The following essay contains descriptions of domestic abuse that may be troubling for some readers.
When I first tried to leave him, he held me down and covered my nose and mouth. I couldnt breathe for what felt like ages, but I fought like hell to free myself. Once I did, I begged and bargained for my life, assuring him that I wouldnt leave him. So he let me live, but my life felt like it was no longer my own.
I had left dear friends and a well-established life in Los Angeles to run away with this man who professed to love me. Wed been in an on-and-off relationship for years since meeting in school, and I finally took the plunge to commit to him despite many red flags.
The relationship turned sour on the first day of our new life together when he began abusing me, and things only got worse. If he was mean to me, he would convince me that I deserved it. When he got aggressive or said things that cut my spirit down, I felt like I deserved it. I remember once taking a photo of my bleeding face with a throwaway camera, but I never bothered to develop it because my spirit was so broken. The strength I had inside seemed to be fading with each passing day.
Its easy to push around an already wounded person, and he made me feel unworthy of anything better than the miserable days I spent with him.
Although I stayed for two years, being the victim of his cruelty felt like spending decades in a house of horrors. My saving grace was finding comfort in music. I listened to songs like Olivia Newton-Johns Learn to Love Yourself and Janet Jacksons Control. I discovered Taylor Swifts music and felt emboldened by the hope in her songs that I realized I hadnt yet lost.
With empowering songs as my soundtrack, I built up the courage to once again risk my life by trying to leave. I would buy plane tickets to get far away, then Id be too scared to use them. One time I got all the way to the airport, then called him sobbing, and he came to pick me up. I was so traumatized that I didnt know what to do.
When I finally had the courage to leave, he let me go because, as he told me later, he was certain I would change my mind and come right back. But this time was different: I simply chose to take my life back, and that was that.
After I left him, I couldnt leave the pain behind. I was depressed. I battled post-traumatic stress disorder, and I didnt want to experience anything else in the world in which Id found such immense pain.
However, the rainbow of hope my sorrow had been concealing cracked open when I met a caring friend whose kind support helped me start loving myself. He gently suggested I start therapy. I followed the advice, and therapy changed my world. It helped me start the long process of truly healing. I also journaled.
I learned from reading books likeSomeone To Talk To: What Really Happens in Therapy and How It Can Work for Youby Joyce Houser and made myself comfortable in the personal development section of any bookstore. I started to express my pain through my writing and took steps to heal from the enormous wounds that left inner bruises long after the outer ones had faded. I didnt know it then, but I was starting to prepare for what would become my greatest career adventure.
Even as I healed, though, I found that I didnt want to leave my home.
While I had once been restless and eager to be on the go every single day, I now went long periods of time without leaving the house. Since I worked from home, I didnt have to deal with the world beyond the love seat where I worked. I went to the store in the middle of the night when I knew I wouldnt see many others. Fear and dread kept me reclusive. If I didnt leave my home, I didnt have to face the possibility of encountering another guy like my ex.
Then one day, while hiding behind my computer screen in the home I had barely left in the few years since Id broken free from my ex, I received a travel writing assignment. A great editor Id done a little work for offered me the chance to travel to Branson, Missouri, and report on what I found there.
I was over-the-moon thrilled, but I also felt conflicted. I had been longing to travel, but I was afraid to go around the block, let alone to another state. What if I encountered violence again? Nothing felt safe in my world any more.
Despite the fear, to the very depths of my spirit, I wanted to live. I didnt want to just keep breathing, eating and sleeping in my sad stupor. Sure, I could continue to descend into my self-destruction, or there was another option. I could get up, live my dream and start doing what was necessary to take better care of myself.
I chose to live, and I was determined to live well. I said yes and got on a plane to Missouri.
When the plane finally landed in Branson, I felt grounded on an emotional level. Sure, I was nervous, but I was even more excited to start my first adventure as a travel writer.
As I met new people during my trip, fears would surface. I worried that people would not want to be around me or would see that I was somehow damaged from my trauma. Nevertheless, none of the fears seemed to materialize. Instead, I enjoyed dining on vegan meals and seeing plays and concerts.
