I'm so excited to have Amy Schlauder guest posting today and I hope I can give her the proper introduction she deserves. Amy is my real-life friend who helped me get through four years of Division I college volleyball. Whenever I wanted to give up in volleyball, I would just look at Amy who always played through her injuries with such grace and composure, and she never complained. Not only is she an amazing athlete, Amy is an incredible writer, a gifted teacher, and a true lover of the world and its people. She has taught me so many things and with this post, she taught me even more.
I am a lucky girl. I’ve traveled to some awesome places around the globe. And in each country, I’ve learned the people’s customs, seen their famous attractions, tried to communicate in their languages, eaten their food, and held their beautiful babies. Traveling has done so much to shape the person I am, and the only things I treasure more than my travel experiences are the relationships I have with people in my life.
I’ve traveled for all sorts of reasons – running away, being a pretty predominant one. But a couple years ago, my reason for traveling to Guatemala was completely different than any reason I’d had before. At the time, I was struggling with my job, my relationships, my health, my…et cetera. I was feeling pretty crappy one day when I decided to do something, just for me. A normal/ reasonable person might have scheduled a massage or splurged on cheesecake. I booked a trip to Guatemala on Saturday afternoon and flew out Sunday morning. I signed up for a month of Spanish classes and stayed with a Guatemalan host family. No, I didn’t already speak Spanish. And yes. I went completely alone.
I signed up for salsa lessons. Adventured around Mayan ruins with complete strangers. Spent a couple of very unproductive days on the beach. Took my camera on day-long dates around the city. Made friends. Ate heaps of guacamole at every meal. Volunteered with kids because it made me happy. Didn’t put too much effort into learning Spanish, but loved hanging out with my teacher. Took naps, liberally. And had a Guatemalan boyfriend named Francisco.
To say that month in Guatemala recharged my broken-hearted, burnt-out schoolteacher batteries, would be a giant understatement. Before that trip, I didn’t quite understand the value of my own happiness. I didn’t realize that when I am truly happy, it is easy for me to bring happiness to others. When I am whole, I can help heal others. When I am broken, I can’t. I am so grateful I took that month in Guatemala, just for me. I don’t mind saying it was selfish, because it was. Totally. And even though my experience sounds like nothing more than the fourth country in Eat, Pray, Love – that month was exactly was I needed to become closer to the person I ultimately want to be. I learned to love myself. And that has been the single most important lesson I have ever learned while traveling.
To hear more from Amy, visit her at her blog, Defining Amy.