We’re sitting half-way up on one of the platforms of the Pyramid of the Sun, resting our sore legs and catching our breath. Suddenly, the señora next to us starts shouting, “Ladies and gentleman, this is marvelous!” She goes on to encourage the others who are still trekking up the steep steps, “I am capable! I can, I want to, I will do it!” We giggle as she continues doing a little happy dance, saying “Go away egotism, sickness, and insecurity! I welcome love and happiness!” Her positivity is contagious and I am feeling incredibly blessed.
Climbing pyramids sure beats the Stair Master!
Six years ago, I remember standing on top of these same ruins, a young 19 year old full of excitement and hope for my future. It was a life changing moment for me. As I looked down at the remnants of this ancient civilization, I remember thinking that anything was possible. I believed that I could and would conquer the world (or at least see as much of it as humanly possible). I felt free and capable of doing anything I set my heart on. As a young teenager on my own for the first time, I saw the possibilities and experiences that traveling offered and I only wanted more.
The first time I visited Teotihuacan in 2007. I’m second from the right!
Of course, I had no idea the next four years would bring some of the most difficult moments of my life, or that this enthusiasm would wane as survival mode took its place.
After returning home from my semester abroad, reverse culture shock hit hard and unexpectedly. As I struggled through summer school and a bad break-up, a deep depression took hold. Life continued to throw obstacles my way and just as I thought I was starting to get my feet underneath of me again, a year long illness robbed me of any fighting power I had left. I became used to treading water and ignoring the naive 19 year old still inside of me who wanted more than the life I was currently leading. My family, a stable career, and responsibility began to hold me in place. Like layers of seaweed clinging to an anchor, I allowed excuses and obligation to weigh me down. I didn’t know what to do with my life so I just kept prodding along, hoping that I would eventually settle into a routine I could live with.
And then I made a choice. I allowed myself to dream again. Sitting in lawn chairs with our toes in the water after a weekend float-trip, my friend Marlise and I began scheming. What if we took a month off and traveled Europe together? We were both nurses and could afford to do it. Our jobs offered the flexibility for the time off, so why not? We began planning, and a few months later we bought our tickets to Italy, Greece, and Istanbul.
Kayaking around the Greek island Milos in Greece, 2011.
That vacation reignited in me the same excitement and enthusiasm I felt for life when I was 19, standing on top of the ruins of Teotihuacan. I started believing that I could be happy again, that I could, and still wanted to conquer the world.
That was over two years ago. During my time in Europe an idea slowly took hold. What if I traveled on a more long-term basis, even if it were only for six months to a year? The more I let this thought percolate the more I realized how badly I needed to drastically change my routine and take a leap of faith. I started looking to others for inspiration and as I talked to experienced travelers, the courage to follow in their footsteps began to grow. I started reading travel blogs and saving my money. I started dreaming bigger. This March I took the plunge and finally quit my job. As I planned my destinations for a year of travel, it only made sense that Mexico would be at the top of the list.
The ruins of Teotihuacan are still as impressive as ever!
As the señora next to me continues her dance of self-affirmation I’m tempted to stand up and join her. A lot has changed in the six years since I’ve looked at this incredible view. I’m older, wiser, and a little more worn for the wear. But I’m here. I came back to honor that young 19 year old who wasn’t afraid to say, “I am capable! I can, I want to, I will do it!” and that feels pretty good.
Have you had a travel experience that inspired you in a similar way? Where was the first place you traveled to and what kind of impression did it leave?