How to Travel the World When You Have Lost Everything.

In All Topics, Featured, Lifestyle, Personal by Ryan57 Comments

 

Attack Life, it's going to kill you anyways

I know death well.

Like some damned Divine Comedy, I’ve been through Hell. That dark, fiery, sulfur stinking, lifeless place. And for a long time it seemed like the fate of myself would be that of my parents; self-induced, or by the powers that be who deemed me unworthy to truly live.

I’ve met despair, who caressed my face in a shadowy comfort, enticing me to a darkness of a black hole like existence in which no light would be allowed.

It is much easier to give up all hope than it is to stage an internal coup d’tat to overthrow Depression, the bastard that attempts to rule you in these times.

When all is crumbling around you, it is still possible to climb your way out of the abyss.

Absailing in Waitomo Caves New Zealand
I want to share something extremely personal, but incredibly important, so I can hopefully help you, or anyone else that have been through similar circumstances, or any hardships that make you feel like there is no hope in life.

This is not a realm I like to venture into, memories so far repressed that they seem like a movie reel missing pieces, but it is time to face these things and to give you ammo for courage.

Very recently was the anniversary of the death of my father, and as always, it has been on my mind quite a bit while leading up to my trip to Thailand.

Nothing I say will be able to solve the problems or obstacles you may face, but maybe in the least it will help you stay strong and keep believing that you can do whatever it is you want to in life.

To live your dream, be it traveling the world or not.

So I will begin with something that most people, even people very close to me, do not know. It is a shame, but the course my life has taken until the past few years has made my feelings impermeable to others. Though sometimes I am able to share it to you all through writing.

The only reason I feel the need to include these details is for you to know that I mean what I say when I tell you that it can get better, and that you can live your dream and travel the world if you want.

You gotta’ want it bad though. So bad that you will claw your way through it all. But it is possible.

Better things are coming
 I buried both of my parents before I was 20.

In the early years of high school my mother committed suicide. It was completely unexpected and rocked my entire world, and I still repress it somewhat.

I remember one of those hot summer days playing football in my yard as a young boy when a bearded man in a pick-up truck drove by my house and yelled out his window, “Your mother is dead!

He laughed after yelling this, and then drove off.

You see, at the time I didn’t know he was being literal, I just thought he meant my mother was in trouble with the law.

I’ve re-constructed the scenario over and over in my head, and even wrote a movie script to try to explain it to myself better. I even wrote in a note to me and my brother where she explains her reasoning, and says signs, “I love you.

But there was no death note and no explanation. Just nothingness like the way I felt.

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To this day it is hard for me to remember the exact year this happened and how old I was because I think I tried to forget about it.

I remember crying my eyes out for a week straight. My mother doesn’t have a gravestone yet so I have no reference, and I cannot help but feeling terrible for forgetting.

I was considered the “Mommas Boy” because I would still want to see her after my parents split up since my brother denied all accounts of my father beating her and sided with him. I was the brainwashed child. But I stopped visiting her for a few months because my father was getting on my case more and more.

For a long time I blamed myself for my mother’s death, thinking I was the reason she hung herself because I stopped coming to visit her.

The years before my mother’s death, my family had been the perfect portrayal of a broken home. My father and mother split up because he abused her, and she would bounce from place to place trying to find somewhere to live. She would fall from job to job, and there were mumblings that she was using drugs again.

There were always mumblings she was doing drugs again.

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That is how my parents met, my father was a drug dealer and my mother was buying drugs. Yet, my father would always deny that part of his life, and would try to convince me to ignore my mother.

My minister always described my mother as the strongest and weakest woman in the world, but she always told me she would never leave us because she could never hurt us that way.

And I’ve felt a fiery something…be it frustration…or hate…or hurt…because she left when she said she wouldn’t. Because of that mother fucker who drove by and yelled. Because I wasn’t there for her.

But I was young then, and still had a stable ground under me and a home. Even if part of me was ripped away.

Fast forward to summer of 2008.

The bright July sun beamed through my shades. It must have been hot, because the summer cicadas hissed loud outside. My dry eyes peeled open as I licked my chapped lips. The stale taste of beer was still apparent, and the ringing in my head spelled out a horrible hangover.

