During a trip to Croatia, I took a lot of photos (as usual) and I must admit, my family needed an extra dose of patience to deal with me, because I kept staying behind all the time. I felt like I had to capture everything with my camera or else, I would forget.
My mother-in-law asked a very simple question: “So what do you do with all those photos?” It got me thinking. For the past two decades I have been travelling to Europe, North and Central America, Northern Africa, Asia, and most recently the Middle East, which means I had a lot of photos. Of course I did not print them all, but I kept them as wonderful reminders of beautiful places and times. So she was right: What do you do with the images of those amazing places that you may not have a chance to visit again?
That same day, we went to a beautiful tiny vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Dubrovnik. Neither of us were vegan at the time, but we were surely tempted to try their food, as it was top-rated on TripAdvisor. While we were waiting for our food to be served, I was facing a gorgeous wall that had all sorts of handwritten quotes and inspirational messages. One line read “Start where you are.” I stared at it. It made total sense.
This trip was just four weeks after the Ghorka earthquake hit Nepal. I was in a very weak and stressed state of mind. Living with fear and anxiety had taken a toll on me. This trip was meant to help us feel better, and it did. It also helped me find something I indeed needed.
Reading those words was the beginning of my journey. I had been volunteering to raise awareness on the plight of the captive elephants used in jungle safaris and entertainment in Asia for some time, and even though I truly knew my calling in life was to help animals in need, I was not achieving much professionally.
As someone who was used to working since graduating from high school, not having a job or a daily work commitment (because I decided to leave my job and follow my husband), made me feel unfulfilled.
I had been spending too much time inside my head, hearing an inner chat that wasn’t working for me, whilst comparing myself to others who had “good” office jobs. I had been wondering how to start something that was fun, meaningful, fulfilling and at the same time movable. It had to be something that would allow me to continue to help the elephants.
I went back to Nepal after my trip and decided to do something about those revelations. Some time back I had taken photography lessons and had gotten a new camera, and since I have always had an eye for aesthetics, I decided to give it a try and create something that looked good, not exactly knowing what at the beginning. Little did I know that what I thought would take a week to launch, was going to take me over a year. It had to be redefined and redesigned, several times. (It still is).
I remember telling a friend how frustrated I was that it took me so long to officially “introduce” my creative site. She said that even if I never saw it come into fruition, that I should be grateful for the process and for the things that this journey had already taught me. Being in it was itself a gift. She was right. Planning, crafting, organizing, selecting, photographing, editing, learning, starting, pausing, shifting, starting again -- all those moments had lifted my spirit and had given me something meaningful to do.
After a couple of years in the process, my photography has taken to a new level and gratefully, I have met great teachers and wonderful creative souls along the way. It has also had an impact in my inner spiritual life, as I have deeply connected with my creative, artistic self. Learning to enjoy and embrace solitude has been blissfully challenging, because when you’re not working in an office surrounded by people from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., it is easy to feel that something or someone is missing.
This process has given me that longing to spend time alone, to work in my own office space, to surround myself with pretty things and delicious scents in order to make working from home more enjoyable. I yearn being in my home office, listening to some jazz, while sipping a nice cup of tea and smelling the delicious orange-sandalwood essential oil that I put in my diffuser. To me, those moments are spiritually charge
Thanks to the Universe’s hints and one simple question, I am now able to use creativity and photography to capture all those fulfilling life experiences as an expat, and at the same time continue to support the elephant cause. Although it can be intense at times, I still have the luxury of time so that I can meditate, exercise, meet with friends, and do the things I enjoy.
Who knew I was going to find great fulfillment in using my talents and helping my causes? So when fear strikes again, I should remind myself that it will all work out, I just need to start where I am.
Thank you for being here!