Reach your dreams in three simple steps.
What if I told you that everything you want is waiting for you?
Airports, once so unfamiliar, have become routine to me.
I walk in confidently, sure of the layout, with my ID and boarding pass ready. My bags are neatly and efficiently packed, and even in the dead heat of a Georgia summer, I’ll have socks ready to slip on before my shoes come off for the security check. It’s become so routine that it doesn’t even feel surreal anymore.
It did feel surreal, at the start.
It all started with three separate conversations with writer friends living in different areas of New York. When the first one mentioned that I should come visit sometime, I laughed it off- entirely dismissive of the idea of winging my way to the city. I was a single mom on a budget. I’d love to do it, but it felt as far away as forever.
The second friend mentioned it, and I laughed again. But this time I laughed because it was the second time that week that a trip to the city had been mentioned, and I allowed myself the luxury of thinking what it would be like to be the kind of person impulsive enough just to go. By the third friend mentioned the trip and extended the offer of a place to stay, I was primed to accept.
Three mentions of travel to the same place in one week? I don’t know if it qualifies as a sign, but I started to ask myself the real question.
Why couldn’t I be the person to just book a flight and go on a weekend my kids would already be with their father? I didn’t have other plans. I’d always wanted to go to New York. Why not now?
That was in January. By Valentine’s day, I was packing my bags and heading to the city for the weekend. I had a place to stay with a friend and two other friends talking about coming to visit while I was in the city. I had no idea what that trip would change for me, but I knew it was big. I could feel it in every step of the process.
I nearly cried on the airplane. It wasn’t my first flight, but it was certainly my first alone and with so little planning in advance. I was entirely intimidated by the idea of travel, but I could have wept with the sheer knowledge that I was doing a thing I had always wanted to do and was always firmly assured would be outside my means. I was afraid, but I was doing it anyway.
And, of course, like millions before me, I fell thoroughly in love with the city. With the people, friendlier than I’d been given to expect. With the color of the light changing against the buildings. With the open park space nestled deep in its heart.
One trip turned into another. By April, I’d been to Mexico and back. Last month, I added Ireland and the United Kingdom to that list. The world is my oyster, and I didn’t fall into a pile of money or get a big raise. It was really very simple, in the end.
It only took three simple, unplanned steps.
I allowed myself to imagine what it would be like if the thing I wanted happened.
I can’t tell you how big this was for me. I’m practical by nature, and I was raised to be hyperaware of the limits my lifestyle would afford me. I’d been assured, time and again, that travel was for the wealthy, not for the working class. I knew that I wanted to write for a living, and I had made that happen against all odds. I also knew that I wanted to travel, but that seemed trickier.
To allow myself to imagine doing a thing I had been told was impossible allowed me to see the possibilities.
If it was possible, then I didn’t need to ask why I would do it. I’d always wanted it. I’d collected travel guides and listened to language learning apps. I knew in my heart that this was something I wanted for myself.
I asked myself the most important question: Why not?
Once my mind was open to those possibilities, I began to ask the big question:
Why not me?
Why not now?
Fear. Of going to a new place alone. Of the reality of me not measuring up to my online persona. Of doing something so entirely outside my life thus far.
Finances. Of spending that much money for a weekend- not for my kids but for myself. Of doing something entirely for myself. Of splurging when the last few years have taught me to save everything I can for the next rainy day.
There was a comfort in knowing friends would be on the other side of the flight, that I wouldn’t be alone going somewhere new. A flight would be fairly affordable, particularly when I already had a place to stay. I had a little saved up, and while I had practical things to save for, I had enough available for a long weekend trip.
If the limits I’d previously imagined weren’t actually real, why couldn’t I find an affordable flight and make a plan?
I found the courage and made a plan.
I booked the flight before I could change my mind. I started making a list of everything I wanted to see and asking others who had been what should definitely make the list. I packed my bags and waited. I knew that I was shifting my perspective in a way that would alter my course, and yet, I had no idea how big the coming changes would be.
All the places we’ve ever wanted to see and all the things we’ve ever wanted to do are out there — just waiting for us.
If we can dare to imagine living the lives we’ve always wanted, if we can ask ourselves the big questions to determine what it is holding us back, and if we just find the courage to make a plan, we could be living those lives.
I’m not saying that it’s simple or ignoring my advantages in terms of scheduling and even available finances. I understand that others have challenges I couldn’t possibly understand. But I also know that when we pair our dreams with the right motivation, we become something unstoppable in pursuit of them.
It was impossible — when I couldn’t imagine it.
When I could imagine it, I couldn’t find a good enough reason not to go forward. If what I wanted was possible, it seemed like the greatest barrier to finding out what was on the other side of travel was my own fear and reluctance to try. When I found my courage, I had to know. I had to see if the reality that existed was as good as the fantasy.
It was better.
Standing in the security line at the airport, ID and passport in hand, is now old hat. I know how to endure the wait for boarding with more grace than impatience and boredom. If I still feel intimidated before a trip, I remind myself that what I want is on the other side of all that fear.
The world is out there. It’s bigger than I’ve ever imagined. I have no intention of keeping it waiting.