I had been out all night at my brother’s friends bonfire kicking back brewskies and playing beer-pong until the wee hours of the morning when we all got home and passed out.

My best friend was rapping on the door for me to open up. We were going to shoot some film that day, so I rolled out of bed and got dressed. I let him in, grabbed our scripts and gear to go shooting, and headed for the front door. Then, I stopped before walking out the front door and told my friend I was going to grab a couple sodas from the deck.

And that is when my life changed forever. Again.

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I flung open the flimsy metal screen door in a hurry and reached down to grab some sodas. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my father laying on the ground.

At first glance I thought he was just adding some more flare to his beloved deck, a place where he would sit everyday, and sometimes sleep at night.

Hey dad, I’m going to go film some stuff!

But when he didn’t respond, I turned back around and noticed his lifeless body, belly down, slumped face first into the railing.

My own scream still haunts me to that day. I ran to my father and yelled for my friend Tony.

I struggled trying to pull my father’s 275lb body upright as I screamed and mewed, wishing I had super-human strength to lift him. When my friend emerged from the screen door, his face said it all.

Call 911!” I screamed out to him, finally rolling my father onto his back.

I know what death looks like and smells like. It has been seared into my brain. And when I see colors that match those from this day, I’ve always had flashbacks.

Some people might see yellows and purples and think flowers. Or blue and think a beautiful sky. But not me, not for a long time.

Not until I started living again.

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The sight of death is something I would never wish upon anyone else. His face was swollen and bruised, dotted purple and yellow. He was biting his tongue which had turned a deep blue. He felt clammy, smelled like an ashtray, and was stiff like a block of hard rubber.

I sat him up and ran into the kitchen to grab a spoon, with some fools hope he was still able to be saved. I could hear the sirens at this point as I ran back to him and began trying to pry open his mouth. At last I was able to get the spoon in and open his mouth.

And there was a breath!

My heart sang as a rancid breath escaped him, like stale margarita, and for a second I thought he would start coughing and gasping for air. And then a wasp crawled out of his mouth and flew away. He was in my arms and I was balling with tears and telling him to breathe when the EMT’s arrived.

I remember the first on the scene was a beautiful brown-haired EMT with bright blue eyes, and I remember her looking at my father, then me, and shaking her head.

She just shook her head, like an angel giving a death sentence, and I screamed like an animal and didn’t want to let go as they pulled me away.

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In the early hours of the morning he had a heart attack, the day after he visited the doctor and she said he desperately needed to stop smoking and change his diet. That night he ate a salad for dinner, and we used to joke that the salad was what killed him.

I was the only one who saw him when he died.

My brother had arrived later on and they wouldn’t let him see him. We were forced to have a closed casket funeral as well because the summer sun was harsh that day, and it was too intense for people to see.

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The days passed and I went through a period of falling asleep drunk, waking up drunk, and drinking again. I remember waking up one day on the deck, hungover in the hot sun, just as I had found my father.

I knew what I was doing was not helping, but it made me forget and helped me cope with the constant fog I felt like I was in. I could see the road ahead for a few feet, but everything was dark.

That sweet serenity of hopelessness. Ever since that day I’ve struggled with emotional highs and lows. I’ve struggled with a monster inside, alcoholism, that is programmed into me to drink myself into to oblivion. I’ve struggled with the fact that I can’t seem to make real connections with people, can’t “feel” anything sometimes, and it affects the way I treat even the family I still have.

But travel has been my savior.

Not fully, not wholeheartedly, not the cure-all for what ails me. But it has given me a hope, something I can feel in my heart and gut.

I can now see red roses, and blue skies, and purple flowers, and golden fields for what they are.

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When you feel hopeless, and you trap yourself with “cures” like alcohol, drugs, sex, possessions, and the like to make things go away, or excuses about why the world is against you, you attract negative energy that feeds on your state of mind. It is that creature in the dark waiting for a chance to rule you.

It may numb you to what is actually going on, but it will never help you. It will push you further away from your dream. Further away into nothingness.

“There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I’m one”

– The Animals

Right now I am sitting in an apartment choking up while writing this. Tears are fogging my eyes because it’s hard for me to open up and remember these things.

