A Year in the Life of Amelia

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” – Jack Kerouac

As I sit in “my room” in Atlanta, Georgia to write this, I am surrounded by memories of the past year of my life. Perhaps “overwhelmed” is a more appropriate term. The pants I wear were purchased from a street vendor in Taganga, Colombia for all of $7.  My backpack has  remnants of that little hostel in Leon and countless dirty busses. I think it even still has sand in it from Utila.  To the right is my jewelry — a necklace from Guatape, a bracelet from Mexico and earrings from Nicaragua. Within my jewelry bag (which is a ziplock bag) sits a bag of pure sugarcane from a cafe in Cartagena. My Skype contacts have multiplied by the tens, right along with my Facebook friends. My passport sits on my makeshift nightstand and she’s been inked, stapled, stamped and beaten. This is my life now. Every little piece of it, sprawled across my room in this symbolic effort to remind me that I’m not who I was a year ago today.  It is both beautiful and bittersweet. It’s not often that I say this, but I am completely overcome with emotion. I feel every ounce of it today.

I remember leaving the Atlanta-Jackson-Hartsfield International Airport like it was yesterday. Dad was by my side until TSA wouldn’t let him any further. I cried at the gate as I boarded the plane for San Pedro Sula, Honduras. It’s all so vivid. I didn’t have a clue that the best year of my life was in store. I also didn’t have a clue that on that same plane, a few rows behind me sat a little Russian girl who I would later do my Dive Master Graduation with in Utila. Yes, that really happened. Her name is Olga and she is  awesome and hilarious. From my 3-month stint in Utila last summer, to my 6 weeks in Colombia this spring, I have had the ride of a lifetime. The good, the bad, the crazy, the homesick — all of it has made for the most incredible year. I try to focus on the positive in life and most certainly in this blog. I write in hopes of encouraging thought and inspiration. That being said, this year has had its downs too. It can’t always be sunshine and rainbows, and I’ve always known that. That’s not what this journey was about for me. It was about learning how to face the fears, the negativity and the challenges. It was about learning how to cope when you don’t get your way (because guess what, guys — often times you don’t. And that’s life too). It was about seeing the beauty in the simplicity. It was about growing as an individual and learning how to fit into a world that I often times cannot understand. I wanted to “find my place,” if you will.  Needless to say, I quickly learned that part was not something you learn in a year, but rather in a lifetime.  Every single lesson has been incredibly valuable to me.  I have grown as a a person, as a woman, as a backpacker and as a friend. I met THE most amazing people in the world. Literally. From the family I found in Utila to the random faces I ran into repeatedly throughout Colombia, I have really, truly loved. I have learned that it doesn’t matter if you’ve known someone for 5 years or 5 weeks. When you find solid people, you hang on tightly. You make room for the good and let go of the bad because life is too short to do anything else. I learned that one the (really, really) hard way, but it is perhaps one of the most important lessons of all. The girls I met in Utila are what I like to call my soul mates. We are now scattered from here to Australia to Peru to The Netherlands to England. We are planning trips and reunions and we speak monthly, at the very least. We have a unique and special bond. The kind of bond that can only be formed by souls who have crossed paths in the most unexpected way… the most unexpected places.  There were endless laughs, countless crazy nights, hundreds of sunsets, dozens of chats on the dock and even a few tears.  I was also fortunate enough to experience so much of this with Ginski. I don’t think I would have been such a “do-er” if it weren’t for him. He helped me to keep a positive attitude, he encouraged my blogging and he was my biggest fan. He is hands-down one of the most incredible human beings I have ever come across. As an added bonus, he has hair that’s to die for and his dance moves are off the charts. I had the opportunity to spend months and months on the road with him and I am so thankful for that. If you don’t know him, you should. The memories I created this year are the kind you hang onto for life. Same goes for the people. You have all played such an important role in this journey and I am thankful to the Universe that we were at the same place at the same time. For that, I am so lucky.

