“Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”–Howard Thurman
I am a Southern girl who moved to Morocco and then the Dominican Republic to write, travel, mom, teach, and learn…so far, across 4 continents and the Caribbean. After living abroad three years, I moved back home in 2017 to Nashville, Tennessee. Every sense is still on high alert and I love sharing this journey of adventure, relationship, and beauty–gifts that make life rich wherever we live, whatever our age. I believe there is always something new to discover whether in our own backyard or country-hopping abroad.
Since teaching English in Italy one summer, I’d dreamt of living an expat life. I’d been to many countries and still wanted to travel more, write more, and learn more from culturally diverse people and places. My gypsy soul promised myself when the kids left the nest, I’d fly away, too. As a single mom who taught English at colleges and the school they attended K-12, once they were grown and gone, I was sad. I needed new. I had a great life in Nashville–an established career, friends, and family I loved. Though somewhat of a helicopter mom, I also modeled life-in-motion. Post 50 I was still having firsts–a journalism award, a movie role, an English class I started for Mexican moms. But when the nest emptied, it was time to go. In August 2014, I landed in Africa.
Like many who take the road less traveled, I love Paulo Coelho’s words in The Alchemist: “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” We may not get everything we dream of at once, but I’ve learned God fulfills desires He plants within us. I am so thankful for living my dream of having children and raising two amazing human beings. I’m so thankful for the creation of another life–mine– and watching it continue to grow.
Travel and the expat life was not all pools and palm trees. Every day there were challenges– having no car, waiting months for a residency card, periodic safety warnings, using French and Spanish keyboards. I sobbed and physically ached every time I told my children goodbye. I missed my family, my friends, my pets and my house. I missed Nashville. But I’m very thankful for that time. That season. Moving abroad in August of 2014 stretched me, allowing me to learn and contribute in new ways.
My love for travel began when I was tiny and my grandmother would fly me to Paris on the arm of her rocking chair. We’d eat lunch in sidewalk cafes– TV trays set up in front of her sofa. Like Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, my Mama Lou had “an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.” She loved beauty and adventure; she was a teacher and a storyteller. She taught me to dream big and to have faith that all things are possible.
I value faith, family, friends. Salsa. Lit and life. Teaching and learning. And I believe St. Augustine was probably right: “The world is a book and those who don’t travel read only a page.” Writing to share beautiful people, places, experiences makes me come alive. I hope this blog encourages you to travel. Or to follow whatever dreams you have. To, in the words of Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
At an agriturismo in Italy friends taught me that La Dolce Vita extends beyond Lake Como, Cinque Terre, or Capri. Relationships, beauty, joy, and laughter…working to live rather than living to work…can be found wherever we follow our passions. Wherever we let go of fear and cling to gratitude. Whenever we follow our hearts.