It has been just over six weeks since returning from my Europe trip, six months since I left the states to start that adventure, and about one year since sharing the news that I was leaving Nashville to move back to California to prepare for the trip. It’s an understatement to be sure, but the last year has been a complete whirlwind of emotions and growth that included countless bouts of loneliness, excitement, frustration, and everything in between. After living in that beautiful city for four years, leaving who and what I knew and loved in Nashville proved to be one of the hardest decisions I’ve made thus far, only being slightly surpassed by choosing to solo-travel around Europe for almost five months. Both were difficult choices to make, and yet both were worth it in almost every way.
Speaking of, I realize that I haven’t properly shared an update on how the second half of the trip went (first half is recapped here), and the easiest way to do so is to say that it was even more eye-opening and life-changing than the first. I explored in and around the cities of Bern, Switzerland; Strasbourg, Colmar, Lyon, and Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Dublin, Annalong, Belfast, Dunfanaghy, Sligo, Clifden, and Galway, Ireland; Edinburgh and Loch Ness, Scotland; and ended with a final week in London. I climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower, met and stayed with a new friend that I only met because of a podcast, wandered through the most picturesque towns straight out of a fairytale, stayed with sweet friends in Amsterdam, rented a car in Ireland (and experienced said rental car breaking down in the middle of nowhere Ireland), saw the most stunning coastal landscapes in Northern Ireland, spent time in the city where my girl J.K. Rowling was inspired to write Harry Potter, visited the Loch Ness Monster in the Scottish Highlands, ate some of the most amazing food everywhere I went, and — most notably — I experienced more and more of God all along the way… to the point that He straight up flipped the script for what would come next.
Here’s The Thing
There’s something you ought to know about where I was at upon leaving for my trip: in the last year or so I was living in Nashville, I walked through a few experiences that shaped me, and not in a good way. From overworking myself with my crazy debt-payoff journey of 70-80 hour work weeks for two years, to seeing friends treated poorly in work and church communities, to being spiritually manipulated by an older woman/mentor at my own church, I became hard and cynical and angry. I lost a lot of my joy, passions, and purpose because I was operating out of a place of merely surviving (and was 100% not thriving). And while I knew that leaving Nashville would provide some time and space to heal, it wasn’t until I was sitting along the coast of a wee town in Northern Ireland that I realized I was still holding onto so much stuff from that season and that — like a vagabond — I had been wandering around with this rucksack full of crap that was weighing me down and preventing me from moving forward. And it was in that exact and perfectly-timed moment while watching the sunset that I realized I had never been doing it alone. In a vulnerable and honest conversation with my Father, I sensed him saying that it was time to move on: to let go of the junk and walk forward into deeper intimacy and purpose. So sitting in the harbor in that tiny fishing town, I told Him that I was done hanging onto those things that I was never meant to carry with me and that I was ready for whatever “more” He had. And from that moment, everything began to shift.
Up until that point, I knew I would remain in California through the end of October, but what would happen beyond that was the part I was trying to figure out. I had a few cities in mind — ones that I could potentially settle into — but the one that made the most sense to me was my last city: Nashville. For more than a few reasons, Nashville was where I wanted to be post-Europe. It’s beautiful, affordable, and the majority of my friends are still there (miss y’all to bits), and I was even in talks to move in with a sweet friend in the Fall. But then Northern Ireland happened, and everything changed. Namely, my original “what’s next” plans started to fall apart, and it became painstakingly obvious that God had been working together something far bigger and more intricate than I could have imagined. So here it is…
The Travels Continue
I am going to keep traveling! I wish I could share the whole story with you in person — preferably over a cup of hot tea — of just how intensely God met me in Ireland and showed me new things (like the need to actually embrace my life as a single woman rather than merely tolerating it), how He gave me a vision far beyond myself while exploring the Scottish Highlands, and then how friends across the world texted me the very same day with visions they had received for me that tied both into my own vision and the things God had been unraveling in my heart. It’s a wild story — as only one that is penned by Him can be — that has given me more than enough affirmation to know that, no matter how risky this may seem or feel, I am right where I’m supposed to be.
