Unbeknownst to me, my life really took a turn for the better after my live-in boyfriend of 5-years walked out on our relationship. Until it ended, I did not know I was co-dependent. I did not know it was in an unhealthy relationship, that it was a ticking time-bomb.
That was 10 years ago. After hitting what I thought at that time as rock bottom, I met a series of strong, level-minded women and men who helped me to understand, to acknowledge, to shift and to evolve to the newer me – the current Karen.
Throughout all this, alongside the smattering of boyfriends and flings – was the travels I experienced. Some days, actually there are many days, I can say I felt more comfortable traveling solo, surrounded by strangers, in a strange land.
What an oddity – you must think.
I do not completely understand either. HOWEVER, when I completely set myself “free” and completely trust the Universe – amazing sh*t happens.
Starting from the age of 8 months old to the age of 10, my mom shuttled me to the Philippines every Summer to visit my maternal grandparents and some relatives, from Hong Kong. After we immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada and when my dad required dialysis, everyone in the family slowly moved back to Hong Kong to be with him – except for me. I was kept behind in Canada to complete my studies. This meant I took countless flights between the 2 continents during school holidays – solo. And no, I never paid extra (optional) fees to be an unaccompanied minor on flights – never heard of that until I was in my late 20s.
By the end of high school, I started getting adventurous or crazy – depending on your perspective. I used to fly with Japan airlines to Hong Kong and on a couple of trips, I turned the layovers into stopovers. I would explore Tokyo on my own for a few days. Now that I think back, I didn’t even know to be scared. I did not speak Japanese except for a few simple phrases. Fortunately, I can read some of the Kanji (one of 3 written forms of Japanese) because it is the same characters as the written form of Traditional Chinese which is what I learned up until Grade 4 in Hong Kong. The complex subway system that Tokyo is known for did not faze me at all. Though looking back I wish I had spent less time in the shopping districts and actually did some sightseeing. Let’s just say I have not even stepped foot inside a Shinto Shrine – yet. Shameful.
Where did I get the “balls” to travel solo?? It wasn’t like I had a choice. If I wanted to see my family, I had to get on that airplane. No if, and, or but.
I just did what had to be done.
When did I “catch” the travel bug – it is hard to say. Think it just manifested inside of me over time.
Fast forward to 2005 when I started taking solo trips again after the “break-up”, I enjoyed researching and figuring out the logistics. Paris and New York City got me out of my funk and became my favorite cities. But then my career got busy and all I had time for was open a group tour brochure and pick a predetermined itinerary. Though I would always add on extra days before and after the tour – those “extra” days would typically be the best part of the holiday. I get to be set my own schedule and explore – aimlessly.
Now I enjoy traveling for multiple months with no planning, no destination – just explore. Experience the experience. Life is a journey.
And so it began while selecting “exotic” destinations – I unknowingly started my own version of a spiritual pilgrimage to known sacred or “Holy” sites and the not-so-holy sites and then there are the “thin places.”
Machu Picchu in Peru. Varanasi in India. Boudhanath and Lumbini in Nepal. Jokang Temple and Potala Palace in Tibet. The Great Pyramids in Egypt. Delphi in Greece. Göbekli Tepe and the Blue Mosque in Turkey. Jerusalem in Israel. Jericho and Bethlehem in Palestine. To name a handful.
When my personal pilgrimage or journey started in mid 2000, I did not even think that I was going to these places for their religious or spiritual or energetic significance. I carried the normal tourist mentality. Partly because I am not a religious person, I am spiritual but do not abide by any specific denomination. Though if anything I would lean towards Buddhism.
Intertwined with unique cultural practices and stunning architecture, I basked myself with the special energy that is only found and can only be experienced at these geological locations. Some are even considered as an energy vortex.
I still remember the moment when I stood beside the sacred Intihuatana stone at Machu Picchu amongst throngs of fellow tourists. I felt overwhelmed by the loud chatter and large number of people, but I wanted to get a closer look of the sacred stone. The next thing I know, I turn around and everyone was gone. Almost felt like they just vanished into thin air. I was the only soul standing beside the sacred Intihuatana stone – I was stunned. It was like a magic moment. Now that I think about it, that was probably a significant benchmark for me for unconscious manifestation.
The beauty about travel is how much it has to offer and the possibilities are endless. The limiting factor would be my own limiting beliefs and my way of thinking.
I could make the trip be superficial and cross it off my bucket list – take some photos and stake my claim that I, Karen Sze, have been here. Feed my hungry Ego.
I can make the trip to be educational. To learn about another culture, the local flora and fauna. Feed my engineer’s mind with their method of construction and architectural designs.
The trip can feed my soul – on a deeper level. From the experiences felt during the journey, learn about myself. How am I in a strange land, surrounded by strangers and unable to speak their language. Can I cope with danger or potential issues. Do I trust myself – do I trust my intuition.
Help me clear and/or understand past life events. How trippy is that?!
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Also there is always different combinations and variations. How can I live without travel…
What unexpected discoveries have you made while traveling??