After saying yes and choosing to embrace life, I found myself heading all over the country to pursue great travel stories. It got easier with each new adventure. In Fredericksburg, Texas, I ate sweet peaches and savored the beauty of the orchards. I got the first and best massage of my life in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. I met the cutest prairie dogs in Lubbock, Texas. Then, in the Highland Lakes area of the state, deer would come right up to where I was staying at the Painted Sky Inn, and I was in heaven watching them.
International travel was a blast, too. I had a corn massage at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya and dared to take a cooking class at the Hacienda Encantada in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I savored the company of a rescued cat and the azure waters of the pristine beach at Breezes Bahamas. I trekked all over central Portugal, where I delved into its rich history, explored castles and churches and stayed at a boutique hotel where my room had a Willy Wonka theme.
I savored healthy vegan fare and felt delighted by the fairy doors in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I marveled at the sight of fall foliage in Virginias Blue Ridge Mountains and Knoxville, Tennessee. I stood onstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. I saw spring splendor in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I had an unforgettable olive oil tasting in Fairfield, California, and while exploring the citys natural beauty, I remembered why Ill always be a California girl at heart.
I watched a rainbow form near the sunrise at Makapuu Beach on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, as I sat on a black rock. I reveled in the natural splendor until I felt beautiful simply being a part of it. My jaw dropped the first time I saw Denali. As I flew in a small plane over wildlife, fauna and mountains, I felt so alive and this on-fire sense of gratitude that I had never given up.
All along the way, in each destination I visited, I continued to work on myself. When I visited Peru, I was in awe as I watched the creation of a breathtaking mural by artist Kelsey Montague and got to know the girls of Peruvian Hearts, an organization that educates and inspires young women. As part of the program, Peruvian Hearts is providing their young scholars with travel experiences. Since travel had changed my life so dramatically, I was thrilled to see these girls get the chance to be empowered by it.
Although it was a gradual process of realizing I had the freedom to break away from the trauma that held me back, travel helped me see that the freedom was in my hands.
I felt like I had fully let go of my fears of the world when I flew to see two Taylor Swift Reputation concerts in Dallas. It was her music that helped me find the strength to leave the abuse, and now her songs were the soundtrack to my more joyful life. Watching Taylor perform was a profound experience. One of the concerts I went to was recorded for her Netflix special, and its fun to relive that night when I celebrated my freedom from my fears.
As I continue to progress in my career as a travel writer, Ive learned the beauty of self-love. I am no longer the girl I was when I let an abuser violate my life. I know how to protect myself now. Im a strong, independent woman who wont accept mistreatment in my life. No person or destination is intimidating when you embrace who you are.
One thing I relearn sometimes during my travels is that I still have so much to learn from others, and its a pure joy to explore the world and be open to what it has yet to show us.
Its never too late to turn a single moment or your entire life around.
Do you have a personal story youd like to see published on HuffPost?Find out what were looking forhereand send us a pitch!
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for theNational Domestic Violence Hotline.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost's next chapter
See the original post here:
- SAIS students from around the world travel to Italy for in-person instruction - The Hub at Johns Hopkins - October 29th, 2020
- New World, New Duties: Creating Tomorrows Travel, Today - Worth - October 29th, 2020
- These destinations were overwhelmed by tourists. Here's how they're doing now - CNN - October 29th, 2020
- Villas of Distinction Recognized with Cond Nast Traveler's 2020 Readers' Choice Award in Villas Category - Benzinga - October 29th, 2020
