The REAL American Dreamers Project: Me, The Urban Gypsy
Dionisia has been traveling for the past 3 years through India, Greece and mainland Southeast Asia. The countries she has visited and the people she met along the way (both locals and other vagabonds) motivated her to keep seeing the world, to meet its inhabitants, to write, and to share the inspiration she found with those around her. During her travels, she came to hear many misinformed statements and prejudices about Americans from fellow travelers, most of which were completely unfounded. She felt compelled to to dispel those myths that are disseminated by mass media and show how incredible the people from this country can truly be. Incredible people who are living their dream lives, living outside of any ‘traditional, expected boxes’. People who have overcome adversity and have taken the opportunity to reinvent themselves or explore new paths. People who shine their light and inspire those around them.
Tell us a bit about your life…
When I was 18 years old, I was poised to live the ultimate American Dream. I graduated in the top 10% of my high school class, and enrolled in a posh liberal arts college in upstate New York, Colgate University. After graduation, I moved to Manhattan during the first tech bubble, and accepted a position at a startup selling technology. A few years later, I landed a cushy job at Google. To the naked eye, my life path had “perfect” written all over it. I lived in a spacious apartment in Chelsea, had my own walk-in closet overflowing with designer clothing, and a beautiful, loving boyfriend any girl would dream to call her own. Life was ‘good’. But still, I wasn’t deeply satisfied with my life.
Why? What were you searching for?
I felt like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Somehow, this English Lit major ended up on the salesperson track — something I’m good at because I love people and I enjoy engaging with all sorts of personalities — but I felt NO PASSION for my work. Every day, I’d log in my hours at the office, but I felt like so much was missing. ME! The feeling of pure joy and excitement when I woke up. Purpose. Community. I felt like a lot of things I wanted from my life were missing. I was starting to feel like it was too late to make any changes, that I had missed out on my life. Finally, after many years of feeling that hole get bigger and bigger, and fed up with feeling like I wasn’t living my authentic life, I started to make changes — scary, drastic changes.
Did anything specific happen to you that served as an impetus to these changes?
Absolutely. My father’s death was a life-changing experience. My father and I had (still have, on the spiritual realm) a wonderful relationship. Not only was he my dad, but he was my friend. We really enjoyed each other and had a special bond. So, his passing really woke me up. After his death, deep in mourning, I started to really contemplate life and the purpose of it all. Life just felt so meaningless to me. Why are we born just to suffer and then eventually die? Why do we sit at desks, doing work that doesn’t move us, until we meet our fate six feet under? Deeply dissatisfied with my work, my life and the resounding question “What is life about?”, I booked a week-long solo retreat to Kripalu in the Berkshires.
“…his passing really woke me up.”
I had been practicing yoga for many years at the time, but purely on a physical level. I was not interested in the spiritual side of yoga…yet. While at Kripalu, this overwhelming ease came over me, and I voraciously devoured two books by the top teachers at the center. I had two empowering breakthroughs about life and death during guided meditations, read passages that clarified and comforted me regarding death….and the spiritual journey began. Kripalu is a very, very special place to me — the birthplace of my spiritual journey and everything that my life is today. I owe so much to that place.
That’s incredible! So, what happened after that?
Slowly, over the course of several years, I started to relinquish bits of what I call my ‘old life.’ First, I left Google to pursue several things that I was interested in learning more about — I became a Fashion Stylist and received my yoga teacher certification from Kripalu.
“One way ticket, alone, loose plans and a whole lot of dreams to realize. Nothing was going to hold me down.”
My boyfriend and I went separate ways (we’re still the dearest of friends). I moved out of our cozy apartment and answered the calling to finally hit the open road to India — something I had dreamed about doing for over a decade. One way ticket, alone, loose plans and a whole lot of dreams to realize. Nothing was going to hold me down. It was time for me to take my life back. By the horns. It’s never too late to start over!
What did you learn during your extensive travels?
It feels so unbelievably liberating to break free from the boxes we have locked ourselves into. We humans have a tendency to build unnatural fences around ourselves after childhood. Knocking these walls down and letting the inner kid out every once in awhile encourages us to appreciate all that we have, and to really feel ourselves in the moment. This moment. Because, honestly, it’s all we have. So, I think the biggest learning is the ability to be present. Everything is fleeting. Moments, experiences, relationships. Nothing will last forever. A main tenet in the Buddhist belief system is that ‘Everything is impermanent’ and there’s nothing better than travel to help hammer that home.
Another thing I learned is that we are capable of doing whatever we want, if we have faith and believe in ourselves. I NEVER thought I’d be able to travel in a third world country alone, and for so many months. And it kept me paralyzed from doing so for the better part of my adult life. But finally, when I realized I had exhausted all my excuses, and if I wanted to continue to remain stagnant, living without the real experiences I was craving — I could either hold myself back with fear, or I could jump over the cliff and believe that the fall wouldn’t hurt — I approach everything in life this way now. With caution, but with zeal and excitement, adventure and passion. Life with this mindset is electric!
What made you start The REAL American Dreamers Project?
When I hit the RESET button on my life, a whole new world came rushing towards me. A world I knew I belonged in. I started to REALLY MOVE again. Dancing has always been very important to me, but I realized that for almost a decade, I barely danced. I really wasn’t alive in my body. I started doing all the things on my ‘bucket list’. I realized I didn’t want to wait until I was old and frail to live out my life. Why wait until I’m 70 (if I even get there!) if I can live my life NOW!
Over the past 3 years, I have met so many incredible humans — through the dancing, music, art, spiritual, yoga, and entrepreneurship communities. And they inspire me to no end. At a Winter Solstice gathering last winter, I had a creative breakthrough. I wanted to show the world how incredible people can be when they follow their passions and live authentically. I know so many people who are moving mountains with their lives — and if there is a way that their existence can inspire others to live THEIR American dream, then the world will be a better place for it!
Photography: AstroMaria Robles Moino
Originally published at www.realamericandreamers.com.