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The Unexpected Way I Reached My Goal Of Living The #VanLife

When I was asked to write my story I thought: Where the hell do I start? What major shifts in my life got me here? Do I start with my traumatic childhood? Or maybe start with the night I was smoked by a car? Or do I get real and dive into the night I got sexually assaulted?

But when I really dig into how I got here I realized…

It all started with a wave.

It was the summer of 2015, in Vancouver, BC. I was at Wreck Beach, frolicking around, giddy as ever, when someone with a surfboard asked if I wanted to try. Without hesitation, I said HELL YES. I hopped on my stomach, he gave me a push and somehow I managed to prop myself up on a tiny little wave.

What happened next changed everything.

It was as if time had stopped and It was just me and that wave, in perfect synchronicity. I felt a connection with myself that I had never felt before.

I have lived and struggled with PTSD and depression since I was 11. At the time, I was 24, I had a loving boyfriend and an incredible group of friends. For the most part, I was having a blast. But the darkness still found its way into my life and I couldn’t help but feel so helpless. Looking back now I realized it was because I was so disconnected from who I really was and what my soul needed to thrive. That wave unblocked something within me and woke up my inner self that had been ignored for so long.

My boyfriend at the time was from Nova Scotia. After visiting a couple of times and finding out how close the surf was, I felt this urge come through me. I thought: 

I want to move to Nova Scotia.

I want to find my career.

I want to adopt a dog.

I want to learn how to surf and move close to the beach.

So we moved.

During my first summer in Nova Scotia, I went straight to the ocean, rented a surfboard and got my ass whooped. Destroyed. Utter chaos. But, there was that feeling again. It was like my soul was exposed, gleaming toward the ocean and the ocean was gleaming right back.

I spent my whole life struggling with feeling unworthy, disgusting and hating every inch of myself. I did not have the proper tools to navigate through my past and ended up drowning it out with drugs and alcohol. But, when I was in the ocean, those thoughts didn’t weigh me down. Probably because I was too focused on not drowning.

When you’re getting tossed by a wave, and all you want to do is panic. You gotta channel that inner calm and tell yourself to chill because fighting the wave is only going to tire you out. I began to repattern my stress response and practiced control over my nervous system, channeling the parasympathetic when the sympathetic was screaming at me. It became my therapy, or as quoted by my favorite yoga teacher “my ritual of wellness”. Through this ritual of wellness, I got to know myself better. I reconnected with my inner child, that giddy little girl before she experienced any trauma. 

Over the next four years, my commitment to my rituals of wellness unblocked the portals within me to help me gain a deeper connection with my authentic self. This, in turn, led to manifesting my goals. I found my career as a Registered Massage Therapist and this past May my new partner and I moved closer to the beach with our dogs. New goals were now being cultivated and (like clockwork) that urge came through me again.

This time I thought, “I want to eventually live the van life and move to Central America.”

This urge became so strong that I had this internal dialogue with myself when it came to buying anything new. I would think “Would this fit in a van?” My partner had the same goals, so I was beyond stoked for our future together. Just when I realized I had everything I had hoped for – everything went to shit again.

I started getting panic attacks as often as once or twice a week and then at the beginning of this summer, my partner broke up with me. Within 12 hours after the break-up, I got news of a close friend passing away. I had every reason to slip back into the darkness. But as painful as all of that was, I knew I had to stay true to my rituals of wellness. I had to keep surfing. Thank frig I did.

One day during the shit show of a summer I was having, I responded to a post on the Nova Scotia Female Surfers facebook group. A girl had asked if anyone wanted to meet her for a session. I was like, “Hey, I’ll come meet ya!” We met up and had an instant connection. That day she invited me on an all-girls surf trip she had been planning to El Salvador. I literally booked it the next day. I also started the Tinder game, which resulted in a couple of burns and some unaligned connections. 

One day I was on a hike with my dog, listening to the “Working with Shadow” Podcast on Almost 30 with Lacy Phillips and felt this major shift. When I got home I went straight to my journal. My intuition was going buck wild. I immediately realized the breakup and tinder guys were expanders for me to set my boundaries and never settle for less.

I wrote:

“Today is the day I am officially closing my heart. I’ve had enough and I feel 100% about it this time. I went on a long walk (1.5 hrs) with Zo and really explored what I want in life and here it is: In a year I want to be living in a Van with Zo. Travelling south. Teaching Yoga. Healing bodies. And # 1 chasing waves. It’s going to happen. I can feel it.”

Fast forward to my trip to El Salvador in October. Being there felt so right. It was like someone dumped a bucket of water over me, and I was instantly rejuvenated. My soul was thriving. And then…I felt another urge. I spontaneously decided to text my car dealer to see if he happened to have any vans come in. He replied, “Weirdly yes we do and we never have before.” About a week after coming home from El Salvador I found myself driving home in my dream van. I was truly in awe.

It all comes back to that wave. That first wave opened me up to my authentic self and helped me navigate through my PTSD. It unblocked the part of me that yearned for a more vibrant life. It was the ritual of surfing that kept me going when the darkness wanted to pull me in. 

It also woke me up to realize that a traditional way of living wouldn’t nourish my soul. It connected me with my girlfriend who invited me to El Salvador, where I surfed every day and felt so alive. That feeling gave me the urge to send that text that would eventually bring me my dream van. 

And so I’ll leave you with this: Whatever your goals are, whether its van life or soaring to the moon, you must find your rituals of wellness that unblock you and connect you with your inner self. Know that no matter what you’ll have moments of discomfort or challenges that will test your integrity. But stay true to those rituals.

I swear once you commit to them you’ll start to manifest things you would never imagine. Because in the end you’re just connecting to your most authentic self, and that is the best manifestation of all.