July seems like a lifetime ago compared to the whirlwind of the last 4 months of my busy beautiful life. Changing job paths in September, growing and enjoying a small business and being a wife and mother are only a few of my daily tasks since I landed back to reality only a few short months ago. So how did I end up traveling out of the country alone? In April, I stumbled upon a webpage for camera bags and happened to see that the owner puts together workshops in Mexico. I filled out an application to attend a once in a lifetime photography retreat in Tulum, Mexico with business woman extraordinaire, Maureen Flynn.All the while thinking I didn’t have a chance at all compared to many great photographers, I was just beginning my business journey and just a speck of dust in a huge universe of her followers. Well, needless to say when I received an email saying I was chosen for the trip, I was over the moon excited. My husband had his reservations but my heart knew this trip was calling to me, I knew my soul needed this chance and change. Oh, how right I was! I was no stranger to traveling alone for long trips or periods of time but it was also not completely in my comfort zone as I had only taken one long trip in my short life by myself. That trip was to Hawaii at 16, another once in a lifetime chance. I mustered up the courage, booked my tickets and followed the unknown to Mexico on faith and curiosity.
If I said, I was not a little nervous maybe even scared, that would make me a liar. And I am not a liar. Sometimes in life, we just have to jump, take crazy chances and do things completely out of our reality and comfort zone. This trip was IT, the life changing moment, a transition from my unpredictable 20’s to the stability(ironically) of my 30’s. Mexico meant meeting kind hearted strangers, drinking chia lattes for the first time, snorkeling through the darkness of caves and jumping into beautiful virgin cenotes. It also meant learning more about improving my craft, my imagery, my business and myself. So in what ways did traveling to Tulum, Mexico alone do to change my perspective on my life, my photography and my business? The list could honestly go on forever but I will keep it short and to the point.
1) Growth from Risk
There is something about hanging out with 12 strangers for a week and doing crazy, outrageous things you would have never imagined doing before. Snorkeling with beautiful fish, jumping into the freezing water of caves, diving through the unknown. Zip lining through the jungles of Playa de Carmen. The creative side of your brain just starts pumping with ideas and flowing with excitement. Personally, I grew from day 1-5 into the person that I have always aspired to be. I saw myself inside the other girls I met, their kindness, their courage, their business goals. Deep down inside of me the happy, excited about life, kind hearted little girl I once was started to emerge again. She started to remember that there was love to find in a dark world and maybe if you shined bright enough you could be the light that would bring kindness back, bring happiness to other people.
2) Women need Women
Meeting strangers that become more like family within 5 days changed my perspective on people and the kindness of the world. Women who support one another, empower one another and do not judge one another, do exist. At least 12 of them do. I learned that women are in need of support, we need other women on our side and in our corner. I am not sure when society started turning women against one another. Battles of status, parenting, body size, hair color, style, job status. Women who compete against one another then tear one another down. My one thought after this trip was, ” What if women were so content with themselves that they built each other up instead of tearing one another down, where would the world be?” This trip taught me that if perfect strangers can empower one another, love one another and show each other kindness, then what is stopping every other woman in the world from this mentality. I refuse to think that women don’t need one another. We do. I craved the kindness these women showed one another on this trip. I saw amazing hearts, love for the smallest of creatures, compassion for strangers. I will from here on out be the kindness the world needs, show compassion for each woman and their individual story. We all come from different backgrounds, struggles, pain and hurt but if we had each others backs then the world would no longer be allowed to dictate how we look, how we feel and what we are “supposed” to be in life. As women we have to come together and stop the division, the competition and crazy societal expectations. It is time to represent our self worth and treat one another as the worthy, badass and strong females we are.
3) Liberation of the Unknown
There is something insanely sweet about finding yourself, your brand, what you want your business to stand for when you do not have anything or anyone to rely on but yourself. Traveling a country away, the unfamiliar, meeting strangers, not knowing what thrill will come around the corner, helps you realize just how unimportant the problems of your every day life can be. It makes you come home and realize how petty and negative others can be.Traveling alone and feeling the excitement and energy of these beautiful souls shifted something inside of me, I discovered a light, a liberation, I never want to lose. I can no longer feed into negativity or misery. I learned that if a job, a person, or energy does not fill me with happiness I walk away. We are only stuck in life and filled with unhappiness if we allow ourselves to be. There will always be financial problems, unhappy issues to face, or negative people to deal with but how we react to these problems, how your attitude and peace are affected in adversity is what truly matters. Our inner peace should be harder to move than mountains if we truly know what we stand for, how we want to feel and if we are making moves in life to be at peace with our decisions and self worth. There will always be unhappiness and obstacles but I learned the foundation of my happiness is within myself.
