My International Travel Promise To Myself

Copyright : Sebastien Decoret

Back in 2014, I made a promise to myself that I would visit a foreign country, preferably one I had not visited before, every even-numbered year. I designated every even year primarily as a means to give myself enough time to prepare my schedule and my finances to be able to travel every other year, and I also chose that interval because I felt a strong itch to visit a foreign country in 2014.

Why was I struck with this idea in 2014? One reason was that I suddenly realized that year that I had not taken a bona fide vacation since 2007. The second and more compelling reason stemmed from deep conversations I had with my dear friend and meditation teacher, who was quickly succumbing to a very aggressive and deadly brain tumor. On more than one occasion during my visits with him, he told me, “Don’t wait to do the things you have always wanted to do, because you might run out of time to do them.”

What Rob told me really got me thinking. I thought of how my mom had a number of big dreams dashed because she had always pushed them to the side, believing that she either didn’t deserve to pursue them, or that her dreams would never come to fruition. For example, she had entertained a strong interest in travel, but she always made excuses for why she couldn’t go on vacations or getaways. In fact, the only “vacations” she ever took were when one of her siblings fell ill or died, and she had to fly to Hawaii to visit. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t think such trips should ever count as vacations, especially since they are so emotionally difficult. It’s not like my mom went to Hawaii and had a grand time at the funerals she attended.

Though I had traveled to various destinations for reasons other than the death of a relative, I knew that I had also fallen into a similar trap of making excuses about being too busy to take a vacation. So in the Spring of 2014 I decided to travel to Prague to compete in an IFBB Pro event, and figured that I would also visit Hungary, which was on my bucket list of destinations to visit.

My friend Rob passed away on April 29, 2014. After spending several weeks grieving for him, I decided to act upon my proposed travel plans to Eastern Europe. As I was planning the trip, I realized that since I would be in prep for a bodybuilding show, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Prague as a vacationing traveler, and also realized that I would only have a couple of days to explore Hungary. I ultimately decided not to compete, and instead booked a 7-day trip to Hungary which I completed in September of 2014.

Hungary turned out to be just as magical as I imagined it to be, and I honestly felt like I was honoring my dearly departed friend Rob when I was there. By an incredible stroke of luck, I was able to travel to Sydney, Australia and Bali the following month. Satisfied with having traveled to 3 new countries, I resolved to go somewhere new in 2016.

In March of 2016, I flew to Costa Rica, adding to my list of foreign destinations and keeping my promise to Rob and myself to travel internationally in an even year. After my Costa Rica trip, I wasn’t able to save money consistently for a trip in 2018, but whenever I had a chance to set something aside, I did.

I’m proud to say that I have fulfilled my promise yet again this year, when I traveled to the Maldives in September, and to Thailand earlier this month. Both trips were absolutely amazing, and I feel spiritually richer because of those experiences. I love the fact that I am able to say that I added six new countries in the last 5 years to my foreign travel roster, and I have every intention of adding to the list in 2020. My goal is to save up for a trip to Japan in 2020, but if I am unable to save enough money to travel to that destination, I will select a more reasonably priced excursion so that I can stay on track with my travel goals.

For those of you who are curious about what foreign countries I have visited, here is the list:

England (1980)
France (1980)
Switzerland (1980)
Italy (1980)
Germany (1980)
Austria (1980)
Greece (1980)
Turkey (1980)
Hungary (2014)
Mexico (1986, 1989, 1992)
Costa Rica (2016)
Australia (Sydney) (2014)
Bali (2014)
Maldives (2018)
Thailand (2018)

It will be exciting to think about what countries I will visit in the future. Some of the countries on my list include: Fiji, Bora Bora, Spain, Egypt, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, New Zealand, Nepal.

For those of you who dream of traveling, but who always seem to find a roadblock when trying to plan a trip, how about setting a similar goal to the one I have set for myself? You would give yourself at least a year to save up money between trips, and you would be able to travel to destinations you’ve always wanted to see.

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The White Dove

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My mother’s family believes very strongly that departed spirits return to the physical world in winged form. This belief was handed down to me, and is so deeply ingrained that I am always keenly aware of the presence of birds and insects I encounter when a loved one has recently passed away.

When my favorite aunt passed away last December, I didn’t feel her energy around me at all. This was in stark contrast to when my dear friend Rob Willhite passed away in April of 2014. Right after Rob died, he hovered around my meditation table and my bed, and left coins on my bed, bathroom counter, desk chair, and car seat. His energy was heavy, palpable.

I began to accept the possibility that I wasn’t as spiritually connected with my aunt as I had always thought. I traveled to Oahu the third week of January and spent the days leading up to my aunty’s funeral getting reacquainted with the island. I still felt no connection with my aunt’s spirit.

The day of the funeral arrived with a vengeance, spewing rain and strong winds which were the exact opposite of the balmy, sunny days which led up to it. The funeral service was odd, and seeing my aunt’s embalmed corpse was alarming to me. It was definitely an empty vessel.

For the first time ever, I served as a pallbearer. As we carried the casket out to the hearse, the rain began to fall again. By the time the funeral procession had arrived at the cemetery, the rain was steady, and the winds were so fierce that it threw a few of the folding chairs at the site into the air.

During the burial ceremony, the priest stood in front of the casket, with his back to the interment site which awaited my aunt’s body. While he spoke, the winds whipped furiously, pushing the rain into us and rendering the protection of the tent we were sitting under completely useless. One particularly assertive gust of wind hit, and I looked up despite risking getting a face full of rain. As soon as I glanced up, a single white dove flew up from the exact position where my aunt’s final resting place would be, made a sweeping arc behind the priest, and flew up into the sky. That was the sign I was looking for. Aunty was there.

The next evening I returned to Los Angeles, and because I was battling a wicked case of bronchitis, I chose to sleep on the sofa downstairs so that I wouldn’t wake anyone upstairs. By some miracle I actually got a decent night’s sleep that night. When I woke up the next morning, I put my left foot down onto the floor, and noticed a single white feather right next to my foot. Another sign.

That feather is now in a pouch with a mala my friend Rob gave me.