I wonder how simple this may sound, or if any of you are thinking, “of course you’re going to keep traveling!” Because the truth is that it has not been simple. In fact, it was and remains quite scary. From that moment in Northern Ireland in mid-July, it has been a wild journey of prayer and visions and the start of really embracing my calling: to just keep saying yes. Yes to the unknown. Yes to the scary. Yes to the things that don’t make sense. And trust me, this decision to continue traveling is all of those things. Simultaneously, though, I am so aware that this is the perfect time in my life to do this kind of thing. I’m still young, I’m single, I have no debt, and I have the privilege of working remotely, so why wouldn’t I do this right now, especially when I can see that God has orchestrated it all? Last week I celebrated entering into the last year of my twenties and the start of this next season of life, and — as it usually goes when we begin a new thing — I find myself both excited beyond belief and absolutely terrified. This is the tension of my current reality: living in that “sweet spot” of being obedient to the doors that open before me and trusting God to fill in all the details as we go.
The girl I used to be would quickly say that this is all just too crazy, but I’ve tossed around the word “crazy” for far too long when it comes to the things that God has called me to. What I’ve realized is that my reason for using that word is simply because the thing I am being led to is non-conventional. I mean, would society, culture, or even church culture say that this is what I should be doing at this stage of my life? Probably not. But at this point, I don’t really care anymore, No matter what it looks like, I am going to keep saying yes when God leads me to new slash scary things. That’s a risky promise to put out there, but I have personally seen that the perceived risk is always worth my yes, especially when I’m not the one at the helm.
Where To Next
Now you may be wondering, “Okay, but like, where are you going?” As I mentioned earlier, I will remain in California through the end of October for a few commitments and to get my affairs in order. Then the next wee adventure begins at the start of November, when I will be driving up to Washington state to spend a few weeks with some family, after which I will fly out of California for about six weeks. In that time, I will be visiting and staying with friends in Denver, Orlando, and New York City, which yes, means that I will be spending the holidays out of state — Thanksgiving in Denver and Christmas in New York — and I’m stoked! In January, I will fly back to California for another wedding and to housesit for a few weeks back in the Bay Area, after which I will start making my way out toward Nashville, staying with friends along the way, hopefully taking me through mid to late March. Honestly, the 2019 part of this whole thing really isn’t planned much, but if there’s only one thing my Europe trip taught me, it’s that there is so much beauty in not mapping out every detail. Oh, and after that? My goal is to head back to the U.K. for a bit! I was always planning to go back to London to spend more time with my family there, but what started as a few weeks has once again morphed into something God-sized, so the only plan I’ve really got in mind is heading back to visit with friends and do some writing.
None of this is easy. To watch the majority of my friends starting families and buying houses and generally setting down roots — and then to realize that I am doing pretty much the opposite — is hard, as is having very few possessions to my name and no semblance of a permanent address. But the hardest part? Lack of community. At this point in my adult life, my friends are literally spread out all over the world. It’s amazing and beautiful to be able to say that, for sure, but it’s also really challenging for someone who loves to have a few deep, reliable relationships in her life. And yet I see purpose in it, too. Maybe I’ve been a little too dependent on others and not enough on Jesus, and that is what this next bit is about. Or maybe I need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, because asking for help — like asking friends if I can stay with them — and receiving without feeling I did anything to earn it is haaaaard. Or maybe it’s just about saying yes, over and over again, until it becomes second nature. Or maybe it’s all of this combined, plus more beyond what I can see. Probably. Definitely.
So that’s the news. I will continue to travel over the next few months, staying with friends and family (and friends turned family), learning from their kindness and generosity, sharing stories of faith and travel and love, and clinging more and more to my Father’s heart. I’m forever humbled by all of the support and encouragement I have received from so many over the last few years as I have been and continue to learn the art of obedience, and I am so grateful to be living out this wild and adventurous life. So here’s to the next adventure… and what ever might come with it.
Friends, don’t be surprised if you hear from me over the next few months as I’m traveling. I may need a place to rest my head along the journey, and if that’s the case, I can offer you this: I’m a fantastic listener, a super fun babysitter, and a fairly good photographer, so let’s talk. Love y’all.