When I began travel writing in December of 2012, I had an idea for what I wanted it to be for. I would never have guessed it would help create my own self in the process and would go on to change my life.
It has become a passion of mine and still is to this day. It has given me countless opportunities and has allowed me to land a few dream jobs I could have never imagined I’d do. And it also helped save my life. Writing is a powerful tool, but also a way to face personal struggles you haven’t been able to talk about otherwise.
On the flipside, writing and blogging can take a toll as well. It matters what you put into it, and what you take from it.
Writing for the love of it is key, writing for the sake of glory will destroy you.
Over the years, comparing my travel blog to others has threatened to take away the very essence of this site and why I do it. Why I share personal stories. That is exactly why I don’t compare myself to others anymore. But I used to.
Comparing one’s self to others tends to cause resentment or envy, and my life was ruled by emotions like that for far too long.
When I started this blog fresh, it had been just a weeks after a point in my life when I thought it was over. The blog and I would be intertwined in a story of recovery and of growth, though I didn’t know it at the time.
THE STORM BEFORE THE CALM
There were dark and foreboding clouds swirling around my head for months prior to relaunching the blog in December of 2012.
My emotions were turbulent winds kicking up debris and threatening to spawn a tornado that would rip me to pieces. I felt like climbing in a dark cellar and hiding from the chaos like a coward, hoping the destructive storm I had brought upon myself would dissipate.
In reality, I danced in that chaos for a long time. I danced and twirled in a field of fake lives and large lies. And the more I twirled, the more the winds swirled and the more my world around me broke to pieces and the more I destroyed.
It wasn’t until the broken pieces of the world around began to swirl inside the cyclone that I fell from my self-made grace. The broken pieces swirled in. They cut deep. Gouged into my skin, into my heart, and all the way to my soul. Reality cracked from the sky like lightning and struck me down.
My dance stopped. The dance where we relish in the destruction and twirl in droplets of liquor with our mouths open and the outside world a blur and we don’t give a damn about anyone or anything.
We twirl and twirl and get and dizzier in a blurry dance of pretend happiness.
AND WE ALL FALL DOWN
I fell HARD. I was struck down by that very storm which I created. I wasn’t dancing anymore. I was laying on my back in a stinking muddy field of sorrow seeping slowly into filth. Into depression. I watched the storm still swirl above, its eye stared back at me. Mocking me. I wanted desperately to find a hideaway. Those cuts to my soul from my chaos stung and bled and I shivered in fear and I cried in pity.
From there I could look outward and see exactly what I had done. I was on my hands in knees in my field of sorrow looking down at my reflection in a murky puddle. My image was unrecognizable. The only way out of this sad and miserable place created by a self-made shit-storm was to stand up. Pull myself out.
GET IT TOGETHER
It’s hard. You feel sopping and saturated and weighted into the ground. The mud is like a suction and doesn’t want to release you from its boggy grip. It is easier just to lay down and give up hope.
When you finally rise up from the muck and mire and you find a way to rinse away the stains and the grime and clean the wounds, your self-inflicted injuries become apparent. Your skin is tender, just like your heart and soul. Your bones ache. Your lungs have a deep and cold shallowness in them that makes you choke when you breathe. You feel weak, but you feel a sense of new.
The thunder still rumbles in the distance even after that storm had passed, as if it is reminding you that it could return at any moment. But you know it has passed. You aren’t afraid anymore. You want to rebuild the shattered world you left in the wake of your death dance.
DEPRESSION LED ME TO JAIL
For me, that stinking muddy field of sorrow created by my own shit-storm was a piss covered jail cell floor. The cold concrete was unforgiving just like my thoughts at that moment. And the dizziness from my storm was the hangover in that 8×8 part of Pandora’s box where the chaotic like me had been locked away.
I was now one of them. The lost.
My drunken storm one night had spun me right into a public property where my blurred vision caused me to break into a public building thinking I had locked myself out of my own house.
Jail. Lawyers. Uncertainty. Bills. Nightmares. Months of internal battles. And then my sentencing date came.
The storm was over, and as much as I cleaned myself off after it, I still had to face the destruction I caused.
One last final thunder-clap bellowed from my storm and it came from the gavel of a court judge.
I feared my life would end that day and I would be left in that world of mud and desolation. I was going to face it either way. I was tired of hiding and making excuses and taking the easy way out.
That last thunder-clap brought on clear skies. I was released and with all charges dropped. I stood outside and the golden sun streamed through the now parting grey clouds. The warmth tingled my skin; looking at the vibrant sky was the most calming feeling I’ve had in years. The warmth streamed through me.
I was feeling again.
At that moment I knew I had to create a life for myself that I was proud of. During those months prior I felt the repercussions of my chaos. I was truly disappointed with myself.
What had I become? What the hell had I been thinking? I could have died. I nearly convinced myself to just get it over with. In the beginning, I thought about ending my life because I had no reason to live anymore.
The past haunts you forever if you don’t confront it. I know that. I am a professional at running away from my past. It lurks in the shadows. You know it’s there. You are tempted to look over your shoulder, but you never do for fear of seeing something terrifying.
I feared the memories of my father and mother. I feared stirring up those memories I locked in a dark closet deep in my mind since my adolescence. I feared how vulnerable they made me. I feared the emotions they brought forth like nostalgia or compassion; things I considered a weakness.
If I was going to be great, I had no room for weakness or emotions. I had to be fierce and take on the world and could not cry after the day I walked my father’s body over the warm summer grass into his damp grave with my brother and the tune of a sad prayer.
