Once upon a time, I grew up as a frumpy little girl with every intention of one day attaining princess status.
When Prince William was taken off the market in 2010, I did think it was rather rude, given I’d been planning our wedding since the age of 5, but okay. With one prince left to dazzle, I liked my odds. Sadly, with a Harry-shaped hole in my heart (thanks for nothing Meghan Markle), these days I have been forced to re-evaluate my poorly drawn plans.
But after a brief pout session over a caramel McSundae, I realized: as a full time travel blogger (mostly prancing around Europe in search of carbs), I may not be marrying into any royal family, but through my travels have pieced together a life that’s eerily close to a fairytale.
Because magic may not be real, but travel comes real close.
Now here’s the thing, inspirational Pinterest quotes (my #1 source of info as a millennial) often dictate that life should be about making your life a story worth telling. But I’ve come to realize that I don’t just want a story: I want a freaking fairytale.
And if you feel the same way, I want you to know that fairytales are entirely possible, all without tricking a prince into loving you. After all, I may not have a tiara, but I have a passport and ambition… (in addition to a waistline padded with European gelato, which I think is even better).
Here’s how travel can lead you to that fairytale life you’ve always wanted.
Travel means transformation, without a fairy godmother
Sometimes when I look back on how much I’ve changed in the past three years, I barely recognize myself.
A long time ago (24 years) in a land far, far away (Canada), I spent my childhood as a sheltered little girl in the suburbs of Vancouver, getting rides to school, never walking by myself and only (on very special occasions) waddling to the mall with my friends alongside a strict curfew.
With such limited life experience, I was the kind of girl that could barely use a stove, had never swum in the ocean and didn’t know how to properly ride a bike. It took (what felt like) a lifetime to convince my parents to grant me permission to backpack Europe with a friend in 2014… and after that, things were never the same. Being abroad opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Since then, I’ve gone from never leaving the house on my own to travelling solo across dozens of countries, hitchhiking with complete strangers, and all the adventures in between – climbing mountains, skinny dipping, and inhaling spaghetti like oxygen.
The most brilliant part of this transformation has been my new unwavering ability to
give zero f*cks dismiss outsider negativity. These days, I am unashamedly myself. Yes I chase after dogs with fluffy tails, I wear twirly dresses and get over-excited about crunchy leaves and Christmas trees. And you know what? If anyone thinks that makes me weak, vapid or anything inferior, I would say that reflects more on them than on me. *flips hair* I can confirm: Haters are hard to hear when you’re oceans away.
In other words, travel has transformed me into a much more confident, badass version of myself… all without the help of a magic wand.
Travel means realizing you can be a queen without a king
All our lives, we tie ourselves to the idea that happily ever after and fairytales are about finding someone to spend it with. But what if that person all along has been ourselves?
The idea of solo travel petrified me from the start, but I fell into it by necessity when in 2015, I began a whirlwind internship as a cruise photographer, a job that required me to travel across 14 countries with no company but myself, a bumbling doofus with zero life skills. At the time, I kept thinking of how much I wished my boyfriend of 6.5 years could come along and you know, save me from inadvertently getting mugged or falling into a river (all joys that come with being a walking magnet for disaster).
But being solo abroad became one of the most liberating experiences I ever had. There’s no realization more empowering than realizing you can experience perfect bliss, slurping a gelato by the canals of Venice, crunching a baguette by the Eiffel Tower, and all those brilliantly cliched things you’ve always wanted…. all with the company of just yourself. And you realize that maybe, you can build that magical, fairytale life with the determination of you and you alone, boo.
When I returned home, I ended that 6.5 year relationship and moved to Germany for a year abroad. I have never once regretted that decision.
Travel restores your sense of wonder and encourages you to dream bigger
I don’t know about you, but day to day life makes me jaded.
Often at home, I find myself cloaked in a blanket burrito, squinting at the bright lights outside to complain about the noisy, rambunctious youths… how dare they laugh and be stupidly full of life.
Abroad, I become one of those rambunctious youths full of life!
Travel has this ability to wave a magic wand and restore childlike wonder in me, while simultaneously daring me to expand the realms of my Disney-esque dreams.
The truth is: when you are thrown on unfamiliar turf, confronted with sights you’ve only ever seen in postcards and movies, it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed by the sheer wonder of it all. Somehow, when abroad, even the smallest things delight you – from amusing street signs to a perfectly foamed cappuccino in a dinky cafe. Often, travel turns you into such a doe-eyed Disney princess who loves everything that even after returning home, you still feel more curious and full of life.
NOTE: I know travel isn’t all roses and butterflies, but let’s be honest – it can often feel that way.
And when you are surrounded by all these wonderful things, you can’t help but dream a little bit bigger.
My first backpacking trip in 2014 opened my eyes to how attainable travel could be. It instilled in me a bubbling wanderlust that pushed me to apply for that (seemingly unattainable) dream internship in 2015. That experience made me realize it was possible to travel while getting paid for it, and pushed me to devote everything I had into making travel my career throughout my year abroad in 2016. All this is still a work in progress but I often tell myself: even if I fail, I will have done it so extravagantly that the world can’t help but slow clap at my efforts.
Most brilliantly, travel has this way of sharpening your dreams while giving you the motivational ammo you need to make them a reality. Getting to where I am today has been one leap of faith after another, leaps padded with the confidence and knowledge given to me through travel. I can’t pretend like all this was an overnight Cinderella story, (unless said Cinderella story involves gallons of Red Bull and multiple existential crises), but without travel daring me to dream bigger, I would never be where I am today.
Travel gives you renewed perspective
And often, when people ask how I deal with doubt and negativity, I have to dish out a very cliched and vague response: perspective.
It’s pretty wonderful – spending time oceans away from the drama and pettiness that clouded your everyday life, you begin to prioritize and re-evaluate things that really matter.
These days, I can be away from my Facebook feed for days at a time and barely notice, because (shockingly), I don’t actually miss seeing shirtless boat pics from dudes I went to high school with.
Travel is great because it displaces you from the white noise of your life and makes you realize that your mental energy is better spent on things you love – you know, watching videos of corgis twerking or having a 3rd burrito bowl because you can.
There’s usually that pivotal moment in a fairytale when the protagonist has an epiphany tied to an important life lesson. When I travel, I feel like every day is packed with these lessons, the most important of which has been that life is short, so do more of what you want. That’s why I live my unashamedly ridiculous life (and also why I’ve literally just bought a T-rex costume on a whim from Amazon. It’s massive and hilarious. Comment below if you want to see photos!)
Travel proves that happily ever afters do happen… sooner or later
Last but not least, I have my most important takeaway from travel: that my skin is infinitely thicker than I ever imagined and that, at their core, humans are genuine and kind.
Every trip, especially the solo ones, there have been times when I was absolutely certain of my demise. From being forced to hitchhike in Bosnia to being stranded in Venice when my boat disappeared (true story), I always managed to claw my way into a solution. In travel, somehow, whether by your own genius or through the kindness of others, you survive.
And while that #wanderlust life isn’t always polished and wonderful as portrayed on Instagram (psst here’s a shameless plug to follow me), every experience brings you re-assurance that at the end of the day, you’re strong enough to survive and fetch that happily ever after.
… if that’s not sweet comfort food for the mind, I don’t know what is.
At the end of the day, here’s what I believe: our lives shouldn’t just be good or fine… they should be magical. They should blow you away, knock your socks off and blast them into freaking outer space. For me, I have found that magic through travel, and I count my blessings every day that I have.
And so, I hope this post inspired you to drop the prince hunt and write your own fairytale… After all, your happily ever after awaits 😉
It would be a real shame to not at least try.