I have been sleeping on a friends couch for the last month, and I will be for the next 3 months. Why do I not feel like a failure anymore? Because I am sleeping on a couch to help save money for my trip to Southeast Asia this November.

Why am I not unhappy working a job serving tables at a restaurant just like before? Because it is for something amazing on the horizon.

That is what travel has changed. For a long time I didn’t feel worthy enough for anything better. I was to grow old, broke, and drowning in bills, working at a job I hated until I could never retire, and die.

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Now I have a hope in my life. A purpose without a purpose — just to live.

I had always dreamed about travel, but it always seemed unrealistic only because I chose to believe it was. A lot of my friends who don’t even know about some of the struggles of my past even say, “I wish I could travel the world” like it is some crazy thought.

Except I am yet again on the cusp of an adventure, and just the thought of it makes me smile.

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This is what I want; to travel the world, to see lands I could never believe existed, to have my soul exposed and naked in a foreign culture, to let strangers into my life, to taste the flavors unknown, to learn to feel again, to hike tall mountains, traverse vast plains, and wander into the unknown.

But this unknown travel provides isn’t into the nothingness, but my path to happiness.

And I fought to get here.

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When I first took my maiden journey abroad in 2011 to New Zealand, it had been after a period in my life where I was unhappy, hated my job, and always made excuses for my mis-steps.

But the day I received my passport, the first ever in my family, and took off for my trip, I felt alive.

I had traveled before across the USA, and even worked on a cruise ship in Hawaii. But up until New Zealand I had just been running.

Everyone can live their dream and travel the world no matter what struggles you have faced. The only way to change your life and situation is to believe in your dream and act on it.

ACT ON IT!

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If you have lost like I have, and feel like your life has been crippled, you can go on.

The only way to actually do it is to keep moving forward, not standing still in time lost in a fog. My parents were great people, but there lives were broken ones early on. And I chose not to live a broken life anymore.

If you look for stability in the form of a “normal” job than that is all you will find. From my own personal experience, and after my father passed, I felt a sudden urge to start a career. Everything that I had known and relied on had gone, and I felt I needed to replace it with something. Careers are fine, but make sure it is something you are passionate and dedicated about.

 

Some ways I found to help me past those tough times

-Surround yourself with positive and energetic people.

Hang out with friends that will encourage your passion. Become dedicated to your goal. If you want to travel the world, make damn sure you save every penny and don’t go blowing it in local bars every night after work.

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-Start living your dream!

After I decided I would leave my old life behind for the one I wanted, I began researching about travel and backpacking. I would wander around to places I had never been locally and meet new people. It got me excited and much more serious about what I was doing.

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-Stay positive.

It’ll be really hard sometimes to think that there is escape from this sick cycle, but you will be the only one that can change it. I had a broken childhood, but I never got into drugs. My parents were chain smokers but I never picked up a cigarette.

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Point is, don’t just take the cards that have been dealt to you. Pick up the cards and reshuffle them and become the dealer. I don’t believe in fate, and if I did, my fate will be what I make. Yes, that was a Terminator reference as well.

Stand your ground traveler, nothing shall weaken your lion heart.

In memory on my Father and Mother.

To my father, I wrote this after his death:
Father, Father
Headstrong Father
Though my last words to you, I could not utter
I know that our bond will never be severed
Now in heaven making drinks for the “Big Guy”
The lessons you taught me help me to survive
Now I’m off to take on the world
Your wind is at my back, my sails unfurled.

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NOTE: If you have read this far, just know that my parents were amazing people, they just lived broken lives early on.

  • My father was one of the hardest working men I have ever known. He broke his back everyday to provide for us, and he gave me my rock hard resolve and work ethic.
  • My mother was amazing, and she would challenge me to live my dream no matter what. She was tender and kind, and worried too often about other people instead of herself.
  • My brother, though we have a distanced relationship now, is still a pillar of strength for me.

Share your own story. What did you fight through to chase your dream? And if you haven’t, are you ready and willing to do what it takes?

 

Comments

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Thank you Amanda. They had many amazing attributes and I am glad to have received some of their strengths to help me on this journey!

