Having courage to stretch

Hello, world! I’ve been trying to figure out, fundamentally, why do I travel? Someone once invited me to figure out whether I’m running away from something or running to something. Interesting how this dichotomy exists, eh? I’ve gone back and forth over the years between these two simplified reasons or themes behind traveling.

As I prepare for my newest travel assignment, I recognize that maybe I have been both “running away” and “running to.” How is that so?

Well, I’ve realized that at the center of what compels me to travel and move around is this messy concept in life called expectations. We all enter this world with external expectations placed on us, whether we like them or not. And we all grow up to develop expectations of ourselves and the world, whether consciously or subconsciously.

The very existence of expectations can be icky. Expectations placed on us often create stress, pressure, fear, resentment, and discomfort. Expectations we inevitably have of people and circumstances, in turn, can create disappointment, pressure, fear, and discomfort.

From my traveler lifestyle, I notice I have managed to distance myself (at least somewhat) from certain expectations that have been placed on me since before I was even born into the world. Expectations from my personal life didn’t feel so heavy and scary when I was on the road. Traveling has also helped me lower the expectations I would project into the world of both others and myself.

When we feel free(er) of deep-rooted expectations and narratives, we are better able to learn to just be, and to share our love and light with the world. It’s challenging to do that when you’re limited by patterns and certain ways of being while in a static environment. I’m certainly not saying inner freedom is impossible while staying in one place; I’m just noticing that traveling has helped me see my own life from different perspectives that have been healing.

Every new environment I have worked in or traveled to welcomed and embraced me with genuine appreciation just for being there, for existing. Because of my distance from unrealistic expectations from, let’s say, hard-working immigrant parents, traditional Chinese grandparents, pressure from other elderly relatives to be “obedient,” projections from peers to be “successful” — anyone who looked up to me or projected their own beliefs and desires of what I “should” be, I was able to create physical and mental/emotional space — a barrier perhaps — to focus on this very manageable expectation at hand: Just show up and do your best. Life feels less complicated then.

The point is, traveling these years has allowed me at least to start recognizing what my inner burnt-out-from-impressing-everyone-else child needs (or what she’s “running to”). She needs acceptance, appreciation, and the freedom to just be, and to know it’s completely okay not to be anything but imperfect, human, and growing — to know that she is loved and accepted exactly where she is on her journey through life.

She *doesn’t* need (what she’s “running away from”) the burden of expectations from those who have known her for a long time — expectations of growing a certain way, walking a certain path, living a certain life that others would understand and approve of. She doesn’t want a life filled with complacency, judgment, limitation, and unequivocal obedience (which, by the way, is the highest praise you could receive in Chinese culture being disciplined and obedient). She wants to feel and be free.

Doesn’t every inner child ultimately want that?

On the flip side of that desire for freedom, how does one maintain a healthy network of support? Time and intention are obviously necessary ingredients in the sustainability and evolution of any relationship. People don’t just start caring about someone they haven’t known for a long time. Well, okay, *most* people don’t — I’m still learning to own that I am a big empath and I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.

But chances are many of us who have chosen career paths centered around helping others and serving others have a big heart and do actually care. The important thing is we need to practice and maintain self-love, and that is the first, very important step to keeping expectations in check and setting ourselves free. The more confident we feel about ourselves, the more likely we are to reach out to people, whether we’ve known them for 10 years or 10 days.

We can choose to be fulfilled and supported once we know that we deserve it and push through the self-doubt and fears. This creates growth. This creates resilience. This is something traveling has taught me all these years. So I’d like to invite you to take yourself out of your comfort zone and stretch, wherever you are. Stretch into the unfamiliar spaces with intention and courage. I’m rooting for you.

Until next time, may the spring season bring you sunshine, stretch zones, and the unlocking of self-acceptance.

With love,