Hello New York: this is the real me

New York has always been one of my dream destinations. You may have remembered me rambling on a few posts back about how much I wanted to visit the Big Apple for my 30th birthday and while that never happened, I somehow ended up passing through en route to some island back in 2018. Fast forward and it’s now March 2019. Here I am, curled up against the window in an Airbus 340-300, flying somewhere over the Atlantic with just under 4 hours to go before touchdown in a city that never sleeps.

This time though, I’m not just passing through. This time… I’m staying a while.

I’m slowly learning that my thirties are so much more than those random fun fleeting moments my twenties were filled with. Now, it’s all about laying down the roots to become the person I’ve always wanted to be. It’s about thriving, slaying and flourishing, as my women warriors back home would so glamorously put it.

Travel changes you in so many ways, more often in ways that one would never imagine. You find yourself walking strange streets with nothing but a GPS to guide you… having your happiest laughs with people you met a mere few moments ago and learning that your heart is warmer but still stronger than it ever could be. You see, travel shows you a world bigger than your little office cubicle ever could and puts everything into a perspective that allows you to be adaptable regardless of the adversity.

But what happens when something soul-crushing happens that it makes you feel like you never want to have another adventure again? What if the same things you loved about travel suddenly became the same things you now feared? What if venturing out into the world suddenly wasn’t as rosy and glamorous as you once thought it to be?

Thing is, dear reader, sometimes you think you’re ready for something when in actual fact the universe knows you’re not. Ever heard of the saying: God will wreck your plans when he sees your plans are about to wreck you.

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Ah, what truth.

Just a few months ago I found myself on a plane to the East. I was moving onward to start a new life I thought I wanted. Yes, there was a boy involved but he’s now long gone, and this post is all about me. Those first 24 hours in that strange city were some of the worst hours of my life because… there I was, in a city that felt so cold (despite being close to 48 degrees Celsius) and loveless. It seemed that God had already started wrecking my plans long before I even got on that plane because he knew I had strayed so far from the path I was really meant to be on.

Still, I got on that plane and went anyway.

I restlessly paced back and forth in my new, strange apartment; wondering if this is what I really wanted to do with my life. Within 24 hours I had booked myself on the first flight out. Cancelled that flight. Rebooked the flight. Cancelled and then rebooked again. If ever I was at a cross road, it was at that very moment.

I went through so many mixed emotions over those initial 72 hours, but it wasn’t until those very last moments waiting for the taxi to fetch me, that I realised I had made the right decision by coming to Abu Dhabi… and that I was making the right decision by going home. My last few hours in a loveless city were spent talking to one of the most beautiful Jordanian girls I had ever met, who ironically enough was going through the exact same emotions I had been going through for the last 6 months. It was as if I was talking to a mere reflection of myself. Funny how you can meet someone half way across the world who, in a matter of minutes puts your entire life into perspective. I guess in some parallel universe (or just another city far, far away) there was someone else going through everything I was going through. We shared our stories through nervous laughs and teary eyes before a long hug goodbye. It was as if I needed to find her, have that conversation and reset my entire broken soul. I had come full circle. That chapter was now closed.

You see, dear reader, something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart. It ignites a sense of perspective and humility that allows you to reset your very core and become even better than you thought you ever could be. Yes, your knees have hit the floor and soul is bloody and raw but in that very moment, you get the beautiful, rare chance to start over… and that itself is a miracle.

Fast forward a few months and here I sit, in a cute little apartment right in the centre of Manhattan overlooking the bustling heart of the city. It’s funny how we outgrow what we once thought we couldn’t live without and then fall in love with what we didn’t even know we wanted.

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I’d like to believe I’m a completely different person these days. I love my job and I love writing. More than that, I love my life right at this very minute… and that’s just the way it should be. Life keeps leading us on journeys we would have never gone on, if it were up to us. The only thing we can ever really do is be brave, have a little faith and find the lessons in all of it.

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Who knows what adventures these next two weeks will hold? Whatever it may be, I’m finally ready.

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Posted by

Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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