The little things are the big things. Plus, I’m scared. Plus, plus, it’s my birthday.

by Kim on August 10, 2012 · 58 comments

Brian and I are back in Portland now, catching up with friends and enjoying the good life for a few days. I still have lots of stories to tell about our U.S. road trip. We fly to Ecuador in less than a week!

Inevitably, now that we are back in Oregon, friends have been asking what my favorite part of traveling throughout the U.S. has been. It’s a hard question to answer because Brian and I have done and seen so many things.

Years ago I watched Oprah interview a ten-year-old girl and her mother. The mother had terminal cancer and knew that she wouldn’t live to see her daughter grow older. In a touching act of love the mother decided to have as many new and wonderful experiences with her daughter as she could in the time she had left. She wanted to give her daughter a bank of happy memories to draw from in the years ahead.

The mother and daughter traveled a lot. They went to the ocean and the mountains. They went to Disneyland. They went shopping and to movies, to parks and to museums. They did more new things in one year than many people do in their lifetime.

Oprah commented on how lucky the little girl was to have had so many great experiences with her mother. “You’ve done so many wonderful things with your mom. What is your all-time favorite memory?” she asked the girl.

The little girl didn’t hesitate with her response, she knew exactly what her favorite memory was. “Eating cereal with my mom in the mornings,” the girl said.

The little things are the big things.

__________

Brian and I have done a lot of amazing things this summer. But when I think back on what my favorite thing was it’s not the big events or expensive hotel splurges that stick with me.

What I think about is meeting my mom for dinner at a restaurant in my hometown and talking about everyday things. I think about visiting my little sister’s college apartment and eating ice cream with her and her boyfriend.

I think about Brian’s face when he saw the Tetons for the first time. I think about writing and reading at a picnic table as the sun set behind the mountains. I think about waking up at 3 a.m. in the Grand Canyon to a sky filled with a million stars.

__________

As we drove around the country this summer I thought a lot about how this road trip compared to the last time I drove across the country eight years ago. Eight years ago I’d never been to the Pacific Northwest. I’d never driven west of Colorado. I’d never seen the desert and I’d only seen the Pacific Ocean once.

Eight years ago the country felt huge. I remember seeing the red rocks of Utah for the first time and knowing that there was so much beauty in the U.S. that I hadn’t seen yet. My own country felt foreign to me. It was invigorating, but I also felt small and alone in the world.

This time around the country felt much different. I was still blown away by her beauty, but I was also struck by how familiar she felt. No matter where we traveled, I always felt that I was home.

That’s how I know that I’m ready for this next step- to not only travel through the world but to live in it. I’m ready to learn other countries in the same way that I have learned mine. I’m ready to walk through new mountains and meet new people and find out if I can be at home in the world.

I’m scared. I am freaking scared! I’m scared of all the unknowns. I’m scared of the pressure that traveling puts on my relationship with Brian. I’m scared of feeling small and alone in the world again. It’s so nice to be back in Oregon, where everything is familiar. I keep thinking: Let’s just stay! Life is so nice here, why not just stay?

But I know that if I let everything that scared me stop me I’d not have lived half of the experiences I’ve had in my life so far. I’d never have moved away from Ohio, I’d never have started running, I’d never have left a career that made me unhappy so that I could do what I love.

How do I end this post?  Maybe I’ll tell you this: I am writing this on my 31st birthday. It’s a Thursday, right after noon, and I am sitting alone in a coffee shop in southeast Portland.

If you’d asked me on my 21st birthday or my 27th birthday or even my 29th birthday what my life would look like today I never could have guessed that it would look as it does. I keep surprising myself. I’m proud that I have listened to my inner voice and followed the path that felt authentic to me.

Still, I frequently disappoint myself. I act as I shouldn’t. I hold myself and those close to me to unfairly high standards. I tend to push things too far.

As I grow older I am learning to work with my faults. I know what I struggle with and I know there are certain things that will always challenge me. I’ve learned to be easier on myself about the things I don’t excel at and to celebrate the things I do. 

I’ve learned an important thing, too, about being the best I can be.

There are times in life when you fail, sometimes miserably. In fact, if you don’t fail you aren’t trying hard enough. This is a common sentiment.

Other times, though, you succeed. Sometimes your success is even bigger than you thought possible.

When you fail, know that you have tried when you could have simply watched. After you’ve failed, if your heart is still in it, try again. Then again. And again.

But when you succeed, in those moments in life when you glow like the blazing sun, it is absolutely critical that you not fear your own light.

When you shine, keep walking towards that thing that lights you up.

The sun shines through the clouds in Central Oregon


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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Torre – Fearful Adventurer August 10, 2012 at 10:13 am

Happy Birthday, Kim. Thanks for giving us the gift of your honesty and your always-beautiful writing. xo

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:45 am

Thanks Torre :)

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Carmel August 10, 2012 at 10:22 am

First of all…HAPPY BIRTHDAY! We’re the same age for 19 days. I can’t wait to buy you a birthday beer…or 3.