My faith was strengthen from the time I applied for the Mexico workshop to the time I arrived there and back home, up to present day. God did not happen to have me stumble upon this opportunity, he knew it would serve great purpose for him. He knew my path would be set through this transition. Each lady I met, each risk I took, the business advice I would receive but especially the ripple effect it would have on my beliefs. Everything we do well is through the glory of the Lord. My photography is no different, when I chose my business name, I did so with Him in mind. Colossians 3:23. So why would this trip, this life altering event not be part of His great plan. He was there, I felt him through the kindness of the girls, the hearts who served him in Mexico, the beauty of the land and ocean. I felt him through the people there, the smiles, servitude, love for the water and jungles. They were some of the kindest people I have ever met and had so very little. Maureen showed her kindness to all of us but especially me. I was left in Mexico for two nights due to Tropical Storm Barry, she allowed me to stay in her beautiful home for free. We hung out and ate like two friends who knew each other forever, she opened her home to me and introduced me to her family and her heart. Tania the house manager became a friend for life, the language barrier being no trouble because we had so much in common and laughed, cried and talked about our different worlds. God does not work by accident, this trip in many ways has changed me but He does not do anything without bringing us closer to him. Failures, triumphs, pain, love they are all part of His grand design to get us to the Father. This trip allowed me to see the vulnerabilities strangers can share, the closeness of human connection and the kindness and love Jesus preached while on earth. No matter the beliefs of the 12 women I met, they loved like Jesus. This time of travel also strengthen my faith in humanity, do not be deceived the world is kind, there are still good people in this world. We just have to become the light to help outshine the darkness.
5) It is Okay to Not Be Okay
I went through a terrible depression when I got back from Mexico. I wanted life, work and every other issue I was facing to fall into place. I was also lost in a lot of feelings, I had never faced before. I was sad that my happiness may have ended in Mexico. I had all these feelings, thoughts and ideas and no where to put them, no outlet just a reality that I really did not care to face.I loved my marriage and my children but my every day purpose, job, career just was not fulfilling me any longer. I had prayed patiently for a year for the Lord to open doors. I needed to feel the fulfillment I felt in Mexico. I missed my girls, I missed the country side, and I missed the peace I felt when I was there. It may sound selfish but I had to work through the tools God had given me while there to map out the rest of my life. The human side of me wanted it all now. He kept whispering, “Sit back and wait.” 4 months later, I am working and I have worked through so much of this. Replaying my feelings and conversations with women like minded as me. Taking time for myself, changing job paths, working more hours towards my business and empire. It feels amazing, the peace, the kindness and encouragement I can pour into other women, the strength and faith that I have to change my course of life. I want to be part of the change in this world, the source for other women to turn to for empowerment and inspiration. The path I have walked has never been easy, many times making my life harder all on my own. I now wake up every morning knowing who I am and how hard I worked to get where I am today. It is the most powerful reminder of my strength and only possible with the good Lord behind me. I am thankful for a husband who rode this out with me, who still does not always understand my random need for change or travel but loves me anyway. A huge reasoning for success is a support system and he always without question shows me its okay to not be okay. He is my physical backbone and I preach a lot on women empowering women but he empowers me also.
Life changes us through struggles, through lessons of tough love, trust broken , abandonment , hate and deceit. But inside of each of us is that young innocent child, who knows deep inside the world is kind. Hurt does not have to last forever and dreams can be conquered. We have to change our own paths, pray for a way, and stick with those who support and love us enough to stand behind us as we chase our dreams. Mexico changed me, Tulum changed me. 12 girls changed me. Taking risk and loving every second of it, changed me. I am no longer the same person I was in my twenties, I am now happier, healthier and more successful than I ever thought I could be. It is all thanks to the path God has cleared for me, the struggles I have overcome and the wonderful support system he has laid beside me. You too can find your peace, your success and your happiness. My suggestion, a trip alone to meet up with 12 strangers in another country. Until then be kind. Show love and empower someone today.
Be the change.