess I really did decide to come here, didn’t I?” The only tangible pieces I had of my life (past or present) fit in a poorly packed carry-on placed underneath the seat in front of me. There was no evidence of the red and white knit stockings I hung for us every year at Christmas, or the porcelain cow-shaped creamer his mom had bought me. Everything in my bag was replaceable, without memories or importance — none of it really mattered. Which, truthfully, is how most things felt at that point. I don’t mean that as horribly depressing as it sounds (although sometimes, it was horribly depressing), but I mean nothing really held weight anymore.

Everything was temporary. Everything was fleeting. I figured I might as well flee too.

 

 

I’ve spent the better part of 2018 traveling, writing, and generally regressing in all traditional areas of adulthood. I used to own a home and now I don’t even own an umbrella. I sleep in hostels (or private Airbnb rooms when I’m feeling like Rockefeller) and live paycheck-to-paycheck. I’ve whittled down everything I own to a duffel and a computer bag. This year I’ve visited England, Portugal, Scotland, and Denmark, and I’ll be heading to Greece in just a few weeks.

Suffice it to say that I spend a lot of time in the “in-betweens.” Trains. Sidewalks. Planes. Bus stops. Some days I’m grumpy and sweaty and tired because I have two heavy bags on my arms and I’m just trying to find WiFi to answer emails and omg how did I lose my toothbrush AGAIN and for the love of Pete when will I learn to wear the right shoes and my god did I seriously just make another wrong turn? Other days I’m still walking with those same heavy bags on my arms, but I remember to take the time to feel the breeze hit my skin; to smile at the single mom getting her coffee; to notice the glow of the twinkle lights on the street. Those are the good days — the peaceful, awe-filled, grateful ones. The past 8 months of traveling have been a constant push-pull of new experience.

 

Everything was temporary. Everything was fleeting. I figured I might as well flee too.

 

 

Which brings me back to dating.

I reactivated my Bumble profile after a glass or three of wine one night and got to chatting with a lovely lad (Damn. A total of 4 months in the U.K. this year and I still can’t pull that off), who arranged for a date the same weekend we started messaging. A real unicorn. He wasn’t OHMYGOD handsome, but definitely cute. His profile said that he was my age, an avid traveler, and the clincher: he loved dogs. A cute, adventurous, friend to the animals. I had seen enough to agree to an adult beverage.

He was better looking in person: tall, broad shoulders, a genuine, toothy smile, British accent, and good hands. (Does anyone else appreciate a nice set of hands? Maybe it’s because I, myself, am cursed with man hands so, it’s an active concern that my future husband will have lady hands and then WHERE WILL THAT LEAVE OUR CHILD?).

But I digress.

Overall I thought the date went well. I guess this is where my lack of dating experience comes into play, because I’m not sure how you ever really know. We didn’t have any awkward lags in conversation. We laughed a lot. He seemed to be a healthy level of nervous, which I took as a sign of interest, and we got a second drink (his idea!). Maybe it was a little platonic and there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of chemistry, but I mean, this was a first date. All in good time.

 

I’ve spent the better part of 2018 traveling, writing, and generally regressing in all traditional areas of adulthood.

 

 

 

I had promised a friend I would meet them after our date, so I told him I had to get going around. He walked me out of the pub, we hugged and he kindly told me to let him know if I ever needed any travel recommendations. (It turned out that he really did travel a lot, unlike other Bumble men who take one all inclusive trip to Mexico and declare it their favorite pastime). We exchanged a quick “had a great time!“ text later that evening, and he made a few recommendations of where to go next in my journey abroad.

A few days later I was out with friends in Covent Garden, drinking too many bottles of wine and unsuccessfully channeling Beyoncé on the dance floor when I met a lovely gal who worked for the Malta Tourism Board. I told her I was a freelance writer and was currently working on a few travel pieces, so she gave me her card and told me to keep in touch. I chalked it up as a sign from Goddess that I needed to go to Malta, and remembered my date saying that he recently went and loved it. I shot him a message the next day and asked him for a few of his favorite Malta spots, and if he had any suggestions on where to stay.

I never heard back.

