I Wander to be Found

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“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” – Anna Quindlen

I have been a traveler for as long as I can remember. In the beginning just in the capacity of an armchair, devouring books and watching countless travel shows as I was in the life that I had blindly created…on automatic pilot and dressing the costume that seemed most fitting…living the life I thought was akin to finding approval and love.

The life that I was taught to accept, the path of least resistance, the path most travelled, the life that would strangle the creative life energy out of me.

In losing myself I found myself, every detour and winding path brought me to where I needed to be…to get so sick and tired of the loop of lessons I kept experiencing and the eventual realization that I was the only constant in all of them.

No matter how the character’s changed or the details were altered the story was the same.

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I would lose myself again and again in relationship.

First as a daughter.

And always in love.

The outcome always the same. In the final days being brought to my knees in what in the end became my most magnified and costly lesson yet (someone took awhile to get it, huh).

I ran to therapy … so different than before, this time I was curious as how I could be somehow be creating or excepting the complete opposite of what I said I wanted.

Flip forward a couple years, the takeaway from the work was, in two words, “Do you”.

Funny as I write this I remember my therapist bringing me back to this again and again as I spoke or blamed or complained about _______ fill in the blank. Mom, step-father, (abuser) boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, place of work, son, daughter, friend or client.

Same story really, just different characters, so caught up in other that I couldn’t hear what was there all along….

My one true thing, my only thing … me!!

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So for my 39th birthday I gave myself the gift that I had always dreamed of since I was a little girl, no matter what the cost financially or emotionally, and I went to France.

For one month, I left my kids with family, hung a shingle on my shop and gave myself what I had been waiting for my whole life…

Permission to “do me” radical self care, the greatest birthday gift I could have imagined back then…

I remember standing in the Latin Quarter in front of a Patisserie, a man came up to me and kissed me on the cheek. When I asked him why, he said that I looked so happy and filled with life that he was compelled to….

What he said was a direct mirror to what I in fact was feeling … the excavation began as to how this could be possible.

What began as an act of rebellion as far as my family was concerned turned into the most profound experience of my life.

Could it be possible to feel hope, joy, possibilities, if I did things for myself that I had buried deep, hidden from those around me to the point of losing myself?

I decided there on the spot that I would give myself - no matter what - the ultimate gift every birthday, a trip to somewhere I wanted to go.

The following year it was to India ... 5 weeks; same response from family.

My insights grew as did my ability to hear my soul. My gut grew louder … the ability to trust myself and the realization that change was in fact an action, and the only way to have a life that resembled me was to actively co-create it.

Moment,by moment, decision by decision, I would learn to do me.

In spite of resistance from others and ever-present internal chatter.

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In the last 12 years I have filled up a few passports, but the journeys that have impacted me the most will forever be the ones marked by my transformation.

It’s what I wanted — the path I had always meant to follow.

I sensed that things were different.

Somewhere along the way, I had discovered a part of myself that I had forgotten existed. Somehow amidst all of the train rides, language barriers, and times spent wandering, a part of me emerged that I might not have ever encountered otherwise, and I felt like a truer version of myself because of it.

That’s often the case when we travel, especially with openness and curiosity. When we journey with the intention to discover new things about ourselves and the world, we not only cross physical borders — we cross internal borders.

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When we are open to listening to how we feel,  what the journey might bring, we encounter ourselves. Raw and unfiltered.

Since that journey 12 years ago, I have traveled multiple times. With each journey I have been stretched, challenged, and exposed. I have grown more open and have learned more about myself, and found inspiration for my life and art.

Journeying curiously, bravely and inviting others to do the same and through the unexpected gifts of travel, I have re discovered my own path and know I will continue to find my way.

Forever encountering things "beyond my wild edges"!

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“Not all those who wander are lost.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

* This post is an excerpt from a page in my journal aka "The Portable Artist Studio," from last year, prior to creating the website and blog to hold space for what I feel compelled to share with you. or perhaps just as a reminder to myself …. the lessons learned on the road and the journey home to me.

Peace, Paint, Travel

in love

Michelle

Artful TravelMichelle Fletcher