Happy New Year. I welcomed the year in a state of self-pity, thanks to a house guest that refused to leave after the holidays: a two-week long cold. Instead of embracing the sense of renewal January 1st brings, I binge-watched Orange is the New Black (at night) and PBS Kids (during the day) and heated up can after can of store-bought soup for meals on end. Now we’re two weeks in to 2015 and I’m finally re-entering the world.
I did make a resolution though, and I’m excited to share it with you. I made it back in December, when I was giving advice to a student in one of my classes who was deciding what to do after graduation. I said something to him I believe with my whole heart: Taking a year to travel abroad is one of the most valuable acts of self-discovery you can invest in, and you should do it while you are young, because it only get more difficult as you get older.
Boy, don’t I know that to be true. I did this “discovery year” in India right after college, and then I did it again, in Senegal, not too long thereafter. At that time, I owned so few material things that they could almost all fit in a backpack and suitcase and my standard of living was low enough that I could sleep almost anywhere and eat almost anything. The daily adventure of being in a foreign country was what mattered to me. Now, the diaper bag I leave the house with weighs almost as much as my 20-month-old son and my day can be soured if I don’t get the right kind of milk in my morning coffee.
Still, I want that “discovery year,” and this year I resolve to make it happen without having to leave the sixteen mile circumference around home, work, Gabe’s nanny, and the grocery store in which 95% of my life takes place.
What is it that I want to discover? I know from experience that holding expectations for any voyage is a way to ensure disappointment; as the Senegalese taught me, “Man plans, God decides.” But I do have an idea of what I’m looking for. Recently, I read Oprah’s “What I Know for Sure,” and this passage stuck with me like that cold that just wouldn’t go away:
“Too often we block the power that is ever-present and available to us, because we’re so wrapped up in doing that we lose sight of being.
I often wonder what Steve Jobs felt when he uttered his last words: ‘Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Oh, wow.’
I wonder if it was the same vision the mother of a 26-year-old cancer patient shared on my show years ago. With his last breath, her son had said, ‘Oh, Mom, it’s so simple.’
I believe we make our paths far more difficult that they need to be. Our struggle with and resistance to what is entangles us in constant chaos and frustration – when it’s all so simple.”
I resolve to discover a simpler, more joyful life, and to discover myself not through physical travel, but through exploration of a different kind. What exactly that involves I don’t know for sure, although there are a few things that I pack for any big trip: a gratitude practice, reading, and writing. What else is out there, I’ve yet to see.
I hope you’ll come along with me on The Discovery Year. If you want to, join the email community below.