 

 

I didn’t really care, but, I mean, come on, I kind of cared. I wasn’t smitten with this guy by any means, but there’s a part of me that couldn’t help but wonder why he went MIA, or as the Swipe Right dating era ponders — “why did he ghost?”

Was I uglier in person? Did I do that thing where I laugh obnoxiously loud without realizing? Was I boring?

It’s hard not to get discouraged in these moments, even if you’re lukewarm about the person to begin with. It just leaves you wondering, “WHY DIDN’T HE FALL IN LOVE WITH ME?” And was I in love with him? Certainly not. But somehow that always feels unimportant when you’re in the throes of rejection.

Even though my romance with Cute-Adventurous-Dog-Lover only lasted through two pints of Guinness, I was glad I went. Because I’m realizing that this season of my life isn’t about finding the person I’m meant to be with, but about who I’m becoming on the way to meeting them. It’s not about finding the place I’m meant to be rooted, but what I’m learning about the world while I’m getting there.

 

 

Sometimes these destinations feel so very important: the partner, the career, the home; the fancy, instagrammable vacation. Some days I’m grouchy and tired and sick of walking and can’t help but think, “am I there yet?”

But then there are the other days — those grateful, awe-filled ones. The ones where I open my eyes wider, slow my steps, and absorb the beauty of what my life already is, here, in this exact moment. The ones where I remind myself that this isn’t some interim period where I busy myself before “real life” begins. It’s no less real because I’m single, because I’m not rooted, or because it doesn’t look like I pictured.

 

It’s not about finding the place I’m meant to be rooted, but what I’m learning about the world while I’m getting there.

 

True, I don’t have an easy elevator pitch to describe myself; “Divorced at 28, working multiple jobs, and effectively homeless” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. But it’s my path. And I’m learning not to apologize for or minimize the importance of these in-betweens, even when the bags feels heavy and I’m sick of carrying them. Because it’s here where we step into who we really are.

It’s the broken plans, the dates that go nowhere, and the jobs lost that ultimately push us to our next stop. Maybe the destination isn’t that important, after all. Or, maybe there is no such thing. Maybe we’re already living the most important part.

  • Phoebe Whittle

    Such a great read, I really love the last paragraph. I think you should feel really good about yourself that you just uprooted and booked a plane ticket to London, it takes a lot of courage to do that and it sounds like you’re doing really well!
    P x
    http://www.phoebemw.co.uk

  • Jen

    Ah Caitlin you are wonderful! I loved this article! It reminds me of that movie Under the Tuscan Sun where she moves to Italy on a whim after a divorce. I can’t wait to see all the adventures headed to your brave and resilient self xo

  • I feel so identified with you, especially in the part where the suitcases seem so heavy! I congratulate you for the reflection you’ve written and for having shared it with us. I hope your adventure brings you a lot of joy and wisdom.

    normalinnet.com

  • DJessup

    Thank you for this honest read. I too endured something similar several years ago now. It shook up everything I knew & had planned for. Days, months, and even years felt fleeting and weightless. But I took that time to make myself into the person I wanted to date – the kind of person I wanted to be & wanted to be with. In a tiny apartment I loved and with my pup affectionately labeled the “love of my life,” I recreated myself. Nothing major, but minor changes that occurred as part of the self growth due to major life changes thrust upon me and decided. I’ve determined my trip to Scotland no doubt helped as well. 🙂 Fast forward and I’m a better person because of it. I’m happy. I’m “adjusted,” and, more importantly, I’m hopeful. No small task and nothing to sneer at.

  • I dunno if it was the fact that you were talking about the UK or because I know exactly what you mean but this was one of the most wonderful posts I’ve read for a long time! So inspiring <3

    Teresa | outlandishblog.com

  • I dunno if it was the fact that you were talking about the UK or because I know exactly what you mean but this was one of the most wonderful posts I’ve read for a long time! So inspiring <3

    Teresa | outlandishblog.com

  • CAITLIN!! I imagine you already know how much I enjoy following along with your travels via IG stories, but I *loved* getting to read more about your journey abroad here, too. The lines “…this isn’t some interim period where I busy myself before ‘real life’ begins.” and “Maybe we’re already living the most important part.” GOT ME. You are such a talented writer, friend.

