In so many of us, there’s a little voice, somewhere in the back of our minds, whispering, encouraging, begging us, sometimes, to give up all this “real world” bullshit and get away. Move to France, live in a tent, sail the ocean blue.
This is nothing new, and seems to be baked into the human experience. It’s practically the Hero’s Journey itself. Boy is called to adventure. Boy answers call. Boy goes through trials. Boy has help from friends. Boy saves the day. Boy is changed. Boy returns home.
But, we women, don’t have a Hero’s tale of our own. We’ve been tasked with staying home while Boy is off on the path to adventure and self discovery. We’ve been cooking, and cleaning, and raising the children, and paying the mortgage while our Frodos and Luke Skywalkers and Huck Finns are out there on the journey.
We’re left to mute and muzzle that little voice. To brush it off as crazy or irresponsible or self-indulgent. Maybe we dabble with a gap year or a volunteer trip, but then are soon to get caught up in the cycle of responsibilities, and civilities, and we start to surge ahead in the rat race.
Then, not too long ago the novel Eat, Pray, Love came along and very publicly gave us a conversation starter. A road map for a woman(!), to look at her life – complete with great job and handsome husband and big house – and decide it wasn’t enough. Decide to answer the call. Decide to step out on the journey. But Elizabeth Gilbert isn’t the only one who’s breaking the mold and following her heart. There are thousands of women out there traveling, learning, pilgrimaging, choosing adventure.
My friend and eternal inspiration, Kara Latta, is one of these women. She’s young, and smart, and beautiful. She’s a passionate dancer. She grew up in Burlington, Ontario and traveled, as one does, through college and her early 20s before settling into the grind.
She found a good job that was fulfilling and fun and looked good on her. She poured herself into it. Worked hard. Moved up. She was happy. Until one day she was not. Until she found herself drifting off centre. Walking through days, diluting her passion. She used her social life to fill her cup, fill the growing void she was feeling at work.
But every time she had a true taste of joy and freedom – whether dancing or out with friends or on vacation – it made the contrast between that happy place and her work life more clear. It started off subtly, but Kara was listening, tuning in, taking stock. The voice was getting louder, more persistent. Other people’s admissions that they “wish they had traveled more” or “done x” while they were young, reverberated like a church bell in her mind.
Then one day, she found the courage. She stepped into her own light, and stepped up to meet her true self. She quit her job, boxed up her things, bought a one-way ticket to Columbia.
Her parents balked! Her friends were baffled. It wasn’t safe! She was making such good connections and getting such good experience at work.
But as soon as she made the decision, as soon as she answered the call, she started feeling better. Then, one foot in front of the other, she went. She left. Sunglasses on, passport in hand, computer-less, she embarked on the Heroine’s Journey.
In Columbia and Ecuador, she is learning Spanish, speaking Spanish, teaching dance classes, reading, contemplating, meeting new people, traveling in the beds of pickup trucks with chickens, swimming, hiking, eating, exploring.
She’s happy and her life is vibrant. Her cup runneth over.
Now it’s not all roses. She reminds me that this is not a vacation, it’s a lifestyle. She’s fighting off bed bugs and the leering eyes of Spanish men. She’s sleeping in hostels and eating modestly, and missing busses, and battling with an inner self that is used to schedules and clocks and expectations. But these things don’t ruin her experience, they are the experience. These things – the good and the bad – are why she’s there. To tap into the human experience. To grow and be challenged.
Will she return? Yes. Likely. The Hero usually does. But he’s forever changed, as Kara will no doubt be too.
Want more info & pics from Kara’s (many) adventures? Follow her on Instagram @wanderlatta