It is funny how when bad things happen to people they try to make changes to their lives. They get a new haircut, buy some new clothes, decide to take up running, quit their job, date few random people, or in my case they travel.
When my husband of 5 years and partner for 9 years, asked me for a divorce after he came to a conclusion that I loved volunteering in Africa more than I loved our marriage at home I thought my world came to an end. My first thought was that my life was over, and my immediate second thought was well now I can travel without feeling guilty.
Suffice to say that our marriage was not as important to me as it should have been. So how did I make a change? I sat down two days later and divided up our house into what he wanted and what I wanted and I started selling off all the things I “wanted.” I had an estate sale, a few garage sales; I tried to sell stuff on Craig’s List and started planning my year away from home. It sounds very “Eat, Pray, Love” but I did not have the luxury of a fancy book deal and unlimited funds to find myself.
I buried myself into as many jobs as possible, pretended the depression I felt from my failed marriage didn’t exist, and worked myself to the point of a breakdown in the middle of my doctor’s office when she asked me how I was during a routine physical. That lead to a prescription of Zoloft and Zanax, that was happily discussed by some of my family members, and a purchase of my around-the-world plane ticket. I made a list of all the places I wanted to go in my life and all the friends I had around the world.
After living in London for a 18 months of my life before getting married, traveling to Africa for 3 years during my marriage, starting a non-profit that provided educational opportunities to others, that list of potential friends to visit was longer than most. With my lists I started planning my course. I would spend 11 months in Tanzania and I would spend 3 months before traveling to visit friends (which helped cut down the costs of the trip).
My plan was to start couch surfing in New Zealand (home to cousin Mae and husband Mark) then head to Melbourne, Australia (home to London friend, Sarah her husband Juergan and their 3 kids under 4, Xavier, Finn and Amalia). After that I would head to Sydney Australia (home to friend from Africa-Kat and her family) and spend time on their farm in Orange Australia.
Since I was fresh from a divorce everyone offered for me to read the Eat Pray Love book, which I couldn’t seem to start or finish but from their descriptions of the book, Bali sounded awesome. And I was quite intrigued by Hindu culture so I thought South East Asia? Sure!
I booked a homestay in Ubud, Indonesia and then a surfing camp for a week on the west coast. I definitely thought, “Hey how is a plus size woman going to do that?” but I had never been one to stop myself from trying. After that, I thought, “Why not hit up Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos while I am in the area?”
My plan was to then arrive in Tanzania ready to do work for our non-profit but also to use it as a home base to travel to some areas around Africa. I always wanted to go to Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa and Kenya so I decided to check it out a bit while I was there. I am not going to lie – in my mind this trip was going to be a way to find myself, meet new people, possibly find a real prince charming and see the world. Luckily my job gave me a sabbatical from work and away I went.
Throughout this last 12 months I have travelled to New Zealand trekking mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, and hot springs. I have visited Australia to see kangaroos, dingos, penguins, the Sydney opera house and the culture of Melbourne. I have surfed the green waves of the Indian Ocean, road a bike down a volcano in Bali, ate fried spiders in Thailand, cheered on dragon boats at local water festival in Laos, and stood in awe at the amazing buildings of Ankor Wat in Cambodia.
I have learned Swahili in Tanzania, stood at the Southern tip of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope, and climbed Table mountain in Cape Town South Africa. I have hiked through a jungle to stand next to Mountain gorillas in Rwanda, toured an ancient sacred forest in Kenya, and stood at the source of the Nile River in Uganda. I have also spent 11 months in Tanzania working on EdPowerment.org, the non-profit organization I helped build, which provides educational opportunities to those who lacked access.
Each and every day of this adventure I have thought back to the day my husband presented me with divorce papers and my thought that life was over and I think, “Wow, my life was only beginning.” Traveling the world alone and working in a developing country has opened my eyes to the amazing things life can bring. I have discover new things, met new amazing people, and seen so much more of the world. But the most important lesson I took away from it all is that life is not a cookie cutter mold where everyone has a husband, house, kids, and a good job. Life can be different for everyone. It can be a place where insects are eaten as snacks, multiple languages are spoken by children, and even plus size woman can surf.