Thursday, July 09, 2009

Finding My Independence

Last night, I decided to read through the travel journal I kept when I went to England last October. I made the conscious decision to travel by myself on this journey for a few reasons. One, I had a lot of turmoil going on in my personal life and I needed to get away and think. Two, I wanted to have no agenda but my own, and three, I wanted to see if I could do it.

You see, since my marriage in 1999, I had felt that my sense of adventure and my independent spirit had not disappeared, but had definitely retreated. Raising a daughter and two stepsons, and dealing with the "bad" things in my marriage had been difficult. I found my self-esteem starting to drop and I developed a rather craven attitude (to me) of wanting to stay in the house all the time, not meet new people, not do new things. In short, I wanted to be "safe." I could control the world in my house - to an extent. (Or so I thought. I realize now that I wasn't controlling it at all - it was controlling me). I couldn't control the outside world. So I stayed in the safe zone.

After almost ten years of that, my soul craved adventure. It begged me to go somewhere, anywhere, and to see if I could recapture that spirit I held when I was in college, when I piled into a van of college students (that I barely knew) and drove all the way from Chadron, Nebraska, to New Orleans; when I went to England in 1995 with another group of college students and had the absolute time of my life - no panic attacks, no wondering if I could be a worldwide traveler, but just knowing that I could do it.

My journal entries reveal something rather fascinating. At first, I can see my hesitation, my insecurity, my wondering, "Can I do this? Do I still have it in me?" Slowly, the renewal begins to shine through the words. As I navigated the public transportation system in England (which I had no experience with last time I was there as we had a chartered bus take us everywhere) and figured how to get myself around, as I went and saw the things I wanted to see and got myself back home again, as I chatted with the locals, as I tried new foods, my spirit of adventure came to life again.

And so did my independence.

That trip changed me, in more ways than one. It made me realize that I am a woman quite capable of taking care of herself in a foreign country (even when I got food poisoning!), quite capable of figuring things out on my own, and quite capable of taking charge of my own life. It made me more confident, stronger, and gave me more courage.

In fact, here's a line from my blog while I was blogging from England: If you've got the wherewithal to do it, I highly suggest traveling on your own. It will make you dig deep inside yourself for strength and courage that you didn't know you had. You'll go through a myriad of emotions: fear that you're doing this by yourself, panic that you might not figure things out, giddiness when you do figure things out, and pride that you did it.

This trip also gave me the courage and strength to make some tough decisions in my personal life. I'd decided upon a divorce before I left, but this trip gave me the time to really think things through and I realized that I had lost myself in my marriage. Because of my husband's alcoholism and so, so many other things (and believe me, I know I wasn't perfect, either. I became the ultimate co-dependent), I had lost that woman I had been in college and right after college.

But she's back.

England was the turning point I needed to find myself again, to do what was right for me and my daughter, to discover who I am in this crazy world. It's changed who I am today, as a mother, as a daughter, a sister, a coworker and friend - and as a writer. My independent nature is an integral part of me. It was buried for awhile, but now that it's reemerged, it has made me a stronger, more mature, and much more confident woman.

Let freedom ring!


  1. What a fabulous post, Melissa. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on traveling.

    I'm a home body. I don't have this huge drive to travel like my husband does, but I never regret when he drags me along. I will confess I don't think I'd travel alone abroad, the States maybe.

    But good for you and I hope to wish you "Bon Voyage!" a lot in the future. :-)

  2. Raising my coffee cup in a toast in your honor! With that solo journey to Europe, you showed amazing strength and confidence. What a test to live through, and you passed in flying colors. Kudos to you for knowing, and "owning" your self.

  3. Let freedom ring, indeed. Good for you.

  4. I believe you. It took major guts to write this post. I hope you get to don the big girl pantaloons again soon and have another adventure!! :)

  5. I remember finding you online when you were in England. I was so amazed at your strength and independence and willpower to do that trip alone. I understand that feeling of losing our freedom--whether self-imposed or not.
    I admire you for what you have done and who you are:)

  6. Sounds like it was just the perfect trip for you (even with food poisoning). I'd love for an adventure like that. . .maybe someday!

  7. I'm so happy for you, Melissa. How daunting it would be to travel alone (especially in the midst of personal difficulty) and I am certain it was the ultimate joy to discover that you did just fine on your own! I wonder how much I put aside...I think I will have to try out a few new things.

  8. It will be so fun when I can travel again - I did the college trip to England, too, and have done some business travel, but the kids have really kept me tied to home for now. I have to tell myself that life is all about seasons, and I'll have another season of that sort of adventure. Life is another sort of adventure for now. ;) Even taking the whole family out to dinner is tough these days!

  9. A great post, Melissa. Making a trip like that alone is a scary thing to do - but a wonderful way to find your real self.

    And when I saw you, you could have fooled anyone into thinking you were the seasoned traveller well used to jetting around the world on her own!

  10. I remember being so impressed that you were going to England on your own; I've known so few people who travel alone, and it's certainly something I had never considered. Kudos to you for pushing your horizons and reaping the rewards. Your trip is an inspiration!

  11. Your story is no doubt a blessing to many people, Melissa. Thank you for sharing it.

  12. This is one of your best posts yet. I agree traveling alone can be so uplifting. It's invigorating to be by yourself. To realize you are more than the rest of the world sees you.

    Have a lovely weekend!

  13. Oh, well, Melissa, you know me by now, I think. I've always travelled alone, except when I dragged my handsome teenage sons around Europe a couple of times, just to show off.

    But travelling alone means no delays, no squabbles, no indecisiveness (other than your own). You get to meet some interesting people who feel you must need company, and sometimes they are spot on!

    Oh, and never do the tour package thing. Deadly for the independent soul.

  14. I'm so glad you listened to that need to have your independence. It sounds like you are blossoming.


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