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So here we are, one year later. Once again, I write from Atlanta. After returning from Colombia in late April, I spent some time with the folks in Florida, then made the rather quick decision to spend my summer working in Atlanta. It was time for a change, so I got a job at a new spot in Midtown and the saving beings today with my first non-training shift. I will be staying with Dani and Shira (whom you’ve seen in photos with Ginski and I throughout the blog) and am incredibly lucky in that regard as well. Ginski is spending some time back in Utila working with photography and videography — two of his specialties. For now, we are taking our own little journeys and will see what life has planned. I will be staying put until I can save some money again, then will head to The Philippines in September to meet some of those fantastic girls I just spoke of.  It will be an insane and emotional reunion and I apologize ahead of time for whatever photos come out of that. I am way too excited. There has never been such an understatement. For now though, I must focus on the job, the money, the saving. I have to “keep my eye on the prize,” as they say.  I must admit though, I’m having a really tough time with it this go ’round. There’s a quote from  Carson McCullers that I’ve known for years, but never truly understood. I found it a few days ago and it stopped me in my tracks. She wrote:

“It is a curious emotion, this certain homesickness I have in mind. With Americans, it is a national trait, as native to us as the roller-coaster or the jukebox. It is no simple longing for the home town or country of our birth. The emotion is Janus-faced: we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”

 The past few weeks have been really tough for me. The house I grew up in sold within 3 weeks of me leaving for Honduras. My parents permanently relocated to  Florida, which is what I now call “home.”  It’s not mine though. Atlanta is also not home anymore. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but the spark is gone. I struggle to find enthusiasm over much here. I ride my bike and I take the train.  I watch people with their awkward luggage as they head southbound for the Airport. It reminds me that I’ll be back at that very airport soon enough. I go to a little burrito spot 2-3 times a week where I use what little Spanish I know. These tiny things get me through each week. A friend told me the other day, “Emily, just think of it this way. For every $150 you make at work, that’s another week in another country….especially in Southeast Asia.”  I will hang onto those words for now. When you travel like I do, it really is the case. Oh, and Southeast Asia is high on my list, so prepare yourselves to make the transition with me. I will be saying “adios” to Latin America (just for a while), and some word I cannot pronounce to some country in Asia. My money will go even further there and if I’m making the trip all the way to The Philippines anyways………….I figure, why not?

Before I end this post with more photos, I want to say a HUGE thank you to every single one of you who has “liked,” commented, followed and loved.  You kept me going when I questioned myself. Your words made my day. I’m not exaggerating even a little bit there. All 8,236 views speak to me. (That’s a real blog stat. I didn’t make it up, swear). I don’t think you know what a massive part of this you are. I have received countless e-mails, comments and Facebook messages from people I haven’t talked to in years and it has blown my mind. I have even received notes from people who I’ve never met, telling me my blog encouraged them to make the decision they needed to make in life. The words of encouragement are always, always welcome. I think we should all be doing a bit more of that to each other on a daily basis. We all need that in our lives. Among the many other lessons, this year also restored my faith in humanity. For every A-hole, there are a thousand more awesome people out there. I have seen the poorest of poor people and watched random locals, backpackers, volunteers and organizations reach out a hand to them, rather than sit back and ignore the situation. I have witnessed some really precious moments and interactions, which I will carry with me as I pay it forward.  Perhaps the biggest lesson for me though, was the simplest one. It goes like this: Facing your fears will change your life. Mark my words.

“Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.” – Donald Miller

When I boarded that plane for Honduras on this very day last year, I was horrified. By the second night in San Pedro Sula, I thought I wouldn’t last another 2 weeks. I didn’t want to come home crying with my tail between my legs though. I refused.  I knew if I could stick out the tough parts, the loneliness and the anxiety, it would pay off.  Well, I was right. It paid off, big time. Five new countries, dozens of new cities, hundreds of new friends, 19 new blog posts, endless hours spent transiting, an infinite amount of laughs, thousands of new experiences and a Dive Master certification later — I am a different person. I set out to grow, to change, to evolve. As I sit here on WordPress and write this post, I can’t help but reflect on it all.  I hope at least one of you has taken something from my story. If you’re on the fence about something you’ve always wanted, but you have a long list of reasons why “it won’t ever work,” read my story again. There will never be a good time to make a major change in your life. Money, your job, school, your dog, your family, your car — whatever it is. There will always be something that’s stopping you. Life’s too short, guys. You hear me say it a lot here, but I cannot stress how true that is. This year drove that point home, and I am thankful it did. I may not have a 401K, a car, or a house. I may not even be able to pinpoint where my “home” is right now. But you know what? I am really LIVING. I am living a life that rewards me in ways most people never even think of. And that, in and of itself, is worth all the risks and sacrifices I’ve taken to get right here, right now.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for your continued support. To my friends in Atlanta and all over this beautiful world — I am happy that you are the family I’ve chosen. I cannot ever repay so many of you for your selflessness. To the family I was born into — You are my rock. I could not have done any of this (the traveling, the writing, the working) if it weren’t for you. I am both proud and extremely fortunate to call myself a Booth.

I still have one more post on Colombia to come, which will keep the blog interesting over the next couple of months. I know, Colombia was like….2 months ago. I’m such a slacker. We did so much though and the last bit was the best.  After that, I’ll keep you updated on plans and places. It won’t be long before I’m on the road again. So much love to you all.






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“…..But the good news is the greatest stories are lived in the desert. The great lives are lived in the places we most fear. If we fear being rejected, the great story has us standing at the door with flowers in our hands, if we fear losing love, the great stories have us letting that person go rather than clinging to them. If we fear taking a chance on a dream, the great stories have us quitting our jobs.”  – Donald Miller

This entry was published on June 12, 2013 at 9:15 am. It’s filed under A Bit of Everything and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

18 thoughts on “A Year in the Life of Amelia

  1. Martha Wisbey on said:

    And I am honored to have such a beautiful, insightful, fierce and bright niece. You are a born writer…you have given all of us a great gift by sharing this blog and the pictures. For those of us that are still caught in a life that can be filled with fear, you shined a light. Thank you Em.

    • Aw, such kind words, Marth. Thank you for the endless encouragement. I often think you have far too much faith in me, but I’ll take it. I am so glad that you are on this journey with me. 🙂 You are the best and I am so lucky to have an aunt like you that’s capable of talking about the deep things in life. Love you heaps. xxx

  2. Rachelle on said:

    Em – You should compile all your blog posts into a book. You had some awesome experiences, this blog captures your reflections and growth, and you are an excellent writer! Hope to see you while you are in Atlanta!

    • Rachelle- I can always count on such nice words from you! Thank you a million times over again. You have been following since day 1 and it really means the world. Ha- a book? Maaaaaaybe later. I think I need more stories from Asia first. 🙂 I would love to have dinner soon! Hope you are well and I hope you have great news coming soon!

  3. Shawn on said:

    A great post, Emily! It’s wonderful how travel gets us out of our comfort zone, making our lives richer by doing so. Its refreshing to hear the real talk about it. While you’re in Atlanta, we should hook up for a free meal at my place. We can talk India and SE Asia. which is super exciting by the way!

    • You are the bomb. Seriously. You are such a great supporter of all of this and you don’t miss a beat. It means so much. I will let you cook dinner for me ANY day. We definitely need to hook up before your big trip. I am jealous, dammit. BUT, so excited for you. Let me get settled in at Tap (new gig) and we’ll sort something out on a weeknight. X

  4. Kim Mavros Norman on said:

    I have been living vicariously thru u and ur blog!! Haven’t seen u in years but it seems like travel is where you are truly happy. Continue on ur journey and let us be a part of it thru ur posts!! Happy travels 🙂

    • Aw, thank you so much, Kim! These are the messages that really get me. I am so glad to hear you are enjoying it. That makes me very, very happy. I see you and your new little family and I love every bit of it. So fun watching everyone “grow up” (or whatever- ha) and creating their own lives. It’s so special. I hope you guys are all well. You look quite happy yourself. 🙂

  5. Leslie (a/k/a) "Mom on said:

    I’m always anxious when you let me know you’re going to post something soon, because it takes my mind away to your world and your deep inner self, the extraordinary woman you’ve become. So proud of you for facing all your challenges and enjoying them at the same time. As I’ve said before, your writing skills blow me away-and what’s really cool is it comes from the heart. Beautiful!