Secondly, this post brought tears to my eyes, and I’m not much of a crier. Lately, as things have been getting harder, savings-wise and personally, I’ve been so tempted to just give up, to start having babies like my friends, and just settle down. I love it here. I love my family and friends…but I know that the undeniable truth that lies within my heart cannot be silenced anymore. I’m on the journey now and although lately it feels like I’ve been doing nothing but stumbling, it will be that much more worth the trouble and sacrifice when we get there.

It’s good to hear you’re scared. It must mean you’re doing something right.

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:46 am

I can’t wait to give you a hug! You will get to where you want to go, Carmel, I have no doubt. It might not be at the time you imagined or in a way that you envisioned (is it ever?!?) but you will get there. XO.

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Jason @ Travel Junkies August 10, 2012 at 10:28 am

Welcome home and happy birthday! If you do decide to stay, we would love to sell you our house…

I look forward to reading about your travels in Ecuador.

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

Haha, nice try on the house! Can’t wait to write about Ecuador…

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Justin August 10, 2012 at 10:52 am

Go get ‘em Kim! I can’t wait to hear more about your US travels, and your first experiences in Ecuador!

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

Thanks Justin!

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Hannah August 10, 2012 at 11:06 am

Happy birthday Kim! I can see your light shining from here, and let me tell you, it is beautiful xxx

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

Thanks Hannah, you are so sweet. It’s definitely a scary time of transition (again) but in a good way.

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Erica August 10, 2012 at 11:12 am

Beautifully written, as usual! Hope you had a nice birthday & wishing you a very successfull year. Go shine!

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:48 am

Thanks Erica for the good thoughts!

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Christy August 10, 2012 at 11:21 am

“I’ve learned to be easier on myself about the things I don’t excel at and to celebrate the things I do.” Well said and a great reminder. Happy birthday!

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:48 am

Thanks Christy. We could all be a little easier on ourselves, no?

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Dalene August 10, 2012 at 11:21 am

Happy Birthday Kim! Hot damn but you signed off of 30 like a rock-star, and know that 31 is going to blow your socks off! Of that, I am sure!

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:49 am

Thanks Dalene! 31 is going to be a great year full of changes and adventure!

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Gillian @OneGiantStep August 10, 2012 at 11:38 am

Happy Birthday Kim. My goal for a long time now has been to lean into uncomfortable and live on its edge. Scared is good – it means I’m right there, walking the line, ensuring that I am really FEELING and not just doing.

I will share that one of the things I was most scared of when we set off was how my relationship with Jason would survive. In the end, the things I worried about did not come to fruition but other, unexpected, hurdles rose up. Today, we are stonger than ever, know each other much better, and work together to find what we need.

Bon voyage to both you and Brian…the world had better look out!!

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

Gillian, thank you for saying that. It IS terrifying to think about how this effects our relationship (it does, no denying that) and I know we just need to ride the wave…

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Bethany ~ twoOregonians August 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Happy (belated!) birthday, dearie! Give Portland a hug from me, and go get ready to fly into the best new chapter of your life :)

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

Thanks Bethany! Portland is still here ready to welcome you when you come back.

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Dawn August 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Happy Birthday! I just transitioned from Central to South America and am in (Quito) Ecuador now. I went through the same emotions – as soon as you’re here you’ll wonder why you ever had any fear or anxiety about heading out to explore the world! Without a doubt, there are amazing experiences right around the corner for you two. Safe travels!

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:51 am

This is SO GREAT to hear. I know it isn’t as scary in real life as it is in my head… I needed your comment today!

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Carrie August 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Happy birthday! You are an inspiration. I am looking forward to reading about your international travels :)

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

Thanks you Carrie :)

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allison August 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm

This is such a beautiful, honest, and inspiring post! Thanks so much for sharing, and HAPPY LATE BIRTHDAY!

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

Thanks Allison! I’m happy to write it and share it with all of you amazing people!

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Viviana August 11, 2012 at 3:03 am

Happy birthday on my behalf, too! :) In about three and half months I’ll finally get on the road, too, for a RTW trip… Maybe we’ll meet somewhere around the world..! ;)

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:53 am

Viviana, that would be wonderful. Congrats on your RTW trip and enjoy the three remaining months at home.

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Tyrhone August 11, 2012 at 3:46 am

If I have learned anything from travelling, it is that embracing those fears are the things which make life worth living. Your experience with the U.S. is very indicative of what travelling the rest of the world does to you. It makes you stronger and more well rounded as a person. We faced the same dilemma when leaving, comfort for experiences. It was the best move we ever made.

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:54 am

Tyrhone, you guys are such an inspiration to me. I love knowing that you are out there having a great time, learning and growing. From where I sit, THREE DAYS before leaving the country, I am scared shitless but also know that everything will be okay.

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Sarah Somewhere August 11, 2012 at 3:48 am

Belated birthday wishes!!! Can’t believe you are six months younger than me, and so much wiser!!!! I love the line at the end about not being afraid of your light, it’s beautiful. Must be weird being home, I guess I’ll know what that’s like in a few days xxx

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:55 am

Please! I am not wiser!! Sarah, it is so weird being home in Oregon. However, my heart also aches from home in Ohio with our family and our dogs. I think it will be fabulous for you to hug everyone you love. Enjoy every second!

