Catalina Muñoz is a passionate world traveler, TNN community member, blogger, and photographer who has traveled to 54 countries and is always planning her next adventure. She enjoys experiencing other cultures and creating new memories with others along the way. You can see her presentation with TNN here and read about her adventures at cataintheworld.com.
Having just emptied out my apartment to get it ready for the ceiling removal, lying sick on my inflatable mattress, staring at the TV but not exactly watching or hearing it, I felt like my entire world had just collapsed.
It was just me, a mattress, a TV, and some kitchen stuff. I was too sick to go to work, and I didn’t want to see anyone. I felt as if I no longer had control, and I knew I was slowly losing my most precious possession: my health.
I couldn’t get over feeling like I was in this constant state of anxiety, in my case defined as “always living in the future, and very often in fear.” Constantly stuck in planning mode, trying to control everything that was to happen, worried about what was to come, always worrying about the little things, and the big things — all of the things — and I was just utterly exhausted!
Before I could consciously realize what was happening, my body was trying to tell me to stop this madness.
In that moment, I promised myself that if I get out of this one… I would live in the present. I would try as much as I could to accept the reality of the moment, just as it is, to see only what is in front of me. I would commit to being concerned only with what is taking place right here and now, not yesterday, not tomorrow, not even today, but now.
In that moment, I promised myself that I would take time out to do what I always wanted to do: travel the world.
Getting away would be my opportunity to practice being in the present. I mean, what better way to test yourself than when you are completely outside of your comfort zone?
I would not plan, I would just go with the flow, and I would accept things as they came. It was a chance to truly break free from my bad habits, and to live fully in the moment. I would practice mindfulness, full awareness of my surroundings, enjoying and accepting reality just as it was.
I ended up quitting the career I had made for myself in the field of logistics. It was a respectable career and had afforded me a nice life, but it was time for a drastic change. After a lifetime of planning out my future, I was done. My only plan at that moment was to go. Not to plan, just to go.
The results were just as I expected them to be. The most meaningful and happiest moments during this two-year trip around the world didn’t have to do with material things. The most memorable moments happened when I was learning something new, experiencing the beauty of nature, or sharing a simple connection with someone.
On that journey, my life had become solely centered around the people I was meeting, the natural scenery surrounding me, and the experiences I got to partake in. It was the organic setting that was making those moments truly rewarding, not actual things.
During my trip, I didn’t miss my comfortable salary. Nor did I miss the car, apartment, clothes, and shoes that that salary afforded me. Those things did not matter so much anymore. Surprisingly, I didn’t miss them at all. I honestly felt more free and happy with fewer things.
I traveled with a 46-liter backpack containing a very basic wardrobe and a smaller backpack with some electronics that allowed me to take photos, write my blog posts, and keep connected to loved ones back at home. These things were tools for me to live in my world, but they were not my world.
As I traveled I never needed more than these small possessions that fit in my backpacks. When I changed countries and climates, I would just get rid of stuff that no longer served me. Each time I would let something go, I felt even freer and lighter. If I needed to replace something, no problem — I would buy it from a local flea market.
I wasn’t such a strict minimalist that I restricted myself to not buying anything along the way; I was just more conscious of what I was accumulating. I bought the occasional trinket, like a small painting or a bracelet to keep as souvenirs, so I could always remember this pivotal time in my life.
You probably won’t believe this, but one of the best things that actually happened during the trip was getting robbed of all of my electronics. It obviously hurt at the time, because I thought that the photos and videos that I had lost represented tangible proof of what I had lived, seen, and accomplished. It took a while for me to realize that what truly mattered were the experiences that I carried in my mind and in my heart. No one could ever take those away.
My best memories were of wonderful places and the people that were around me, and the most important thing was having my health to enjoy it all.
This two-year-long solo travel experience made me realize that the material things that I was buying throughout my life weren’t actually adding value to my life. It was the people in my life and the moments that taught me valuable lessons.
I am fully aware that even the most spectacular moments of my travels will begin to fade away. They will stay in the past and lose their importance; as they say… out of sight, out of mind. Such is life. However, the lessons learned during those moments will stay with me forever. Those have left an imprint on me that can never be erased. I am a different person having traveled the world solo. I’ve learned what’s really important to me and what my values are.
I’ve learned to live in the present, to not plan everything, to leave some things to chance, to accept people as they are, to not sweat the small stuff, and more.
I never felt freer and richer than when I had the fewest possessions.
When I stopped being concerned about unimportant things, my heart opened up to enjoy the beauty of what was right in front of me.
Catalina Muñoz is a passionate world traveler, blogger, and photographer who has traveled to 54 countries and is always planning her next adventure. She enjoys experiencing other cultures and creating new memories with others along the way. After traveling the world solo for two years, she transitioned from a career in logistics to one in travel. When she is not guiding tours, you can find her traveling for pleasure, hiking, photographing landscapes, or writing. You can read about her adventures at cataintheworld.com.
Note: We love featuring our travel-loving members, if you’d like to be interviewed or write a guest post for this blog, send us an email at [email protected] com with the subject line “TNN Blog.”