The choices we make while traveling impact not only that moment, but the whole of our lives.

Photo: Tina Keller

I quit my “day” job about a year and a half ago. It was the second time I left a job mostly so I could take off traveling for at least three months.

Each time provided me with insight into myself, the world, and eventually, the direction in which I should head (although it was not always so clear in the beginning).

Recently, I found myself looking through the pictures from my “first” trip – the store-fronts from above in the Islington neighborhood of London, the hostel in Zambia where five of us cooked dinner and drank cases of Castle beer over cards, the flooded river running through Stein that kept us indoors most of that September in Germany.

At that moment I received an email containing the piece The Survival Dance and the Sacred Dance.

The author, Hugh MacLeod, relates an excerpt from the book Soulcraft, by Bill Plotkin. The idea is that we each have to first and foremost set up a “survival” dance, i.e. find a job that pays the bills, whether we like that job or not.

Then we are free to search for our “sacred,” or soul dance, something that is our true calling in this life.

Plotkin writes:

Everybody has to have a survival dance. Finding and creating one is our first task upon leaving our parents’ or guardians’ home. […] To find your sacred dance, after all, you will need to take significant risks. You might need to move against the grain of your family and friends.

Taking “significant risks” is often involved in traveling. In order to really see the ins and outs of a country you haven’t been to before, to really gain knowledge and understanding of the culture you are spending a relatively short amount of time in, it takes putting ourselves on the line in a way we rarely do at home.

Conversing in a different language, attempting to make real connections with locals, figuring out which areas aren’t safe and not having a home to hunker down in when travel gets overwhelming – these are risks we do not deal with on a daily basis.

And yet the decisions we make while traveling actually affect our decisions once we return home.

After that first trip, I was called to study health and the environment, which I can’t imagine would have happened without seeing gorgeous, but frayed African lands or an organic, vegan farm (yes, vegan) in Germany.

Moving to the beats of dhol / Photo: prakhar

After my second trip, after memories of eating incredible seafood in Tasmania, seeing parts of the former East Germany that still look like the former East Germany, and kicking it with ex-pats in a dark and steamy bars in Prague, I was called to write about it all.

But we also must hone “psychological self-reliance,” or we may get thrown by the few unfriendly, unreliable, or downright crooks we meet, and suddenly believe everyone from that particular area is that way. As Plotkin writes:

By honing psychological self-reliance, you will find it easier to keep focused on your goals in the face of resistance or incomprehension, initial failure or setbacks, or economic or organizational obstacles. And spiritual self-reliance will maintain your connection with the deepest truths and what you’ve learned about how the world works.

And what if you run out of money months before the end of your trip or realize it would be easier (and thousands of dollars cheaper) to fly to home instead of continue to journey? The decisions we have to make can sometimes be painful at best, heartbreaking at worst.

But the good news: eventually, it gets easier. Plotkin reveals the universe wants you to find your soul dance:

What your soul wants is what the world also wants (and needs). Your human community will say yes to your soul work and will, in effect, pay you to do it. Gradually, your sacred dance becomes what you do and your former survival dance is no longer need.

Somehow each of us has to take part in the survival dance as we travel, but not forget our sacred dance, or the reason we wanted to travel in the first place.

Community Connection

Need some advice on the advice of your inner voice? Check out Ian MacKenzie’s post What’s Your Inner Voice Telling You?

What risks have you taken in the survival and sacred dance of travel? Share your thoughts below.