For the past year and a half my life has been a passport and a suitcase. It has also been a title: World Merit Global Ambassador.
It started in March 2014. I remember packing my suitcase and telling myself, "This is it. Say goodbye to home; familiarty. It's out into the great wide out there now."
And it was a leap. It was a leap because it had to be. But, it was also a leap because I chose to make it one.
When I first won Your Big Year - an international leadership competition, the prize of which was being granted the title of World Merit Global Ambassador and traveling the world for a year working on social impact projects with a global community of change makers - I decided to make it a trulybigyear (read big as in growing, big as in grand, big as in massively expansive and life-changing).
I sold nearly everything I owned in preparation: my apartment, my car. Even my lovely pup went to stay with my friend while her "mama" went off to follow a dream.
And the reason I did it was simple - I didn't want to have anything holding me back. I wanted to be as bare as possible going into this new chapter. I felt it would be the only way I could fully let go of who I was, what I thought I knew from my own cultural indoctrination, what I felt I had to do, and go into the travel and give myself in the fullest capacity. I felt somehow that if I were less weighted, less attached, I could listen better, learn more, and not bring the things that weighed me down along with me for the ride.
Today, I can say without a doubt it was the best decision I've made in my life.
My first stop on world tour was the United Nations Headquarters in New York city - a wide-eyed, wide-open-mind experience that set the tone for what was to come. With one blazer, one pair of high-heeled shoes I traveled from place to place, conference to conference, workshop to panel, panel to interview, interview to learning experience.
26 countries.That's how many I've been to. From the jutting mountains of the Kathmandu valley, to the aquamarine blue shore lines of Zanzibar, and even the jungles of South America, I can't say I've seen it all - but I've certainly seen a lot.
And, as they say that seeing is believing, I have come across new beliefs and ideas about the world that I know will stay with me forever. To name a few:
I believe people are generally good.
I believe the world is not out to doom itself.
I believe we have more power within us than we even know at times. I have seen so many young people making a massive difference in their communities from big actions to small ones, that I simply can not believe anything else.
And, more than anything today I believe in the resilience of the human spirit.Sure, I include my own spirit in this. I have been challenged in many ways while I have traveled and come out stronger for it. But, that's nothing in comparison to what I have witnessed in others, or heard about through simultaneously heart breaking and awe-inspiring stories.
For over a year, my passport, World Merit, and the generosity of people around me allowed me to experience something I know I am so incredibly privileged to have witnessed first-hand:humanity at it's very best.
There's something amazing that happened when I put myself out there; when I stripped off all the layers and shook off what didn't serve me: the world opened up to me. Because when you take off what weighs you down, you open yourself up to all that's out there. You aren't afraid to ask. You aren't afraid to listen, to do; or to be wrong and change...and that, I think, is the most effective way we can be of service to others.
So, even though I am sad to be letting go of this chapter where I learned and grew so much, and hopefully gave back in whatever way I could (at the very least, sharing some smiles and good times, and at most changing a few outlooks along the way) I have to say I am hopeful and excited for what's to come...not just for me, but the world at large.
There's so much greatness in the great wide out there...and I certainly don't intend to stop exploring it.