Recently, I was asked: “What advice do you have for a fellow blogger?”
My answer was this: "Be ok with sharing your life knowing that you can't control people's subsequent perception of you. No matter what you say or do, people will always see what they want to see. You have to get to a place where you are ok with that. And, focus on the people in your life that get your dreams and see your heart. Only hear their voices. Because, despite your best intentions, when you put yourself out there, the noise of the fall out of being misunderstood can rush back in on a wave ten times louder than the voice with which you originally spoke."
If vulnerability was a person, I would punch it in the face. We are not baes.
Every time I share my own photos and stories, I feel as if I am being gutted from the inside out and my insides are just out and about for people to do with what they want. If this sounds irrational to you, then fear of vulnerability might not be something that you struggle with. For as long as I can remember, I have been a vault. I opened up to very few people and largely kept anything of real value in my life to myself. If you were to ask any of my closest gal pals: "How would you best describe Kristi?" I would bet money that no one would answer and say, "OH! She is such an open book."
This might seem surprising considering I now run an online lifestyle website based on my personal travels. But, consider this: I began traveling eighteen years ago. I started talking about my travels less than two years ago. This means it took me nearly a decade and a half to get over my fear of vulnerability and share the most intimate parts of myself with others. You see, for me, traveling is so much more than a pretty photo and a witty caption. My introduction into seeing the world came from a desire to run. I wanted to be anywhere other than where I was. And, once I was old enough, I did just that, and it saved me.
Traveling saved my life.
My relationship with traveling was truly birthed from the deepest depths of my soul. For me, traveling has been something that I have held close all of these years for fear of letting anyone take the moments away and make them into something they are not. I felt like my memories were fragile and encased in a glass snow globe. By sharing them, I was allowing people to toss the globe around, drop it, or even shatter it. Thanks, but no thanks. Not going to do it. I will be keeping all of my snow globes safely on a shelf for me to protect.
Does that really help anyone?
But, in recent years, my question to myself, particularly after the Paris attacks, became: 'With all of the negativity and gross misconceptions out there, what if in my little corner of the universe, I could shed a positive light on other places, people, and cultures? What if I could inspire others to go and to see the world for the beautiful and kind place that I know it to be?' The flaw in my snow globe plan was that it warred endlessly against my strong belief that traveling has the power to change people's lives because it has and continues to so drastically alter my own for the better. The more we all travel outside of ourselves, the more empathy, kindness, and acceptance become interwoven into the fabric of how we all see the world.
How could I feel so passionately about something and not get passed my own personal fears enough to share it? Well, that is exactly my point in this article. I eventually came to the conclusion that I had to take the photos off of the fridge and the snow globes off the shelf. I had to find a way to tell their stories. It was time to face my fears in the pursuit of my dreams. If I failed, then at least I tried. But, if I was successful, then maybe, just maybe, I could live the life I had always dreamed of and encourage others to do the same. Because, if I could get over my fears, well, then anyone could.
Opening up. Insert face palm (here).
It has been 1.5 years since I launched the website, and while I do share a lot, I don't venture too far outside of the vein of travel. It gives me a bit of distance to still keep my walls up around myself. I can hide behind the landscapes in a way. Am I in the shot? Yes, but, in my head, at least, it is never about me. It is about the landscape in the background, the colorful food on the table, or the bustling city around me. I am just the human standing in that particular spot at that moment, but it could be anybody. In fact, I want it to be anybody and everybody. I want people to be able to take me out of the equation and envision themselves there. Isn't that the point of it all anyway, to convince people the world is amazing, and they can go see it too?
But, if I am being honest with myself, travel, at times, is a mask that I hide behind allowing me to not have to reveal too much of myself. I don't have to look straight into the camera. Hell, I don't even have to smile. I can let the landscapes do the work, and I just get to be the silhouette figure in the foreground. No one can dislike the Sahara Desert. No one can misunderstand the beauty of the Blue Hole. No one can gossip about or have negative thoughts about the glaciers in Iceland. I think we can all agree that those places are amazing, but, the second a human is added to the mix things change, opinions are formed, and judgements are made that can't be unmade.
Vulnerability is only one side of the coin. Rejection is the other.
It is much easier to leave photos up for only for my fridge magnets to see. But, once I finally decide: 'fuck it, let's put this out there,' I have to deal with the next wave of unpleasantries that come with not being in control of what people will think or say. I suppose as I write this I sound like a crazy person even to myself. But, in my brain, vulnerability is hard and rejection is even harder. Naturally, the only logical path forward would be to continue to grow a website in which you have to open up about your life, right?! Makes perfect sense to me, but, hey, I am the crazy one, remember?
In the beginning, I had no idea where this sharing of snaps was all going to end up. It was accidental in many ways. I just wanted to chat about traveling and hopefully shed light on good causes. It seemed easy enough, but it quickly became clear to me that it was impossible to talk from experience without in fact sharing my own personal moments. It seems silly and obvious now, but for whatever reason I didn't initially realize how much this path in life would require me to open up. I also never expected how much I would struggle with doing just that.
So, why am I sharing all of this? Mostly, because I don't freaking want to.
I am not even this raw and exposed with my house plants. Right now, I would rather hide under my covers, post a picture of a tree, sink myself into my kindle, read about someone's else story, and call it a day. But, perhaps there are others out there struggling with similar fears. What if all those years ago, I had read an article by a women who I would be surprised to find out had the same issues and struggles as me? I would like to think that I would have been encouraged, and I wouldn't have felt alone.
I am not a poster child for living a fear-free life, but this I do know: Opening up fucking sucks. I will not sugar coat it. It isn't easy. I still have moments where I feel a larger than life weight on my chest from fear of vulnerability and/or rejection. But, little by little, it gets easier, better even. Will some people not understand you? Most certainly, but the truth is, that will happen whether you open up or not. What I mean is that if you aren't telling your own story, trust me, people will happily step up to the plate and write your narrative for you.
You might as well share your life in the most authentic way that you know how. Put yourself out there. Go after your dreams. Fear nothing. Trust yourself. Surround yourself with good people. Write your own damn story. And, when you do that, you will find a beautiful community of people right there along the journey with you. You will find that there are quite a lot of people rooting for you, supporting you, and believing in you, and their voices make it all worth it. Let that be the only noise that you hear.
Be fearless, and write your own damn story.
For anyone out there looking to start a blog or wanting to find a way to open up more about wherever you are in your life, but you just can't, I get it. I have been there. I am still there some days. You are not alone. But, I promise you this: Opening up and sharing your intimate thoughts is one of the only avenues to truly connect with others; and it is completely worth it. What you will find is a safety net of people who love, support, and, most importantly, challenge you in the moments when you need it the most.
Despite what I have shared over the past year and a half on this platform, I am an extremely private person. I guarantee my close girlfriends are chuckling right now after reading the previous sentence. This article won't be news to them, because they are the amazing people in my life that have challenged me to let down my walls and to slowly, over time, open up. They are also the people I now send articles and photos to asking for their thoughts when I am second guessing myself. And, they always send back: "Kristi, just share it." Today, I am doing just that.