Wanderlust and the Pursuit of Purpose

I have a fascination with strangers — I’m intrigued by the connection that occurs in the passing moments of when our worlds collide.

You see — strangers are unlike anyone else in your life. They have no emotional attachment to you, they haven’t seen the highest points or lowest valleys of your life, and they don’t care about your vices and contradictions. In a way, they have the potential to offer a perspective that virtually no one else can give.

It all seems a bit mystical.

Have you ever mused over a certain issue, or had thoughts vacillating in your head and no matter how many spirituality books you’ve read or yoga classes you’ve explored, you still can’t seem to gain genuine clarity and peace? And then, just like that — you hear the very thing you’ve needed to hear in a seemingly normal conversation with a person you’ve never met before in a regular, everyday circumstance.

I had been tackling the idea of a career change, but I was hesitant. I felt an inescapable urge to chart a new course, but I was feeling torn between starting a new endeavor, and remaining on a team I’d grown to adore. An increasingly difficult task when tentativeness was playing tug-of-war with resolve in my mind. I had yet to find peace in where my feet would lead me.

For some much-needed self-care, I took myself to get a pedicure.

I walked into the salon on a typical Friday evening. You could feel the tension of the nail technicians silently anticipating what was waiting for them on the other side of closing time. The receptionist hurried me to the back of the salon and I collapsed into the spa chair.

“No problem, sweetie”, the nail technician assured me after I knocked over the bench containing all of her supplies.

“Is there anything that I can get you?” she asked with a look of tranquility in her eyes.

I was immediately met with a feeling of genuine sincerity. She had a quiet and calm presence about her, and by the way she carried herself, it was obvious that she had done some intense spiritual work. I was mesmerized by her ethereal vibe.

As I glanced around, every person in the room sitting in a chair was engulfed by their mobile device — and most certainly not engaged with the person that was attending to their wellness. As I settled into the pedicure, we exchanged standard niceties. As we got acquainted, I felt an inclination to ask her some deeper questions:

“How long have to been doing nails?”

“When did you know this is what you wanted to do?”

She began to tell me about how she had an affinity for massage therapy and was a licensed massage therapist, but she had more of a flexible schedule doing nails. I inquired whether I would be able to see her in two weeks — already plotting to have her as my regular technician.

She shrugged her shoulders and explained that she would be traveling to South Africa in the next couple of weeks. I was ecstatic for my stranger-friend, but slightly disappointed I wouldn’t be able to see her again. Her eyes lit up as she elaborated — but I also got the feeling that she was surprised that someone was intrigued enough to ask.

As she continued to speak, I immediately felt connected to the deepest parts of her humanness. She began to explain that traveling was what made her feel alive — and she traveled often — covering many countries in five continents. She loved her work, but felt nudged to travel the world (most times by herself) where she could do really remarkable volunteer work in whichever place she landed. In awe of her, I asked if she was ever afraid of traveling alone:

“At times I am afraid — but waiting on other people to buy a ticket is sometimes not an option.”

I leaned in. There it was. The thing I needed to hear.

She was gracefully unapologetic for embracing her wanderlust, even if it meant going alone. She admitted that it wasn’t always beautiful — that there were times of loneliness that came in the most unexpected ways. She was assured, however, that it all paled in comparison to following the nudge of her soul.

I immediately reflected on all of the ways that I have followed my own inner nudges over the years, but I realized there was more work to be done.

More to explore. More to do. More to give.

It was the validation I had been waiting on.

Although I had no tangible plans to travel the world — the significance rang true in my own life. I have a hunch it applies to all of us. Wanderlust does not have to be exclusive to travel. Following the nudge to explore who you are and uncovering the gifts that you were meant to give in this life is an exciting and essential journey. Each nudge leads you on a voyage set out for you and only you. There are times when you do get to share parts of your journey with others and those are precious, but there are times when you must not wait on others to buy a ticket.

I never saw her again after that day. But I will carry her words with me forever. I gained indisputable clarity — all because of a passing moment of connection with a stranger.

I am now ready to embrace all of life’s adventures that allow me to share my gifts with the world.

I’ve packed my bags. Have you?

Nicole Edwards, CPLP® is a professional speaker dedicated to empowering humans to challenge limiting perceptions that stand in the way of personal and professional success. Watch her TEDx talk entitled In Your Eyes that explores how a shift in perception can unlock the rarest of gifts!