Wanderlust of the Soul

I have a fascination with strangers — I’m intrigued by the connection that I can experience in the passing moments of when our worlds collide. You see — strangers are unlike anyone else in your life. They have no emotional attachments 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 you something that virtually no one else can give.

It all seems a bit mystical.

Have you ever pondered a certain issue or had thoughts vacillating in your head and no matter how many books you’ve read or classes you’ve taken you still can’t seem to genuinely reconcile the issue? And then, just like that — you hear the thing you needed to hear in a seemingly normal conversation with a person you’ve never met before, and you feel completely understood. You feel seen.

One of these moments happened to me not too long ago.

I walked into a nail salon hoping to get a pedicure for some much-needed self-care. I took a glance around to notice the nail technicians drilling and filing away in sterile unison. The people were pleasant — but not overly so. It was a typical scenario for a Saturday evening as everyone silently anticipated 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 the supplies for my pedicure.

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

I was immediately met with a feeling of genuine serenity — not the manufactured kind that I had sensed walking in. 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 down-to-earth approachability.

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. Not being a fan of superficial small talk, I asked her a deeper question to alleviate the awkwardness.

“How did you get into this career path?”

She began to tell me about how she had an affinity for massage and was a licensed massage therapist, but that she had a more 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 looked hesitant and explained that she would be traveling to South Africa in the next couple of weeks. I was ecstatic for my stranger friend, but disappointed I wouldn’t be able to see her again. Her eyes lit up as she elaborated — but also expressed an element of surprise that someone was intrigued enough to ask more. 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. Her response spoke to my inner core:

“At times I am afraid — but waiting on other people to buy their ticket to come alongside is not something that I am willing to do.”

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

She had taken her life into her own hands. She was unapologetically dedicated to following her wanderlust. She admitted that it wasn’t always beautiful — that there were times of loneliness that came in the most unexpected ways. She also had to endure the struggle of finding new employment when she returned — her trips often lasting a month or longer. 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 my story was vastly different from hers — 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’ve packed my bags. Have you?

Nicole Edwards, CPLP® is a speaker and facilitator, dedicated to empowering people to challenge limiting perceptions that stand in the way of personal and professional success. Her workshops In Your Eyes: Shift the Lens for a Change in Perception, Energize to Elevate, and Engaging Staff to Elevate Culture are her most popular course offerings.

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