  1. Kristin of Be My Travel Mues

    Wow. It’s hard to find words after reading such a powerful post – other than you took many, many tough lessons that would ruin a weaker person and have turned them into motivation to live fully. So admirable. You’re going to love Southeast Asia and how full of love and life the people there are even though many have so little and some of them (Cambodia especially) have lived through really tough circumstances as well.

    You’re an inspiration!

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      I cannot wait to get to Southeast Asia Krisitn, you are definitely one of the reason why I have a draw to it after reading your stories! I was in ruin early on, but I am happy I could realize the path I was headed on and change it by using my parents as lessons and strength.

      Thank you for the amazing comment.

  2. Steph | A Nerd at Large

    Amazing post, Ryan. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your struggles. Travel has been my salvation too. One day I will tell my story, but suffice it to say the world has not always been kind to me and there have been times when I might not have survived. Travel is what has kept me focused on the future instead of the past, and today I’m living my dream of being a full-time, location-independent travel writer. I agree with you. It gets better. Stay strong.

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Steph, I am sure you will tell it in due time, when you are ready. Iam so happy you’ve found your dream and are successfully pursuing it, Keep on rocking and live gnarly =)

  3. Mary @ Green Global Travel

    I think that being able to share your story says so much about where you are – as does how much you have accomplished in pursuit of your dreams. Have a brilliant time in Thailand!

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Thank you Mary, I am counting down the days. The pursuit still goes on, and I have yet to reach a constant point of travel, but I will be fighting for it!

  4. Helen

    Ryan, you are so incredibly brave for sharing this story. Your parents would be so incredibly proud of you I’m sure.

    Very inspiring. x

  5. Flora @ Flora the Explorer

    Ryan, this made me cry. Being forced to deal with so much hardship at such a young age can easily have negative effects, but I think it’s clear to anyone that you’ve come out the other side and you’re an incredibly strong person because of everything. Your parents will always be proud of you, whether they’re here in person or in spirit – you’re nothing short of inspiring 🙂

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Flora, here is a digital tissue! I am sorry to make you cry! You are very right, and I did let the negative affect me for a very long time but I am happy I realized what it was doing to me and to take the good lessons from it. Thank you so much for the comment.

  6. On A Junket

    Tremendous post.

    Thanks for sharing yourself.

    I’m sure they are watching you tread upon this beautiful world with smiles on their faces.

    Keep it up!

  7. Natasha

    You have certainly lived through difficult periods in your life. It is very easy to fall into an abyss but thank god for your spirit to move forward and refuse to be a victim of life. I know what loss feels like. I lost everything I have worked for many years to achieve. It was all taken away from me – including my home leaving me with a enough money to move to Thailand for 5 months. I have not stopped traveling since June 2012. Removing myself from the city I lived in – made me view life from another angle. I saw the potential that life still held open to me – possibilities became visible. Travel has certainly changed me and I refuse to stop learning . I welcome you on this same path . Good luck to you

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Natasha, that is fantastic! I am so happy that you were able to keep your chin up and revitalize your spirit. Many times far off places revitalizes your life and gives a new perspective. I will be following suit and headed to Thailand soon for at least 6 months and I couldn’t be happier! Good luck to you as well and thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Brandi J. Waits

    Incredible Story! Thank you for sharing! My journey is rather similar in the loss of my parents and finding my love of travel! Keep going! My parents (through their own struggles) gave me so much courage and faith in life and in myself!

    Travel On, Brandi J.

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      I am so stoked to read that you made that self discovery Brandi, keep on living and keep on fighting. I feel for your loss as well, and it makes me smile that you are finding your own way to happiness.

  9. Helen @ Not Without My Passport

    Ryan, I knew when I read your “Death: My Travel Inspiration” post that you are a survivor in the truest sense of the word and that I would have to continue following your adventures. This post just reaffirms that. I had to grab a tissue. A shattered home, dysfunction and loss has made me fear the worst too: what lies ahead and what may lie within. I haven’t shared anything about it (yet) but those struggles have, in many ways, inspired me to travel and blog as well, take up photography, volunteer as a crisis counselor and work towards a Master’s degree in counseling. Your blog is unique in that you share a rare perspective on travel that is fun- and thrill-seeking, but with an understanding of what makes us all love, laugh, hurt and overcome tragedy. You are young yet intuitive and wise beyond your years with so much to offer the world, so keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you for this post. And did you end up getting your hands on a charger for your Mac at TBEX?