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Carmel August 13, 2012 at 8:51 am

Agreed. I sometimes have to remind myself that you’re my age…actually a year younger. And I’ve often gotten the “you’re so wise for your age” feedback, so that makes you like…extra wise. That was a wise-sounding sentence, don’t you think? :)

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Pamela August 11, 2012 at 4:12 am

Happy Birthday Kim! I can’t wait to hear about the transition and all the stories from Ecuador! Are you going to the Galapagos? Those islands are amazing…

Xo
Pamela

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:56 am

Hi Pamela… I don’t know about the Galapagos yet because they are SO EXPENSIVE but also I know a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit. So, we will see. We are going to see what kind of deals we can get when we get to Ecuador.

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Sunee August 11, 2012 at 5:46 am

Happy birthday Kim! The year lying ahead is going to be a life-changer – enjoy every minute of it! :)

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:56 am

Thanks Sunee. I know you are right!

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Shar August 11, 2012 at 7:34 am

I heard a great line – “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” It’s so true. You have experienced so much because you took that step outside of your comfort zone. Afraid? Yes. But, you took it. And that’s what makes you a true adventurer instead of an armchair traveler. You are living life instead of watching it go by. Hope you had a great birthday!!

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:57 am

Thanks Shar for your sweet words. It is not easy to live this way but it is very rewarding. I’m sure you know!

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seasweetie August 11, 2012 at 8:07 am

Happy belated birthdays. Thank YOU for the wonderful gift of this post!

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:57 am

Aww, thank you :)

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Traveling Ted August 11, 2012 at 8:58 am

I remember this exact feeling on the eve of my departure for Thailand on a three month trip through Southeast Asia. On the plane I started reading the book The Time Traveler’s Wife. At the beginning of the book there is a poem by Derek Walcott that I though perfectly captured this feel of travel anxiety mixed with excitement. Check out the poem http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/love-after-love/

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:59 am

Ted, I love, love, LOVE that poem. Thanks for sending it over to me. I think what that poem addresses is what we all seek, to know ourselves well enough to sit down alone with ourselves like an old friend. Traveling certainly puts us in a position to do that quickly.

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Steve Whitty August 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Happy birthday Kim, good luck in Ecuador.

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 9:59 am

Thank you Steve!

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) August 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm

First: Happy birthday!

Second: This was yet another lovely, thoughtful post. I think the biggest thing I have been grappling with in the past year, which I think is something that may resonate with you too (I also have a tendency to push and push and push) is to learn how to draw the distinction between being the best, and simply being the best version of me that *I* can be. Seems like such a small thing, but one road leads to peace and contentment, the other, to never-ending disappointment. Better to learn the difference at 31 than never at all!

Third: Don’t be scared. I have lived the last couple years of my life in fear, and now that I have leapt and am living this travel dream, the fear is gone. I know that no matter what happens, I can handle it because I am living the life I want to live. You will be fine, too!

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 10:02 am

Steph! These are the things I need to hear so thank you! I love knowing that others were scared and that the fear leaves once you are living the thing you were afraid of.

Your “second” piece of advice up there is so wise. I think I am learning to do this better than I have in the past. To be easier on myself and also to be proud of the good things. This is HARD but also makes me feel like a very strong anchor that can hold on despite the weather. Hopefully that makes sense.

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Ali August 12, 2012 at 4:05 am

Happy birthday! Such a beautiful post. It’s understandable that you have fears about the future, but like you said, you’re ready for the next step.

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Kim August 12, 2012 at 10:02 am

Thanks Ali :)

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Rhonda August 12, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Another great post Kim. So glad you had fun seeing friends & family and the USA. Now on to the BIG adventure, seeing how your life and relationship changes as you get more outside your comfort zone. I always love how your posts are so personal to you and yet make me think about my own life as well. Safe travels to Ecuador.

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Rhonda, it is such a compliment to hear that my posts help you think of your own life as well. That is why I think telling the truth is important- there are so many other people out in the world that have the same thoughts/ideas/feelings. It helps us feel less alone!

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Maryanne August 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm

What an inspiring post. I was sent here as I start at the beginning of my own journey. Thanks for your reflections and honesty.

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Maryanne, congratulations on the start of your journey. I have a feeling I know how you are feeling. Quite the roller-coaster, no?

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OurLifeExperiments August 13, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Great post! I read this one out loud to my husband and my friend, and then we discussed what an amazing writer you are. I really enjoy reading your entries and look forward to hearing more about your adventures abroad!!

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Flattery will get you everywhere! Seriously though, thank you for that wonderful compliment. Words like that honestly make my day.

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Darcy @SustainableFamilyFinances August 15, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Keep walking girlfriend :-) Can’t wait to read stories from Part 2 of your adventures :-)

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Thanks Darcy. I’m excited to tell them!

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