Fearless Flying: How Traveling Taught Me To Live Life Fully

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." ~ Ibn Battuta

When I was 7, my parents signed me up for Fresh Air Fund (FAF) and it was my first taste of traveling. I have never been the same since. 

I stayed with a host family who lived in a mansion in Hartford, Connecticut and it was the best two weeks of my life. I remember getting on the Amtrak train on my way to Hartford and thinking, this is amazing! I felt so free as I watched from the window, seeing towns pass me by.

I was in FAF until I was 12 and during that time, I lived with a family in rural Vermont on a farm where I walked barefoot everywhere, picked blueberries, sat on rocks in a lake stream and wrote in my journal. I stayed with a family in Plattsburgh, NY where I went on a backpacking trip with them, hiking in the woods. And I got to experience the camp life in Upstate NY.

This all made me even more eager to see the world.

When I was 14, I went on my first plane ride. I was headed to Los Angeles to spend the summer with my best friend, staying with her aunt and uncle. Once that plane took off at JFK, I instantly knew I was where I wanted to be. 

I love the idea of being able to get on a plane and go to different places in the world. And those palm trees in LA had me smiling all summer, fueling my dreams of traveling all over the world.

I still smile when I see a palm tree. I feel like I am 14 again, feeling fearless and free.

As destiny would have it, later on in my life, I would land my first full-time office job at a corporate travel company, which afforded me the luxury of traveling for free. And travel, I did.

Mexico City, Martinique, London, Acapulco, San Francisco, Vegas, Toronto, Hawaii, San Diego, Puerto Rico, Miami, Atlanta, Houston...

If you've read my short essay in Virgie Tovar's Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion, you know I struggled with traveling as a plus size person and dealing with the stares, the anxiety, the comments, etc. I let my fear hold me back from traveling. And my best friend Herman was the one who told me to just go. And I did.

A tequila farm outside of Mexico City
I then worked for an airline for a few years and traveled some more.

Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Versailles, London again, Amsterdam, Brussels, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Denver, London again, Paris again...

Paris enjoying a crepe with Nutella

Lantau Island, China

Thing is, I traveled to most of these places alone. This was back in the early 2000s and traveling solo was not "in". So folks thought I was nuts to hop on a plane with the quickness by myself and go to a foreign country. But I was addicted to that feeling of freedom that I felt by being able to get a plane and just go.

Drinking a beer in Amsterdam

Las Vegas
My anxiety is one of the reasons why I traveled solo a lot. I know it sounds weird but I felt safer being on my own. I didn't have to worry about sharing a room with someone or sharing my time with someone. I can move at my own pace. I did have mini panic attacks sometimes while traveling but I always thought about why I was traveling and that feeling of freedom that would come from it and that would calm me.

I was also single during this time in my life and all of my friends were in relationships. I learned early on that odd numbers don't work well in travel and single supplements are not awesome AT ALL.

But that didn't stop me from going. And doing things that people told me I couldn't do.

I thrive on the thrill -- I'm not scared of heights or anything. But I panic over things like getting lost and not knowing my surroundings. I panic when I don't have a place to sleep or if I am in place where I feel uncomfortable. I'm someone who doesn't like crowds and I like to have some personal space. 

I also always had major anxiety during the flight boarding because I didn't know if someone was going to sit next to me or have an issue with me sitting in their row. 

But I never stopped traveling. And my dad used to say that showed my strength. Because traveling is in my blood and I never let my anxiety stop me from seeing the world.

In late 2008, I was laid off from my job of 8 years. I was given a nice settlement and thought, what do I do next? I was pushing 40 and felt like I needed a break from the corporate world. So I did something that had people thinking I had lost it -- I decided to not look for a job at that moment and just travel.

Toronto - eating some poutine
I spent almost 3 weeks in Europe, starting in London and taking Rail Europe around all over the place. I also went to Denver to visit one of my best friends for a few weeks. LA for two weeks, Vegas for a week.... I got around. Toronto, Mexico, Los Angeles again, San Diego, San Francisco, Florida, Puerto Rico again and Atlanta.

Traveling helped me realize that the corporate world was not for me and that is what led me on this journey to start freelancing as a writer and also immerse myself more into the plus size world.

Washington, DC
My traveling came to a halt when my dad died in 2011. A piece of me died along with him. 

I did visit Washington, DC a few years after he died and it was a trip that reminded me that not only did I miss that feeling of being free but traveling can heal your soul a little too.

Then my younger brother died in 2014. I haven't really traveled since then. Haven't been on a plane. I visit my best friend monthly in the Poconos where he lives and I have been to Philly to visit my other best friend but that has been the extent of my travel. 

Grief has a sneaky way of integrating itself into your spirit and making you lose sight of how wonderful life can be if you live fully. You stand still in sadness, grasping at memories of the person you lost. And you feel guilty when you try to move on without them. 

I finally feel well enough again where I look at planes overhead and think, I need to be on that plane, going somewhere. That feeling of being free and seeing the world... it never went away but it was muted for a little while. While I don't have the money to travel as I did when I got laid off, I do plan to get out more.

I love traveling by train and bus too. And I'm going to start to branch out slowly and travel on a budget. Because I believe traveling can heal your spirit if you just go.

My dream is to travel cross country to the West Coast via Amtrak. Making stops here and there to visit friends and see some sights. 

DC with my best friend Marie
I also want to start inviting others on my adventures and not travel solo all the time. I think that when you invite others in, you can see the world through their eyes and appreciate the moments even more.

I love to challenge myself daily. So one of my challenges of 2017 is to travel and do so on a budget including that Amtrak trip. Get out there and see some more of the world. I know I can do it. Last year had me on this journey of believing in myself and now I know I can do anything I set my mind to. 

Philadelphia - top of the "Rocky" stairs
Life is all about taking chances, enjoying the moments and just pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. Experiencing as much as you can and letting those experiences humble you and build your character. Traveling makes you appreciate being alive and the beauty of it all.

And the dopest thing about life is that you can start over as many times as you can until you die. Do-overs enable us to grow and be better people. This is my travel do-over. And I can't wait. Why should I wait until I am thinner or richer? The time is now.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." ~ Saint Augustine


  1. You should come visit the Pacific Northwest! I know a great place to come shopping - Curvy Chic Closet's spring event in late April. :)

  2. I LOVE this post, although I'm sorry for the loss of your dad and brother. More travel is on my list for this year, and less of buying clothes. The memories made travelling are going to last longer than a pretty dress....or at least I hope so. ;)