Forever Changed – Thank You Roaming Gnome

I am home.  After a 30 day trip to 6 global destinations on 4 continents via 12 international flights, I am tucked in to my cozy NYC apartment sipping my Arbonne detox tea with the lights dimmed, trying to mentally and emotionally process all that I just experienced in the past month of my life.

Quite a full passport after all of these stops: -NYC -> Brussels -> Rome -> Zurich -> Beijing -> Bangkok -> Mumbai -> Stutgaart -> Frankfort -> Munich -> Lisbon -> Rio de Janeiro -> NYC

Quite a full passport after all of these stops: – NYC -> Brussels -> Rome -> Zurich -> Beijing -> Bangkok -> Mumbai -> Stuttgart -> Frankfort -> Munich -> Lisbon -> Rio de Janeiro -> NYC

The trip

The Trip

I knew before this journey started that it was going to be a life-changing experience.  In fact, I had a deep knowingness in my soul the minute I walked through Madison Square Park and held that flier in my hand that read, “One Lucky Person Could Win a Trip Around the Globe,” that my life was going to be forever altered.

New Year's Eve on Ipanema beach in Rio

New Year’s Eve on Ipanema beach in Rio

It is strange to sit here in my familiar apartment while feeling totally changed by all of these places, cultures and people that are now interwoven into the tapestry of my life.  It is a meaningful, yet overwhelming set of emotions to wade through.

On the beach at sunset, listening to music and taking it all in

On the beach at sunset, listening to music and taking it all in

I believe we have been created for two main reasons: to learn and to love.  At this stage, I have awareness of only a small portion of all that will unfold in my life over time because of this experience I’ve had traveling the world.  But, I can pinpoint some meaningful ways that I have changed through this experience that I would love to share with you:

Anything is possible
Anything.  No dream is a ‘pipe dream.’  If you want to create something in your life, you can do it.  It will take vision, focused intention, action and positivity to bring it to life, but it is possible.  So if you haven’t started yet, start dreaming.

I have spent countless hours in my life writing out my dreams and desires and creating vision- we can only go after something if we have a clear picture of what it is that we want.

I have spent countless hours in my life writing out my dreams and desires and creating vision- we can only go after something if we have a clear picture of what it is that we want.

Travel Changes People
I have known since the first time I traveled abroad to Europe when I was 20 years old that travel changes people, because that experience forever changed me.  It changed the way I saw the world and its people and helped me to realize that I am not just an American- I am a global citizen.  We are all one world.  Yes, we may do things differently in different places, but as humans we all desire the same things deep down.  Travel opens up your mind to other ways of life and helps you to find beauty in cultures that are unlike your own.  Travel is so much bigger than taking a fun vacation- it is an agent of goodwill and peace. For this reason, my passion for travel and sharing my experiences with the world has deepened further, and I now know that it is my mission and my calling in life to inspire others to live a more full, rich existence through travel.

Some of the beautiful children at the Indian village we had the opportunity to visit and learn from a few hours outside of Mumbai

Some of the beautiful children at the Indian village we had the opportunity to visit and learn from a few hours outside of Mumbai

Life is about giving back
This experience has invigorated my passion for service.  Through Travelocity’s Travel for Good program, we had opportunities to volunteer in both New York City and Mumbai.  I realized that living in New York has stretched me in some significant ways- and because of that, this has been a season in my life where I’ve centered in more on myself, what I really want and how I’m going to get there (along with my ever-full social calendar).  This experience with Travel for Good has refreshed some of my perspectives and reinforced  how interacting with humans in meaningful ways nourishes my soul and is something I am going to put more energy in to.