- Trending Now: Sports Tourism Market Share, Growth, Demand, Trends, Region Wise Analysis of Top Players and Forecasts - Aerospace Journal - October 29th, 2020
- Where Wes Anderson films 'accidentally' come to life - The Guardian - October 29th, 2020
- Beachfront Residences at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort Open November 1 - Luxury Travel Advisor - October 29th, 2020
- Tourism and Agriculture Market 2020 Trends, Market Share, Industry Size, Growth, Sales, Opportunities, Analysis and Forecast To 2025 - TechnoWeekly - October 29th, 2020
- Impact of Covid-19 on the Hospitality, Travel, and Leisure Sector - Programming Insider - October 29th, 2020
- Africas year of zero: a special report on the future of wildlife tourism - Financial Times - October 29th, 2020
- Coronavirus: Is self-catering the best option? - World First Travel Insurance - October 29th, 2020
- From Lusaka to the world: why travel holds the key to economic recovery - themastonline.com - October 29th, 2020
- TCS World Travel Announces Dates for Its First All-Inclusive Luxury Expeditions On Ground-Breaking New Airbus A321neo Private Jet - Business Wire - October 14th, 2020
- Hacienda Tres Ros is a Strong Candidate in Three 2020 World Travel Awards Categories - PR Web - October 14th, 2020
- Peru, Bahamas and Puerto Rico Added to WTTC's Safe Travels List - TravelPulse - October 14th, 2020
- Maldives bags 8 nominations at World Travel Awards - The Edition - October 14th, 2020
- Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) And World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) Announce They Will Bring the Industry Together in Hamburg... - October 14th, 2020
- WTTC has a plan to save the travel sector - Travel Weekly - October 14th, 2020
- Short's Travel Signs with Deem to Offer An Additional Travel Booking Solution for Clients - GlobeNewswire - October 14th, 2020
- Travel insurance proposition enhanced by Zurich - ITIJ - October 14th, 2020
- The world's busiest airports -- and how far they've fallen - CNN - October 14th, 2020
- This is why travel will be better post-pandemic - Traveller - October 14th, 2020
- Is cow hugging the world's new wellness trend? - BBC News - October 14th, 2020
- Disney World attendance to stay capped; Disneyland reopening 'not much of a negotiation,' CEO says - USA TODAY - October 14th, 2020
- Author and World Traveler Illustrates Exploration of Europe and the Challenges he Faced in New Book - GlobeNewswire - October 14th, 2020
- Travel Alert: Covid-19 Cases Are Back To July Levels, And Rising Fast - Forbes - October 14th, 2020
- The traveler who spent a month working as a porter on Mount Everest - CNN - October 14th, 2020
- Expedia Modernized Operations on One of the World's Fastest-Moving IT Stacks - GlobeNewswire - October 14th, 2020
- Impact Of Covid-19 on Experiential Travels Market 2020 Industry Challenges, Business Overview and Forecast Research Study 2026 - PRnews Leader - October 14th, 2020
- How One Travel Advisor Gets Creative to Stay Engaged with Clients - Travel Market Report - October 14th, 2020
- New York City named one of world's top ten best walking cities - Travel Daily - October 14th, 2020
- Lonely Planet's new Ultimate Travel List reveals the world's unmissable travel experiences - Lonely Planet Travel News - October 8th, 2020
- President Trump positive is a red alert for World Travel and Tourism - eTurboNews | Trends | Travel News - October 8th, 2020
- 4 Travelers on Life Around the World: Women Who Travel Podcast - Cond Nast Traveler - October 8th, 2020
- The world's 10 coolest neighborhoods, according to Time Out - CNN - October 8th, 2020
- After six months, Germany eases world travel restrictions - The Tribune India - October 8th, 2020
- Travel agents wait for the world to reopen from COVID shutdowns; heres how theyre staying afloat with trave - MassLive.com - October 8th, 2020
- The world of travel is (slowly) reopening | Opinion - ECM Publishers - October 8th, 2020
- Amazon Prime's Global Child "Travel with Purpose" & Netflix's Down to Earth with Zac Efron bring hope to audiences through a new breed... - October 8th, 2020
- This hotel was named the best in Boston and among the top in the world - Boston.com - October 8th, 2020
- Is One of the Most Overtouristed Cities in the World Better Off Without Them? - Fodor's Travel - October 8th, 2020
- New Zealand passport is now the most powerful in the world; India secures 58th position - Happytrips - October 8th, 2020