  • Sofia Battaglia

    Loved this piece! I think we all have great loves as we go through life. Just because a love is great doesn’t mean it’s forever. I think that “great love” can be people – friends, lovers, the like – and it can be places. The thing about the path of life is that it is a path of constant change, which is sad and wonderful all at the same time. Thank you for sharing yourself in this piece. It was great!

    x Sofia
    http://www.thecozie.co

  • Elizabeth Riquelme

    I loved the article. And it makes me think that it is not necessary to stay in one place to take root.
    that the heart can be left in many places and that the suitcases should be filled with experiences.

  • Sim

    YAAAAAAASSS honey!!! I loved this piece and by way of it you and your bravery and openness and honesty.I stan you gurl!!!!

  • Mallory Kaufman

    Girl! I just moved to London and am in almost the same place as you- I sold everything I own in New York including my home, packed up the cats (they are my babies) and arrived in London two weeks ago. I have never read anything that I have related to more. If you’re in town get in touch we can hang out!

  • Caitlin

    Amen, Amen, Amen. Thank you for encouraging us to see the beauty in our journey! A much needed reminder that nothing is wasted and no time is lost.

  • Jenna

    “It’s not about finding the place I’m meant to be rooted, but what I’m learning about the world while I’m getting there.”

    Your article truly hit home for me. I’m in my own “in-between phase” at the moment and I’m about to take off on a three-month Europe trip. I loved your article so much. Keep your chin up and keep kicking butt! You got this.

    https://castlesandchampagne.wordpress.com/

  • Girl you are living life and I am stoked for you!!! Keep discovering who you are 🙂

    Allie
    modbroadco.com

  • MissLilly

    I’ve read this yesterday but only today managed to reply back. I loved it. Thanks for sharing something so personal i find you are so brave. I’m not sure if I would have the guts to explore the world on my own. But same as you I believe in small things, in enjoying the now and that the beauty is in discovering the journey more than the destination.

  • Julia

    Girl, your elevator pitch should be: “Open-minded, courageous and ready for new adventures”! Neither of marital / work status or home-ownership defines you as a person. In the end all of the tangible things can be taken away from a person, but YOU, your friends and family is something important that will be always with you. I wish you a wonderful journey wherever life is taking you!

  • Lgraymc

    Such a great read. I often think that the typical Everyday Girl reader is the “adult” you describe “married, owns a home, secure job, instagram-worthy vacation”. So, I think publishing this piece here is great. Good luck to you on your journeys. I can’t imagine the changes you’re going through but as an unmarried 36 year old minimalist I understand the feeling of “not doing adulthood right”. But, I think you are doing it 100% right. Amazing your spirit, amazing this is how you decided to get through a rough time. So brave! Good for you.

  • AngieMarie

    Thank you for your beautifully open and honest post! Life gave you lemons and it sound like you’re making some damn good limoncello!! Keep exploring and living the life you want for yourself, not the life others think you should be. Married, not married, home owner, renter, #girlboss or cat lady, these things don’t define you unless you let then. Btw.. have you thought about writing a memoir?? I’m sure every everygirl would love to read it!

  • Jenny Tzakova

    Beautiful article! Where is the place you photographed in picture 2 and 4? It is England I am sure, but where exactly?

    Thank you and take care!

  • Kay

    Such an amazing read! In the past year I, too, have gone through a divorce that have left me a bit in an identity crisis – or more so – trying to remember who I really was before getting married and searching for that deeper meaning of life. I do rent a one bedroom and have material possessions, which is already more than a lot of people own, but I still feel “in between” a lot these days. Freelancing, trying to grow a design business and a lifestyle blog, searching for the real “true” love (or maybe just someone brave enough to not desert me when I need them the most), healing my childhood, looking for ways to feel a sense of community and belonging in a country that isn’t really my own, have all been the hallmark of the last two years and while there are days of extreme joy and happiness, I still have those days when I ask myself “when will I finally be THERE?”. Thank you for your beautiful sharing and for reminding me that life is here and now and I’m not “less then” just because my path is different than most people’s. Hugs <3

    xoxo
    Kay | Style Unsettled
    https://www.styleunsettled.com

  • Vanessa Valiente

    The best blog post I have read all year. And I read a lot. Brava! Cheers to the in-between!

    vstyleblog.com