My soul felt so rich while in India

My soul felt so rich while in India

I can operate without a schedule
Normal life works on some kind of set plan.  For me, it involves how I eat, how many hours I sleep each night and how many times a week I go to the gym.  All good things, yes — but I learned through this experience that I can live in other ways and that both are beautiful.  For a month straight, I barely knew what day of the week it was, didn’t have any regular sleep and ate whatever made sense at the time.  I went on 3-4 hours of sleep most nights and ate immeasurable amounts of bread, butter and chocolate.  Sometimes it makes more sense to just go with the natural flow of life and not be so concerned about ‘normal’ routines.  What is normal, anyway?

Taken on a 35 hour travel day: Mumbai to Stugaart to Frankfort to Munich to Lisbon

Taken on a 35 hour travel day: Mumbai to Stuttgart to Frankfort to Munich to Lisbon– good thing were were in amazing hands with Lufthansa’s Business Class- it made the travel day much, much easier even with delays and weather re-routes!

I can unplug, detach and simplify
I purposefully unplugged.  It was an intentional decision to let the cell phone go.  I didn’t get an international plan because I wanted to be present in each place and with every experience, not checking my Facebook or tweeting while on the Great Wall of China.  I am so happy I made the decision to detach.  I took 30 days without a phone and just updated my Facebook when I had some time back in the hotel.  It helped me to realize that I can put better boundaries in place moving forward between me and technology and that sometimes I probably miss what is going on in my actual life because I am wrapped up in peoples’ status updates.  The beauty of having a simple life was also reinforced.  I am after experiences in life that impact my heart and soul, more than I am after collecting a bunch of stuff.  Travel is a strainer that helps me to sift through materialism and vanity, and I love it for that.

On a train in India

On a train in India

Now that this trip is over, many people have made comments like, “It must have been so wonderful- well, now back to reality!”

I am choosing and declaring that this is my reality.  All of it.

Paying rent and bills in my NYC apartment, traveling to see my family in Virginia, going to the gym and all of the routine things that I do on a daily and weekly basis….. as well as traveling to new places often, learning from different cultures, eating new foods, running on beaches all over the world, learning acrobatics at a circus school in Lisbon and driving Ferarri’s in Italy.  This is my beautiful life that I am working to create: the ‘mundane’ as well as the new and challenging.  It all flows together to produce this fascinating existence, and I want to drink every last drop of this amazing gift that we have all been given.

Cristo Redentor watching over all of Rio

Cristo Redentor watching over all of Rio

Our final night together as a crew in Rio, watching the sunset out on the water

Our final night together as a crew in Rio, watching the sunset out on the water

Majestic

Majestic

I hope as you’ve seen my life transformed through this deeply meaningful experience with Travelocity, that you have been given some hope and inspiration to seize each day and life full out.

Determine how to love the life that you have.... it's precious!

Determine how to love the life that you have…. it’s precious!

After all, la vita e bella.  Carpe Diem.

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5 Responses to Forever Changed – Thank You Roaming Gnome

  1. libs012 says:

    100 percent love what you said about “This is my reality.” Shame on those for saying “that was wonderful, back to reality.” You just had the most amazing experience of your life and you will forever have the opportunity to talk about it–and be proud of it–and look back on it. I am so excited for you Ashley and whatever may be next. So happy we have crossed paths . Cheers and Love

  2. Good for you Ash, I watched your journey with great interest. I hadn’t heard that you had won, but once I saw and read I knew you were in for a wonderful experience! I Still remember your time with us here at the Mission, trust your life can make a difference somebody elses now! Blessings, Rick Shipway GSAM, India (www.IndianOrphanage.com)

  3. Garrett says:

    God has blessed your life ash
    I am so excited for you, I can only imagine all the lives you
    Change as you help others experience a trip around the world contest with
    Travelocity. That is such a great idea! I wish I thought of that..
    Come see maui again soon,
    God bless
    The parsons

  4. What an epic adventure and some awesome photos too. Totally agree with you “Travel opens up your mind to other ways of life and helps you to find beauty in cultures that are unlike your own.”

  5. Pingback: Arms Wide Open | Travel With Castle

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