Expand Your Journey

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Early last week, in Berlin, I started chatting with two Spanish ladies on the train. As we talked about my upcoming visit to a friend in Barcelona, I admitted I was daydreaming of adding more places to my itinerary. . . “pero todavía está en el aire.” (“But it’s still up in the air.”)

But as the ladies rattled off a long list of other cities and towns worth visiting, one of them finally concluded:

“Tendrás que ampliar el viaje. No lo dejes todo en el aire.” (“You’ll have to expand your trip. Don’t leave it all up in the air.”)

Wow. Duly noted. That message was both practical and mega-deep! (We’ll unpack it in a moment.)

Friedrichstraße Station — where I had the great fortune of striking up a conversation with some Spanish tourists on the S-Bahn!

Her words repeated over and over in my head incessantly until, the very next night, I went for it: I bought a couple additional tickets, thus having made the choice to ditch my original return flight and spend the next few weeks in Spain and Portugal.

. . . leaving just 48 hours later.

Now, a disclaimer: this is the fastest I have ever “planned” an extended international trip in my life. Or, more precisely, it’s the first time I ever did not plan an extended international trip. But it felt right, amazingly enough. And before I even arrived at City #2 — Valencia — while I sat on the bus, watching the hilly Spanish coast and the breathtaking blue of the Mediterranean roll by outside my window (and while I was remembering that I should, instead, be on a plane back to Berlin at that very moment), I felt immensely grateful that I’d taken the “advice” of that stranger on the train.

Why had my itinerary been up in the air just days before? I was indecisive. Should I travel? Or should I, instead, continue looking for a summer sublet in Berlin, hostel-hopping around town in the mean time? I wanted to do more traveling, but I needed an apartment, needed to be careful with my money, and was waiting — as I did when I booked my tickets to Barcelona and missed out on the best of fares — for the “fates” to decide, in the form of prohibitive ticket prices. Once things got too expensive to book, I could have consoled myself with the fact that, “It wasn’t meant to be anyway.” But no. There’s a difference between “not meant to be” and being afraid to assert what you actually want.

And that latter one was my case: I was afraid to pull the trigger and actually go for what I wanted.

As is so often the case.

More importantly, though, that lady’s message, holy cow:

“Tendrás que ampliar el viaje. No lo dejes todo en el aire.”

You see, viaje means “trip,” but it also translates, in a more expansive sense, to the word “journey.” Ampliar, meanwhile, means “to expand, to broaden, to make bigger.” Hence, in order to ampliar el viaje — to have the fullest and most enriching journeys possible — we need to decide. We can’t leave everything up in the air, up to chance, can’t sit on the fence, however you want to express it.

Once upon a time, I was more driven to pursue the things I wanted. But for many years, whenever I tried setting off in search of my desires, life made the road incredibly hard, such that I was never able to travel very far in the direction(s) I had hoped or tried to go. When that happens, you come to feel a bit like a child that runs out to play in the snow, and your mother (the Universe) keeps calling out to you, “Wait! You forgot your mittens!” “Wait! You forgot to zip your coat!” “WAIT; your pants aren’t tucked into your boots.” “WAIT — your boot lace is untied.”

And so a child eventually loses the excitement that accompanied that first attempt (and then the second and third) at getting out the door.

So nowadays, I have a tendency to leave my desires up in the air. If something isn’t essential to my basic needs, I often push it aside, figuring that, if it’s meant to be, it will still be there for the taking “when the time is right.” Meanwhile, I focus on basic subsistence and let the windows of opportunity for joy and pleasure and inspiration keep sliding closed. I wait. I wait for that “secure” feeling that says, “This risk is safe to take.” But life doesn’t often send us green lights like that; it’s up to us to be brave and assertive. To say, “I want this” — and then to go out and have the experience. There are no guarantees; life will show us what the experience had to offer once we’re living it. But in many ways, we communicate our desires to the universe — and open up the possibilities for the miracles through which it might support us — not through planning or waiting, but through action.

It’s like taking a vacation to a new town with no itinerary vs. taking a vacation to a new town with a list of things to see or eat or find. The first style of travel — completely laid-back — can be rewarding in its own ways; your aimless wanderings and vastly open schedule can leave doors open to beautiful synchronicities, since you’re not attached to any particular outcome. . . however, when you have nothing in mind to go for, you also run the risk of watching the clock run out on your adventures without your having done anything you might have really liked.

Imagine going through your entire life like that?

We don’t have to micromanage. But we do expand our journeys when we don’t ignore the stirrings of our spirit. When we pay respectful attention to our daydreams, rather than leaving them completely up in the air.

When we decide on new directions, and we give ourselves permission to set out on the quest of fulfilling our dreams.


Laura left a Ph.D. program at age 26 to make good on long-forgotten dreams of nomad'ing and writing. She currently lives in Berlin and writes about the magic of everyday life — most especially, the magic we find when we open our hearts and choose to follow them.

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