Last month when I was in Canada I had the privilege to meet and get to know Lena Rae Desmond, a short fiction writer AND travel writer at Wherearemyheels.com; she also authored my FAVORITE blog post, date a boy who travels. When I asked her to share her story on what inspired her to start traveling for our travel inspiration series, I didn’t really expect her to say yes. When she did, I have to admit I was pretty excited. This is a fun story and one that is sure to entertain. Enjoy!
By Lena Rae Desmond
It all began with failure, something I was not well acquainted with at the time. Failure to me meant THE END. Yes, capitalized and bolded, failure meant not only would I cease to meet my full potential in life, but that I may as well shove my resume into my throat and let it suffocate me while ink ran off the pages, poisoning my insides and turning me into a blue piece of flesh that would be easily forgotten to the world, notwithstanding its colorful strangeness. The hard-earned accolades of my academic career facing an early tragic-less death while the rejection of my internship application would be the only thing to survive me. I was 21, with an overactive imagination and had a penchant for self-deprecation.
I had just graduated university and was well ready to assume my role as CEO of a multi-national company although this stumble out of the gates just about killed this dream. (Probably for the best.) Thinking back, I’m fairly certain the ink was still wet on my diploma; the dean’s signature not yet stamped on the page. And yet, alas, I thought to myself, I may as well pack it in.
The plan was: Get a career, get a pant suit, get a briefcase, earn some dolla-dolla-bills, move to the city, live in a condo, become an executive of… something. The end.
I was one of two in a pool of fifty that had made it to the final round gunning for an international internship. When the employers decided to cancel the program all together so began my journey into wallowing. (Revisit the monologue of wailing self-pity that was the introduction of this post.)
I gave myself exactly two hours that fateful day to grieve and bury the freshly dead bones of the preparation and research and essays that were to have made me a star intern at this human rights organization in Geneva. With my first attempt at a career thwarted by the people who were supposed to be all chocolate, and peace-keeping, and world-helping, I was for the first time without a plan and I was petrified.
Thankfully, as it usually does, my paralysis and mellow dramatic self-pity expired when I decided that it was just not meant to be. Geneva would be there later, although I’ll likely hold a grudge against the land of neutrality for a long time to come. Instead, it was time to find a plan B.
As soon as I had released my neurosis, like a lightening bolt hitting sand and turning all of those little grains into solid, swirling, beautiful glass, I was confronted with a true opportunity. Modern times granted me permission to travel with a, now obsolete, BBM.
The message read, “That sucks. So do you want to come to South East Asia?”
Without even an acknowledgement of my failure, and in true “get-over-it” style, my best friend had literally served me the acceptance that I wasn’t looking for but, in hindsight, one that I needed. Exhausted, defeated and slightly crazed, I responded, “What’s your flight number?” and booked a ticket to Vietnam immediately.
So what inspired me to travel? There was no person who told me stories of landscapes, beautiful cultures, warm waters or delicious food. At the time, I had no ability to conceptualize anything beyond a beach, a swim up bar and the safe confines of a resort.
I attribute my inspiration to travel to fate, a well timed text message, and my dear friend, failure.
Failure had invariably led me to four months traveling that would change not only the entire trajectory of my life, but would unwind and reknit the very fabric of my being. In that first trip, I learned how precious every moment is. I honed in on what I need as a person to be fulfilled. For the first time, I lived without the tightly bound ropes of grades or the tunnel vision for a career and dug my claws into adventure and joy. Only by finding this very instinctive and carnal need for exploration did I come to terms with what I needed out of life.
It’s often said that to better serve others, you must first fill yourself. The experience that I had abroad on that first trip and every trip since has allowed me to do just this. In short, I avoided a train-wreck of a life unfulfilled by my projections of perfection and success. That first rejection taught me to just let it be. What comes out of this “just being” is often more wonderful than the minute-by-minute itinerary we place on life. Some four months later, my want for success was replaced by my want for words, my unused pant suit was replaced my well-worn bathing suit, possessions by memories. Instead of lusting for the life course I’d planned, I now lust for moments where I’m lost in the world.
I had to take what the universe served me. And it tasted so very, very good. Oh, and since then I’ve become a lot more comfortable with failing.
About the Blogger
Lena Rae Desmond is a travel writer at Wherearemyheels.com. She also writes short fiction in Toronto but she is hell-bent on dreaming up a story so big it will rattle the literary world. Recently long listed for CBC Canada Writes, she has let her successes go to her head and is convinced a Pulitzer Prize is in her future. An avid yogini, she is forever striving to master savasana.
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