I like traveling just for the sake of traveling. But I LOVE traveling with a purpose behind it. To me, things just make more sense that way.
When I see other people put "traveling" on their bucket list, it's never resonated with me fully. Just "traveling". Not where to go or why. Not that I don't absolutely love traveling, but I like to have some greater purpose behind it.
So while I was searching for my purpose in life I did some incredible traveling and experiencing the world in a way that most people don't get to.
When I was 6 years old I traveled to the US from Denmark along with my older sister to visit my Dad. This is the first plane ride I remember. I remember saying goodbye to my mom at the airport and being handed over to a flight attendant who would accompany us from parent to parent. My Dad would be greeting us on the other side. My older sister started crying the minute mom was out of sight and she told me: "Don't tell mom I cried". Goodbyes have never made me cry. Frustrations and anger make me cry. But not sad things. Yet another way my family and I were so different. We stayed with my Dad for the allotted three weeks we had planned and then I remember my Dad arranging for us to stay longer. My sister wanted to stay a week longer, and I ended up staying two weeks longer. I'm not entirely sure how this came about, but I know my mom was terrified that after a full five weeks away, her 6-year-old daughter was traveling across the Atlantic all alone. I, on the other hand, was thrilled. When I arrived at the airport I didn't say "I missed you mommy" I said, "Look, Mommy, my teddy bear". Funny side-story is that I completely forgot my Danish. I came home only able to speak English and after being teased by the other kids on the playground I locked myself in my room for two days until my memory of Danish returned.
I'm telling this story because it was my first memory of traveling. I was brave and adventurous, even as a 6-year-old. I lived in the moment and wasn't afraid of anything. I didn't bother being upset over little things like saying goodbye to my Mom, or missing her while I was visiting my Dad. I enjoyed the adventures thrown at me and I thrived. I loved it.
The rest of my childhood was spent traveling back and forth between Seattle and Copenhagen. Somewhere down the line that 6-year-old learned to be afraid, learned to be cautious, and learned to care about what other people thought about her. Rarely did I have any other type of vacation than visiting my Dad.
As a 20-year-old, I decided on visual arts (painting, drawing, art installations, etc) as my way to pursue something creative that wasn't music. Music, I had at this point decided, was too hard to mix with my upbringing, my religion, and on top of that, I had no idea how to pursue music. Besides, I had unconsciously asked myself, what if I fail at the thing I am best at? I couldn't bear that thought, so for the next decade or so I decided to pursue the things I was second best at. Or third. Or not good at, at all. Art, it seemed, was a nice compromise. I could still be quirky, the eccentric artist that didn't have to fit into anyone's box. But I wouldn't have to put myself on a "pedestal" as I would with music. Music would put me on stages where the whole world could see I thought I was better than them. And they would shame me for it.
So art it was. I found an art school called Metàfora in Barcelona and went there with my then-husband and one of our closest friends. (Yes, I was already married at this time, but that's a story for another chapter). When we took off for Barcelona, I had never been. Never even visited, just took off with two suitcases and a month-long rental in the gothic part of town, with a plan to live there for two years. Barcelona taught me many things. Their pace was slower, but their days longer. I fell in love with electronic and lounge music and Calatan Modernism (an offshoot of Art Nouveau). I would spend my mornings drawing or painting or studying the latest exhibition at MACBA, the art museum. I would spend my midday breaks (my siesta) at the beach. My afternoons and evenings were filled with the creation of art. I attended countless art openings and countless parties. I was young and in "mi ciudad guapa".
I also lost my faith in Barcelona. This may sound like a bad thing, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me. While soaking up my new life in my beautiful city, I started realizing that I no longer believed the things I was taught as a child. I started deciding for myself what I wanted to believe. I slowly but surely crafted a new life. Here, in Barcelona, away from the influence of the church and the family, I was able to try on a new way of living. At first, it was like trying it on for size, but by the time I left, I had a whole new identity.
I decided I was done with this chapter in my life when I no longer was gasping over the beauty of the city and I could walk down Carrer de Pelai without looking up. I was done with the art scene, said a loving goodbye to my beautiful city, and headed home.
Fast forward to 2010. Still in therapy over that abusive relationship (mentioned in a previous chapter) I had booked my ticket and planned my trip to India... totally, Eat, Pray, Love -style. I had gotten my shots, saved my money, and booked a 4 week 120 hour Yoga Teacher Training at the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai. This time under the impression I was going to study yoga and become a yoga teacher when I came home, little did I know that I was headed for the biggest rollercoaster my life would take yet.
In our first lesson with the Swami (the teachers at Hindu ashrams are called Swamis) he told us that the first week would be "excitement", the second week would be "hard", the third week would be "even harder" and the fourth week would be "what now?". He nailed it. Let me try to sum up what my days were like.
We would wake at 5:30 for a 6 am meditation and lecture. Then tea. Then 8-10 am yoga class. Then 10 am food. Then 11 am karma yoga (doing chores and such). Then 12 pm break. 1-4 pm lectures. 4-6 pm yoga class. 6 pm food. 8 pm meditation. 10 pm lights out. For every new chapter of the day there would be a bell to guide us.
We would observe silence while eating. Sunday was our day off, but it was often filled with excursions we could choose to go on. Some of which I just couldn't turn down. I walked 500 steps to a holy temple once. Hiked a small mountain to meditate at the top. Visited the holy of holies of a temple normally not available to outsiders (non-Indian peoples). I have other fond memories, like the one time it rained, they said it hadn't rained there for 3 months so about half of us yoginis jumped out into the torrential downpour to dance around and enjoy the cool beautiful rain.
During my two "hard weeks" I had a terrible UTI, my eczema spread to my entire body and I was exhausted all the time. It took me 2 weeks of hard extracurricular work both morning and evening just to be able to get up into a headstand. I never mastered the crow. I learned about the 8 limbs of yoga. About the Bhagavad Gita and about how happiness doesn't equal ice cream. (That's an inside joke for anyone who has done this particular training).
Did I come back a yoga teacher? You bet I did. But I only taught a handful of classes. What my experience in India taught me was that I am here for a completely different purpose. There was no doubt about it after all the meditation and inner work - I am a musician. And my purpose in life is to heal with my words and my songs. I may have left thinking I would return to Copenhagen and start teaching yoga. But I returned with the determination that I was going to move to the US and become a country singer.