Are you living your life by default or design?

How solo travel can inspire you to start creating the life of your dreams.

Back in 2013 the life I’d been living by default came crashing down. My unhealthy relationship with my husband was finally ending, I felt overwhelmed and exhausted from my job as a psychotherapist intern and, by leaving my husband, I was also losing my close community of military friends.

Even though it felt like my entire life was falling apart, the truth was, I was never happy with that life anyway. I had always struggled in my relationship with my husband, did not enjoy providing therapy to clients and never quite fit in the military community. When I created this life 6 years prior, I did it by default. I sort of just fell into it when I met my husband and what followed felt like a whirlwind from which I couldn’t escape.

When I took off solo to Europe in the summer of 2013, I had no idea that my trip would open my eyes to new cultures, new opportunities and new ways of living that would shape the rest of my life forever. Being in foreign countries alone felt like a chance to start over, choose my own adventure and be whoever I wanted to be. There were no influences from my soon to be ex-husband, friends or family, and every decision I made was intentional and authentic to me.

I was not surprised when the opportunity came to travel to Norway to stay with a family (who were strangers to me) for two weeks and I immediately said yes. I resonated so much with the Norwegian culture and my newfound Norwegian friends that I later applied for a PhD position in hopes of moving to Norway and creating an entirely new life for myself there.

Although the PhD position didn’t pan out in the end, the lessons I learned from my solo travels in Norway allowed me to return home and start creating my life by design. Instead of falling into a life determined by culture, family, husbands or friends, I intentionally chose the life I wanted to live. This meant changing my career and becoming a writer, moving to a new town, creating a new community of close friends, distancing myself from some of my family members, learning new hobbies and eventually finding a husband and creating a healthy marriage.

When we live our life by default, we allow things outside of ourselves to create our life for us. Whether it’s society, culture, family, friends, a significant other, children or health issues — when we allow these people and things to create our life for us, we give up our power, happiness and sense of adventure. We may feel like victims of the world, become depressed and overwhelmed and, ultimately, feel unhappy with ourselves.

Taking off alone to explore some part of the world, even for a long weekend, allows us to be free of the outside influences that contribute to a life lived by default. Reconnecting with ourselves, exploring other cultures, meeting new people and connecting with new places gives us the space and inspiration we need to begin creating our lives by design.

The life you love might be one solo flight, road trip or train ride away. When will you start living your life by design?