    • Thank you, Mom. 🙂 When you guys are proud of me, it makes me happy. Thank you, thank you, thank you for ALL that you do. I am so glad you are loving this journey with me. You guys are so much of why I’m sitting here reflecting on such an incredible year. Love you times a billion. xoxo

  6. martha on said:

    Wonder where my post is? Well, all I said was you are incredible. It is an honor to be related to you. Love this amazing girl….

  7. You did it! A full year… gah! Incredible! I loved following your blog (and will continue to do so) as you shared every bit of the excitement, challenges and sometimes scariness of your journey (border crossings, yikes!).

    In this particular blog post, I really identified with what you said about fear, home, holding onto good people and removing those that are not so good. If I would have done a blog of my past year of moving from Atlanta – San Diego – Chicago, I think those would have been the major themes as well. So crazy that we were learning those lessons in VERY different places! One thing you far surpassed me on is the travel part (and the fear too, since I was able to take a moving truck of possessions to my locations…let’s be real).

    Anyway, KEEP IT UP! So glad to see your smiling face in every picture! Hope to see you in Atlanta this summer. 🙂

    • Oh wow. Thank you for those words, Erin. Isn’t it crazy how we all experience these journeys together, despite being in different hemispheres or corners of the world? You and I were in need of such similar things and we took big chances to ensure they happened. That is a beautiful thing, my friend. I am so proud of you for having the guts to brave new places on your own. And don’t sell yourself short for a second — I was in Central America and you were in moving vans across the US. Those are details. At the end of the day, we were both facing fears and taking big risks…and that, in and of itself, is enough. I’m so glad we’ve kept in touch all these years. I love that we are on the same page, even if we’re a thousand miles away. I am thrilled that you follow and enjoy. It puts a smile on my face. I would LOVE to see you this summer in ATL, so please keep me posted on your whereabouts. Keep kicking ass and taking chances. Odds are always in your favor. Talk soon, amiga. xo

  8. Maartje on said:

    Emmy, Emmy, Emmy, what a year! Maybe you had the best year ever but you have also made sure that a lot of other people had their best year ever, at least me! I’m sooo happy that I met you now almost a year ago! Lived together in Utila, traveled through Nicaragua and you came and visited me in Colombia, if thats not one of the best friends that any body could ever had!?! I had a tear and a smile when I saw ‘our’ picture, you said maybe our first picture together-together in the one where we are both laughing so hard while holding a bottle of Flor, like if it’s my baby.. 🙂

    You are seriously amazing! You are so down to earth, so positive, you inspire people and I love to be your soulmate! Can’t wait to be together-together with you again in the Philippines, or maybe even sooner in Dutchland! For shizzle thats gonna be sunshine and rainbows with all the girls and Amir! Keep on writing, keep on smiling, keep on being yourself and keep on meeting up with me! At the moment I love you more than Peru, and i love love love Peru!!! X

    • Awww my sweet, sweet, Dutch Maartje. Did you have to make me cry? WHYYYY??? (YOU know why!!) I am SO freaking lucky that I met you. From our late nights at Coco’s, to 48 hours of SunJam, to riding a horse and carriage in Leon, to crazy nights in Medellin, to our Skype dates while you continue your travels………………..we share some incredible memories. You are rare and amazing to me. Your energy and positivity is infectious. You light up a room, or an island. Your spirit is bright, so don’t you ever lose it. I find myself laughing at random memories with you on a daily basis. When Flor and Cana are born, Choppy and I will be there to hold your hand. We’ll be drunk, but we’ll be there. You brighten the world, mi amiga — and I love you for that. Thank you for always being there and for putting a smile on SO many faces. You make this planet a better place. Cannot WAIT to reunite on another beach in another country. I just hope The Philippines are ready. SEE YOU OVER DER, you “blondie bitch yourself.” Miss the hell out of you. Big Dutch kiss. XXXXXXXXXXX

  9. Congratulations on an awesome year. It’s been great reading about your adventures. Keep telling us more!

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