Fate had plucked the family line and decided for it to be discarded. It would just be the death cycle until we were erased. I was angry. I felt betrayed. I felt that the world was against me and I was going to give it a big middle finger and make something of myself.
And the feeling that I was at the whim of someone or something else is what drove me to become a person invented in a grandiose vision.
It is now the reason I do not believe in a planned fate. But I did then. It was what brought forth the swirling winds of chaos, to begin with.
FALSE AMBITIONS LED TO FALSE HOPE
Ambition can be a thing of splendor, but it can also drive a person mad with thirst. I thirsted. I lusted. I was fiendish. The blood money received from my father’s death was blown in less than a year on partying and drinking and shiny vintage cars and expensive electronics. Most nights were spent with my best friend Jack Daniels inside seedy fetish clubs of Hollywood hoping to find some slight distraction from the overwhelming unhappiness.
Instead of using the inheritance for something fulfilling, the money that my father sacrificed his body for was wasted and gone without using it toward my dream or something impactful.
Analogies and riddles are not common in my writing, but if you have been through similar instances you know that depression is a storm. Life is tough and cruel and strips away the things you love sometimes.
Whether or not you’ve caused the storm and destruction, or it happens after a terrible point in your life, you lose a piece of yourself. Everything swirls. In some form, it is a storm. A hurricane. A tornado. A monsoon. A maelstrom. It is chaotic and dark and everything spins out of control.
The day I found out my mother had committed suicide was the day it began, yet that darkness brooding inside me and casting its shadow over my head was controlled until I lost my father.
If you survive the storm, you know the calm comes afterward. You look out at either what you destroyed or what you lost in the storm and it is calm and it is lonely.
And then it is your choice to pull yourself out of the mud or wallow in it.
THAT IS HOW BLOGGING SAVED ME
After that moment in the tingling warm sun, I knew what I wanted in life. The deaths of my parents pulled the light from me. Then, travel drove me into depression for the sole reason that I never dealt with the death of my parents. When you are alone and naked in the world outside of your element or comfort zone, things you hide or haven’t dealt with can reach a fervor.
But travel was still what I wanted to do in life, except I had to face my past before I could live in the present.
Writing and Travel blogging became a tool to do that.
I believe that a person can only help themselves to prevail against a personal turmoil. They have to decide what to do when they are lying in the mud struck down from their highs. Or a person dealing with tragedy has to find their own strength to get past the pain.
But in that storm, the person is suffering through you can throw a life-preserver in hopes to keep them afloat.
I want to help people through the storm to the calm.
I want to help them turn their life experiences into a ferocious drive for life.
Because writing about it helped me.
I know that after I began to lick my wounds and start living for myself, not for the image to impress others, I began the track toward my dream. Toward a tangible and real happiness.
My first ever article on this blog was posted with the title “Death: My Travel Inspiration“. It had been the first time in nearly five long years I visited my father’s and mother’s graves willingly. I wrote the article on the hilltop where I buried my father at the age of 19 and I wrote him a letter of things I always wanted to say to him. I also thought a lot about what the meaning of life truly is.
“On that quiet green hilltop overlooking the cemetery, he had the perfect view of the rippling brook and the colors of the leaves as they spring back to life; change to crimson and gold, then die each year to make way for new life. One day it’ll be our time when we are laid to rest; and when we give our bodies back to earth to watch the seasons come and go for eternity from a hilltop, a crow will carry our souls to whatever waits after this. But that time is not now, and it is not the time to watch life pass before you.”
I discovered on that hilltop speaking to my dad under the watchful eye of the crows, the carriers of the souls of the dead, that death was going to be my inspiration. I wasn’t going to fear it anymore. I wasn’t going to hide from what my parent’s deaths did to me.
“Death isn’t something dark and morbid to be feared, it is something that should be embraced as motivation to do all that is possible to create a life you are proud of. You may not be here tomorrow, so start living for today.”
So I began to write the stories. As thoughts and memories like cigarette burns in film flashed through my head and in broken reels, I pieced together my past and faced it for the first time. Every time it wrote a line of text, and every time I would re-read it, I would feel a pang in my heart. But I had to keep going.
I could already feel my mind and the weight of the past lifting and so I kept sharing.
Then comments began to flood in.
Comments by some I had met, and some new to the blog. People who helped my spirits keep lifting higher and higher above the darkness with encouragement.
And you all shared as well.
You told me how you had similar life experiences. You told me of your own losses. Of your own weakness and pain in those moments. You told me of the depression and of the hurt you’ve been through in life. Whether a loss similar to my own or other struggles in your life that haunted you.
You and I spoke to each other’s pasts, presents, and futures and the struggle on the road of life. And you all inspired me further. You drove me to keep sharing because it was helping the healing.
Some of you told me how you cried at what you read. And trust me, I cried at times writing it. Those times were the first times I shed a tear in 5 years.
Travel blogging helped me rise to a new level. My heart became airy and free, and my soul floats without worry. I feel unrestrained by the need to lie and make excuses to pretend I am great. I am just me now, and I am finally traveling and living for the right reasons. It helped me be honest with myself and realize what I was doing to myself and to people whom I cared about.
Writing and Travel blogging helped me stay alive. You helped me stay alive.
Writing and I are now intertwined. It is not just a hobby anymore or even a creative endeavor, it is a mission to change my life and to change others lives and the world around me for the better.
And you are intertwined in my life whether you know it or like it or not. By your words and your support and your interactions over this past year, I have grown to consider you all friends.