I spent the Fourth of July weekend in Arkansas with family and friends. As I made the drive from Texas to Arkansas and back, I had plenty of time to think. As I considered the holiday, I became thoughtful about freedom and what it means to me. Unsurprisingly, my thoughts quickly landed on the freedom to travel and how grateful I am that my life includes the opportunity to go to new places and have novel experiences. Sure, there are a limited number of places that I, as a single woman, am unlikely to go, but there are abundantly more places on this earth to which I can go without hesitation.
Out of curiosity, I searched for “women travel pioneers” and found this list on Wikipedia. What an inspirational group of women! I may not have aspirations to be the “first” woman to do something or to set any records, but reading about the lives of these women inspires me to take full advantage of the freedom to travel for which they paved the way. These women, and others, accomplished the seemingly impossible, overcoming cultural norms and gender barriers to fly airplanes and climb mountains and document in black and white photographs their journeys to unfamiliar and sometimes dangerous places. As a result, no one (except perhaps my parents) thinks twice when I mention that I want to go to Peru next year on my own. There is no reason why, if I so desire, I cannot simply hop in my car for a last-minute road trip this weekend. However, I am also mindful that this freedom is not one afforded to women everywhere and that I am fortunate to live in a country where women have the same rights as men. The freedom and ability to travel, especially as a woman, is something I do not want to take for granted.
How do I honor the legacy of these courageous woman and the freedom I have to travel? For me, it begins with the act of actually traveling – taking advantage of every opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone to learn about other people and cultures in order to broaden my own understanding of the world and myself.
But more than that, it is about the willingness to embrace the unknown and the unexpected in my day-to-day life. I am at a crossroads in my life with possibilities stretching out in front of me in every direction. Although there have been other times in my life when I have made important decisions, such as where I wanted to go to college and who I wanted to marry, these decisions were generally in line with a predetermined pattern, one that looked strikingly similar to the lives of those around me. There were only rare moments of uncertainty and doubt. It is so tempting to go back to this path because it is paved with familiarity. But now I can also see other roads, enticing, yet certain to contain the unexpected and perhaps the unconventional. As I consider what is next for me, I want to choose “the road less travelled” despite the fear and uncertainty. Because by accepting the inevitable uncertainty along a new path, I give myself possibilities and hope, hope that, by making different choices than the ones I have made before, I can have a different kind of life. Yes, a life with heartbreak and pain and bad days just like any other, but the opportunity to live those days amid the good kind of days of my choosing. Days filled with beauty and friendship and, of course, travel. So that is how I want to use my freedom – walking down a road to the unknown with trepidation, anticipation, and hope because that road leads me to where I want to go, not just where I have been.
The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have. – Anna Quindlen
I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it. – Rosalia de Castro
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. – JRR Tolkien
I will be back next week to wrap up my recent trip to Tennessee. In the meantime, I am curious about your thoughts on travel and freedom. Please share! Also, if you want to ensure that you never miss a post, you can subscribe to my blog using the box on the right.