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Helen, I am so glad to have met you at TBEX and I am happy to have you along for my journeys. I’ve tried to make all of those instances, and future instances in the gauntlet of life into motivations. I’m so so so glad you have found a passion as well and have found ways to use your past trials into courage to move forward 🙂

      Oh, and the MBP charger, I bought one when I returned home. But thank you for the offer!!!

  10. Lauren (Nomads)

    Ryan this was such an amazing read, I had no idea what you had gone through before you had arrived to NZ. Your incredibly strong going through all of that and being able to pick yourself up and carry on. Thanks for all of the inspiration, your parents would be so proud of you. Miss you here in NZ, keep doing what your doing!

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Lauren, I miss you all tons as well! The group of you seriously helped make my trip to New Zealand a stellar one, some of my very best memories! New Zealand really did help me overcome a lot, and you all helped a ton as well!

      Hope to see you again!

  11. Beverley | Pack Your Passport

    Ryan! I just want to give you a HUGE hug now that I’ve read this! I had absolutely no idea. It is a testament to how strong you are on the inside that you’ve not let your past decide your future and that is really inspirational. I’ve been feeling ridiculously sorry for myself lately (moved back to England, looking for a job, no luck etc) but having just read this it’s clear that my worries and insignificant and can easily be gotten over with a bit more motivation and a bit less procrastination.

    Love to you and hopefully see you soon
    x

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Thank you Beverly, I would totally hug ya! We all face some sort of trials in our lives and I’m sure you have a lot on your plate as well so I’m glad this could inspire you a bit!

      Good luck with the move!!!

  12. Karin

    Ryan, having met you now a few times and spending time with you I would have never of guessed you went through this much tragedy, and I’m shocked and lost for words reading it. You’re an inspiration to others for your infinite optimism and strength. Keep well, Karin.

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Thank you Karin, I’ve always had a good time hanging with you all and I’m glad to have met you! Thank you for the kind words 🙂 traveling definitely helps keep me upbeat, but I’m also trying to hide my past less and less.

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  14. Alex

    Great post mate, very inspirational. I went through similarly challenging experiences before I went travelling (lost my father and sister from 22-24y/o, had to deal with an elderly father with dementia when I was in my early 20’s, and suffered intense amounts of depression and anxiety problems whilst working a mundane job in London). But I saved my ass off for two years, came out with 9k and a one-way ticket to travel China, South-East Asia and India/Nepal! I left the UK 6 weeks after my Dad passed away, and getting out to travel for 10 1/2 months was the best thing I could possibly have done. Life is better in the East, but I recommend India above anywhere else. South-East Asia is cool (especially Indonesia and Burma) but India is a must-visit.
    Have fun!

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Alex, thank you so much for sharing your inspirational story as well. I’m sure it was an extremely tough time for you during your fathers illness and after his passing, but it shows amazing fortitude to save up and travel so shortly after. I’m sure traveling helped ease the pain and give you something fulfilling at that time. Thank you for the recommendations! Looking forward to my trip!

  15. Rob

    Moving man and on the topic, the world moves aside for those with passion and a plan. Great things are on the horizon and I look forward to reading about them.

    Keep being gnarly and chuckin it, good sir.

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Great words of encouragement and advice Rob, I look forward to things on the horizon as well and I believe it just takes you looking forward and not back to get there.

  16. Kitty howard

    Hi Ryan, thank you for writing this post! I definitely needed a boost today. I’m packing everything up an putting it into storage, selling my car that I just bought 4 months ago and booking a ticket to nicaragua. I’m planning on 6 months.

    I’m finding the packing to be the most difficult as I place my memories into boxes and seal them closed. I moved into this apartment with my two year old son Tristan and our dog Bear after finally getting away from my abusive husband. One month later T was diagnosed with leukaemia and three weeks after that he died from an infection.

