Jun 24, 2017
By Tiffany Soukup
How I started Traveling when I stopped looking in the Mirror
To say travel has changed my life is an accurate statement, but it might not be in quite the way you would imagine. When people talk of traveling, images of distant lands, big mountains, exotic foods or unique animals come to mind. Those things are a part of my travels, but for me, the ability to travel began with a mirror.
I didn’t have a traditional upbringing. Wanting to protect me from the evils of the world, I was kept fairly isolated and homeschooled until the fourth grade. Sometimes I feel like I missed the boat with some developmental learning in those formative years. For instance, multiplication, well let’s just say I am really good at the 5’s. During that period of my life I was happy and my world was filled with learning, forests, building forts and climbing trees.
The issues came when I was forced to attend a small Catholic School. The only reason it happened was because family members insisted my sister and I needed more formal education and they paid for it. As you can imagine, I did not fit in. I barely had any idea how to socialize with other kids, let alone kids in a higher socioeconomic bracket. It was a brutal time. For four years I endured constantly hearing what is still to this day the meanest, worst and soul crushing comments ever to be said me.
I think it is part of our instinct for survival, that even if we are feeling dead inside, we still try to look alive on the outside.
Despite getting up every day and going through the motions, my self-worth was non-existent. I used to look in the mirror for hours believing all the things the kids and adults said to me were true. Until one day I had enough and said, “I’m not going to look at myself anymore in the mirror.” I didn’t know what else to do with myself, but I least wasn’t going to keep analyzing every feature, whether visible or emotional, and keep putting myself down for it.
By stepping away from the mirror I learned that I can travel just as much within my own mind as I can in the physical world. I realized the beliefs I held within my own head could either propel me or limit me to where I could go.
At the time I didn’t know that travel was what would allow my life to fill fulfilled, I just knew I wanted my mind to be free. So I stopped looking in the mirror. I stopped, as much as I could, believing I was who the other kids told me I was. And stopped believing that I was confined to my fate, as I knew it at that time.
The result is I am now living a free life. Not that it’s a cake walk – I work hard and make sacrifices to achieve the goals I have, but it’s a life that I feel excited to live. The older I get, the more I realize less and less people can say they are excited about their own life. Along with my husband, I have traveled to over 35 countries, dove with bull sharks, overlanded across ten African countries and multiple times taken a full year off to travel nonstop. We have built our life around travel. I still hold other values with high importance and make time for family, friends and to foster a community, but travel is propelling motive.
For me I travel because it’s one of the only ways I can make sense of this world. Our individual worlds are only as big as our minds know them to be. Despite living in the age of the fastest internet ever, experiencing the world through a one dimensional screen is not an accurate portrayal of what’s going on around us. If we solely go by what we are seeing there, it’s no different than me believing the one perspective of what those kids told me. But when we can travel, when we get lost, get found, walk in and out of situations we never even imagined experiencing, then we can begin to feel alive and see our lives, and the lives of others, from different angles.
This is how and why I travel. I think, regardless of what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning, we can share the journey of open mindedness, to imagine what could be possible rather than what is possible and to understand that there is more than one way to live this life.
When we allow our minds the ability to freely travel, that is when we open the door for real change. We can start to believe our dreams are possible.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Inspiration 2017 Travel Writing Award and tell your story.
About the Author
For over a decade, Tiffany Soukup has traveled to more than 35 countries with her husband Chris, hiking into remote jungles, looking for endangered wildlife and seeking adventures.