Years ago, I started a successful travel blog. No Money, Will Travel chronicled my life as an eighteen year old Canadian girl who embarked on a backpacking adventure under the idea that to live life is to explore life. A full-time student and part-time dreamer, I used my blog to write about my travels and to prove to the world and myself that I could do anything, even on a student budget! I started my blog as a medium to express myself, my thoughts, and my views. More than anything, I wanted to, no, needed to, meet like-minded people who understood the benefits of travel and adventure. When I first decided to go out into the world alone, my family and friends told me I couldn’t do it; that I shouldn’t do it. They were wrong to discourage me. That’s why I wrote. I wanted to challenge the general perceptions surrounding both student and solo travel. Ultimately, my blog was meant to inspire and create dialogue concerning travel and its overall tangibility.
Out of nowhere, I gained a substantial following. My website was viewed by more than a million people. My Pinterest posts circulated into the millions. My inbox was inundated with business requests and inspirational messages from followers. But, there was something missing. I traveled to find the story. I traveled to generate content. No longer was my blog a medium for self exploration. No longer did I find value in visiting new places and acquiring new experiences. At some point, it became a cycle of checking off destinations and admiring the stamps on my passport. Writing posts, I felt empty. I imitated other bloggers by posting what was marketable rather than what was personal.
There was a disconnect between my virtual and authentic self. I was going through the motions. The illusion I created portrayed a solo female traveler content with “getting the photo” through isolating experiences that were demonstrative of my being independent, of“finding myself”. When I returned from my trip, I quit travel blogging altogether. The following year I committed myself to a four month South America backpacking adventure that took a course of its own. It was the first time I had travelled for myself. I became selfish. I needed to be selfish. After all that time, I needed to do me. No judgment. No questions asked.
Being alone in nature felt like a return home, a peaceful abode far away from the the mundane routine of conventionality. It had been many months since I had the time to be introspective, to sit with my thoughts and let them consume me whole. Returning from my backpacking trip to South America, I was angry. The hours spent on the trail, alone with my thoughts, unleashed past hurts and the tragedies of my childhood. I felt alone in this world, and I couldn’t help but ask why it was that even with the best of intentions I had to continue to struggle. It took many months to heal, and in those months I changed. Home changed. I started online dating and met the most incredible partner, Martin, who challenges me each and every single day. The numerous facets of our relationship have torn down my walls, allowing me to love again. Because of him, I once again believe in the power of the self and the beauty of the universe. Travel, the thing I once loved most, has been replaced. You’re right, I am no longer a solo female traveller who books plane tickets to confirm her Escape. I am now a passionate and partnered female traveller whose story is not quite over.