- Big plans from Small Luxury Hotels of the World - Travel Weekly - October 3rd, 2020
- Trending News: Customized travel Market Overview and Forecast Report 2020-2026 Top players: TCS World Travel, DuVine Cycling & Adventure Co,... - October 3rd, 2020
- Australia-New Zealand travel bubble to partially open within two weeks - The Guardian - October 3rd, 2020
- Ski, Party, Seed a Pandemic: The Travel Rules That Let Covid-19 Take Flight - The New York Times - October 3rd, 2020
- Which Countries Did Worse In The Deadly Summer Of Tourism? - Forbes - October 3rd, 2020
- New WTTC Campaign Highlights Social Benefits of Travel & Tourism - Hotel Business - October 3rd, 2020
- Worlds Best Islands: Why Portugals Terceira Belongs On Your Travel Wish List - Forbes - October 3rd, 2020
- When Star Wars Rebels brought back Mortis and introduced time travel [Jabba the Pod 3.13] - SYFY WIRE - October 3rd, 2020
- Dream Vacations Lift and Shifts National Conference Aboard Celebrity Apex to 2021; This Years Conference will be Virtual - Franchising.com - October 3rd, 2020
- Tratok and Hotel Data Cloud Sign Agreement to Restart Travel Industry Through Blockchain Powered Technology and Artificial Intelligence Enabled... - October 3rd, 2020
- How You Can Help Animal Shelters Around the World During COVID - Fodor's Travel - October 3rd, 2020
- Panama is reopening to tourists from all countries in October - Lonely Planet Travel News - October 3rd, 2020
- Travel-Awards.Org to Host the Virtual Conference World Travel Summit 2020, Under the Theme "Travel - In The New Normal" - PRNewswire - September 4th, 2020
- Phillys Four Seasons Spa Was Just Named One of the Best in the World - Philadelphia magazine - September 4th, 2020
- Attend a Live, Interactive Virtual Oktoberfest Celebration This Year - TravelPulse - September 4th, 2020
- So you had a terrible vacation. Whose fault is that: The airline's? The hotel's? Or yours? - USA TODAY - September 4th, 2020
- It's a new world of travel in MLS for the Galaxy and LAFC - Los Angeles Times - September 4th, 2020
- Staycationers are saving hotels and Airbnb from covid-19 - The Economist - September 4th, 2020
- Cerabino: In world of COVID-19 precautions, it's Florida, not Canada, that should be advocating solo sex - Palm Beach Post - September 4th, 2020
- LCCs the right model for post-Covid world; recovery is not near, but out of creative destruction may emerge new entities - Web In Travel - September 4th, 2020
- Thailand managed 101 days without local coronavirus cases. Will it open borders soon? - CNN - September 4th, 2020
- Travel The World From Your Living Room With The New Technogym Bike - Forbes - September 4th, 2020
- Africa Travel Week focuses on creating opportunities for the industry this Tourism Month - Travel Daily News International - September 4th, 2020
- Villas of Distinction offers white-label partnerships to Travel Agencies - Travel Daily News International - September 4th, 2020
- Cruise Ships Are the Cleanest Travel Environments - TravelPulse - September 4th, 2020
- World Travel Awards 2020: The Best New Luxury Hotels And Resorts In Europe - Forbes - September 2nd, 2020
- Move Over, Sustainable Travel. Regenerative Travel Has Arrived. - The New York Times - September 2nd, 2020
- Travel COVID Safe Accreditation Group Launches The Most Rigorous Three-Point Inspection Health Certification For The Travel And Tourism Industry - PR... - September 2nd, 2020
- Louis Vuitton Parfums Explores Out of This World Travel With New "Mtore" Fragrance - HYPEBEAST - September 2nd, 2020
- Letters to the editor Sept. 2, 2020 | Letters To Editor - goskagit.com - September 2nd, 2020
- 6 numbers to know about the greatest short courses in the world - Golf.com - September 2nd, 2020
- Mike Fox introduces a travel book narrating his wife's treatment for Parkinson's disease in Italy - GlobeNewswire - September 2nd, 2020
- Column: Reflections of columns and world travel - Current in Carmel - August 24th, 2020
- Aretha Franklin memorialized with section of Lodge Freeway - The Detroit News - August 24th, 2020
- Roaming Through Lanzarotes Otherworldly Vineyards - The New York Times - August 24th, 2020
- Shares in Accor and IHG rise on merger speculation a combination would create the worlds biggest hotel group - MarketWatch - August 24th, 2020
- Japan to open world's second 'Making of Harry Potter' attraction - CNN - August 24th, 2020
- The Japanese village that cooks in a hot spring - BBC News - August 24th, 2020