I had a lot of plans. I was taking eight months off from my career and I would be traveling to Thailand, Indonesia, and the Sri Lanka. I would spend two months in each place, then I would go to Italy for my ten-year grad school reunion, spend some time with a friend in Greece and then attend a close friend’s caravan/wedding reception in Bulgaria. Finally, I would either bounce around the Balkans or set up shop in Latvia for a while – my paternal grandmother’s home country – before heading back to the US for the birth of another close friend’s baby.
Because I would be in Asia, it would also be the perfect opportunity to visit my friend who lived in Shanghai. All I needed to do while I was in Washington, DC prior to my trip was get my Chinese visa, which required that I show a roundtrip ticket to and from the country. Something stopped me, though. There was only so much planning I could do before a long-term trip. What if I fell in love with a place and wasn’t ready to leave after a month or two, but I already had my ticket to China? Even though it seemed a bit reckless to wait, my intuition told me that if I were going to China, I should wait to get the visa in another Asian country.
I had been in Chiangmai, Thailand for less than a month before Covid-19 surfaced in Wuhan, and soon thereafter it jumped to neighboring countries and the Chinese government closed off Wuhan entirely. My friend in Shanghai was evacuated back to the US with her children, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I’d waited to purchase my ticket and procure my Chinese visa.
On a WhatsApp group chat, my grad school friends were encouraging each other to buy tickets to Italy as soon as possible and discussing options for a trip together afterwards. One by one, they bought their tickets and shared them with the group. I had arrived in Indonesia by then, but kept stalling on buying my tickets. I had a feeling that things were going to get worse in the world before they got better. Every morning I read the news on Covid-19, as the first cases started showing up in Europe and the US. Then, Milan became a hot spot for the virus and the reunion was canceled. One month later, my friend was forced to cancel her Bulgarian caravan.
Meanwhile, I waffled about where I should go and what I should do. A friend who lived in Nairobi came to visit me in Bali for two weeks at the beginning of March, and halfway through her trip, when we were spending a week at a resort in nearby Lombok, the world started shutting down. She spent hours on the phone organizing an earlier flight, grumpy at having to cut her trip short but feeling obligated to go back home to her family as soon as possible, lest she be stuck in Indonesia.
Soon thereafter, the Indonesian government shut down its borders and Facebook groups proliferated on how to stay in Bali if visas could not be renewed, or how to get home to the US when flights were getting canceled left and right. At the time, I was still on Lombok by myself, but it didn’t feel like a place where I wanted to get stuck. I also didn’t really feel like going back to Bali. My anxiety spiked as I wondered if I should go back to the US early, only four months into my trip. Should I really continue to stay overseas, given that I couldn’t travel anywhere else? A friend in Bali who had been living there long-term decided to go back to California, and I worried that I was making a mistake staying put. Still, going back to the US didn’t seem right either.
Then, an acquaintance suggested that I come to Gili Air, one of three small islands in a chain right off the coast of Lombok. She has a yoga center on the island, and two other people would also be staying there. I decided right then and there to go to Gili Air, despite not knowing anything about it. My gut instinct told me that going to the island would inspire my work, give me energy, and empower me – even though my head worried about possibly getting sick in a foreign country, far away from my family and friends. There were so many unknown factors that made any decision seem daunting, but Gili Air felt right.
I was pretty lonely on Gili Air for the first month, and considered going back to the US to stay with friends. Still, it didn’t quite feel right to go back yet, and I postponed buying my ticket. It felt like it would be taking a step backwards into the past. Then, cases exploded in the US. Soon thereafter, I started making friends on the island and dating someone, and found the energy and drive to finish the first draft of my manuscript.
From the beginning of my trip, the “normal” and “safe” things to do would have been to get my visa to China and plane ticket to Italy. Safe would have been to go back to the US as the world was closing down and to look for a new 9-5 job. However, every time one of these decisions arose, I reviewed all of the information I had available to me and asked myself, “What decision would I make if it was coming from faith, not fear?” Fear almost overpowered me a few times, but I’m so glad that I didn’t listen to it.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on this trip is to lean into uncertainty, trust my intuition, and make decisions when they feel right – all the while fully cognizant that inaction is a decision in and of itself. The decisions we make today build our life of tomorrow. What kind of life do you want for yourself? Are you doing something because you think you “should” or because it’s easy? Are you worried about what other people think, especially your friends and family? It can be tough to identify what your intuition is telling you when there is so much energetic interference, especially when we spend so much time on social media.
One book, The Right Questions by Debbie Ford, which was recommended by my spirit sister Nina Camille, has really helped me learn to trust my intuition when I’m faced with tough decisions. Below is a list of Debbie Ford’s ten right questions that can help you tune into what you really want and what will help you achieve your long-term goals.
The Right Questions by Debbie Ford
- Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future or will it keep me stuck in the past?
- Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment or will it bring me short-term gratification?
- Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another?
- Am I looking for what’s right or am I looking for what’s wrong?
- Will this choice add to my life force or will it rob me of my energy?
- Will I use this situation as a catalyst to grow and evolve or will I use it to beat myself up?
- Does this choice empower me or does it disempower me?
- Is this an act of self-love or is it an act of self-sabotage?
- Is this an act of faith or is it an act of fear?
- Am I choosing from my divinity or am I choosing from my humanity?
When we approach our decisions with the radical honesty inherent in these questions, we can’t go wrong. Give it a try and let me know what you think!