It’s official, summer is over and the first day of autumn has arrived, at least in the Northern hemisphere. The kids are back in school, the leaves are just beginning to change, and pumpkin spice is in everything from cornbread to beer; my favorite season is upon us.
Still, as in love with autumn as I am, its arrival has confirmed that for the first time since 2009, I stayed in the country for the summer months. I can’t say I didn’t travel, because I did take small road trips, but it is strange that the last time I was on a plane was in May.
I can’t complain, I’ve seen more of the world than most people my age, especially most Americans. Plus, this past year, I’ve traveled a lot, so it’s hard to justify being sad about my summer trip not happening. On the other hand, of course, I’m upset because the plans I had never happened. This time last year, I was scheming my big summer trip and to realize that I never left the country is sometimes hard to come to terms with.
As a teacher, summer is prime time for me to travel. Those two months off are perfect to take advantage of and get out there and see the world. In that time, I usually am able to add multiple countries and continents to my list. This summer was set up to be my biggest yet, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me, as event after event destroyed all of my plans. It was difficult to admit that I wasn’t going to wind up going anywhere, but there were many lessons learned by not leaving the country.
While trapped at home, I realized that I didn’t have to travel around the world to have fun or learn something new about myself. For many of the years I had traveled, I was using my time away as my escape, since my day to day life was not something I was in love with.
But, just this spring, after several events in my personal life, I began to develop a gratitude for the life I had at home, one that made me not want to escape. The trip this summer was no longer about running away, but instead something I wanted to do, something I was excited about. What I didn’t realize at the time was that through my new-found gratitude for home, I’d find a deeper understanding for my life by being stuck in the United States for the summer.
The biggest lesson I learned was that it’s important to take care of my finances. I’m not one to worry about a budget while traveling, and when everything is going well that’s fine, but as I learned with this experience, it’s more important than I thought. I lost a lot of money when my trip fell apart, and I didn’t budget enough to fix it, plus as a teacher, I don’t get paid over the summer. All of these issues combined, proved disastrous for my summer plans, but it taught me a valuable lesson, and from now on, my finances some first. My goals for the autumn are to pay off any debts that I have, and then focus on saving my money, not only for more travel experiences, but also for some investments here at home.
I also was able to learn who my true friends were through this experience. During that first week when all of my problems erupted, so many people reached out and were there to offer kind words and support. These people were my rock during that time, and I don’t know how I would have made it through without them.
It’s amazing that when something goes wrong, or there’s a bump in the road, you realize who is there for you and who has your back. From friends who had been by my side for years to ones I barely knew, so many offered a helping hand, an ear to listen, or plan to get me out of the house and distract me from the issues at hand. I am so grateful to have people like this in my life, even if it also made me aware of all the people who didn’t reach out.
Finally, I have learned that there’s something so nice about taking time to relax and spend time with family and friends. This past summer gave me much needed relaxation time that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I spent a lot of the school year traveling, and it was nice to get the chance to catch up on sleep and get back to properly taking care of myself. I completely changed my diet to eliminate processed food and sugars, and I am exercising on a regular basis. I feel like an entirely new person this school year, and by not escaping and dealing with issues here at home, I made myself a happier person.
When all of this happened, it was at a time in my life where I was feeling really off-centered. I figured travel would fix my problems and cure me of my negativity, but what I learned was that by staying home and really taking care of myself, I was able to get back on track. In fact, it’s been a while since I have been as happy as I currently am, and I have an energy that I haven’t had in years. It’s exactly the opposite reaction I thought would have happened from all my troubles, but I’m so glad to be where I am at the moment.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t always have to escape or travel around the world to find myself or to find happiness. It’s deep inside of me, and it always will be no matter where I am or who I am with. Sometimes we need some one-on-one time with ourselves to really recenter and remember that it’s important to take care of ourselves.
While it wasn’t my ideal summer, and I have no incredible stories of far off lands to tell, I know that I still have plenty of the world to see and so much time to see it. Plus, now that I’m in a better place mentally, I think it will mean that much more when I get there, especially after all I’ve been through.