    I spiralled into depression but made the choice to fight to get my life back and make it a life that I dreamt about. It’s been nearly 5 years since Tristan passed and 2 since Bear has.

    This is my time and I’m ready to do this but I choke up when I’m packing my life up. I know once I get on the plane in October I will be fine. Thank you for writing your story. It is a wonderful “share” and I am very happy that you are very happy:)
    ~Kitty

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Kitty, I am so sad to hear of your loss. I’m sure even 5 years later it is extremely hard to reveal such a thing and you are strong to be open about it on here. You are so inspirational, you fought through the abyss in your darkest moments as well to find a reason to keep on living. A reason to live to the fullest so you don’t waste the time stolen from Tristan.

      Memories are hard to pack away in the sense, but they will always travel with you and I hope those memories, however short, will bring a smile to your face. Stay strong, keep your chin up, keep living fiercely, and keep living for yourself and in Tristan’s memory.

      Thank you for the comment, and I am so happy to see you are doing something you love.

      You should check out http://www.gettingstamped.com, they are in Nicaragua right now.

  17. James Shannon

    What a story of overcoming what would cripple many people emotionally … keep living positively and in the present moment, Ryan! It’s been said many times in different ways in the comments, but you are an inspiration man!

    P.S. Absolutely loved the opening quote graphic … talk about distilling an awesome life philosophy into a simple sentence…!

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      James, I highly appreciate the kind words and the comment, I hope to inspire just a little like other travelers inspired me. That quote in the beginning is something I’ve become quite connected with, it is so powerful and so true.

      Thank you again!

  18. Mal

    I am not sure that there are words to express either the sadness that I feel that you had to go through all that or the gratitude that I have for you for sharing all that with us.

    I have quite a few of my own demons and events from my past that I feel like I fight with every day and it seems more often than not those days I feel like I am not winning. What I found most inspiring/interesting about the way you have chosen to see the world/live your life is that, we (society/us/me/those in the sick cycles) have been taught that there is a way to climb out, to overcome it, to get past it, to grow, to move forward, to flourish – but – every time I don’t make strides forward, it’s because I’m “not trying hard enough” to get over things, or am “weak”, or am “failing.”

    You have me thinking now- maybe there are different ways out, and just because I’m not succeeding at the climb the way that it is suppose to work – maybe that doesn’t make me weak and a failure. Maybe something else, someway else, somewhere else, gets me out of the hole. I don’t know… Just musings right now, but you got me thinking. So thank you.

  19. Emily

    Your writing is beautiful. Your story is amazing! Thank you for the inspiration!! I am on my way, saving money, paying off bills, to be able to sell all I own and embark on a life of travel!

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      That is so amazing to read Emily! So very happy for you and I’m happy I provided a small bit if inspiration. Keep rockin’ the savings!

  20. Maggie

    I love how you are not afraid to express your feelings and emotions, great post .
    P.S. I’m stealing the first picture, I dig the quote

  21. Pepe Samson

    I read this today right at my office desk during a break, and the guys around are probably wondering who the hell was this crazy guy crying like a madman. This piece moved me. Such powerful writing, your words pierced through me. Thank you for sharing something you could’ve kept to yourself in its sensitivity. You’re now officially my favorite blogger.

  22. Tiana

    Wow, what a post. Thank you for sharing that. While I am so incredibly sorry for what you’ve gone through, I am grateful for the positive words and motivation that you’ve passed on.

  23. rochiel

    you inspired me a lot through your writings… it is seldom for Men to accept their weakness and i salute you for that! you’re the MAN hehe..
    keep inspiring others.. god bless you

  24. Franca

    What an incredible post Ryan, thanks for sharing it with us all, it’s not always an easy thing to do, hat off to you for that!

  25. Julie

    Thank you for sharing this, Ryan. I knew there was a story behind your incredible resolve. You, my friend, remind us that adventure begins the day you determine that “surviving” will never be enough.

    My favorite part:
    When you feel hopeless, and you trap yourself with “cures” like alcohol, drugs, sex, possessions, and the like to make things go away, or excuses about why the world is against you, you attract negative energy that feeds on your state of mind. It is that creature in the dark waiting for a chance to rule you.

    Amen.

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