One and a half years ago, I was living comfortably in an upmarket cliff top inner city house which was meticulously decorated with beautiful furniture.
I drove a nice car, my wardrobe was full of expensive designer clothing and I was planning my wedding. I often drank champagne and hobnobbed with high-society, my first article had just been published and my career in journalism was looking promising.
So how did I go from that to being homeless, living in a van with no possessions, and travelling around India and Nepal with only a backpack you might ask?
Well, on the surface my life appeared great. I had everything that society constitutes happiness. But something was missing. I should have been happy but I wasn’t and despite having a lot, I was empty on the inside and longing for something completely different.
I hit rock bottom, shattering into a thousand tiny pieces and in that moment I experienced an aha moment that would be the most important turning point in my life.
I knew I wasn’t living authentically and that insight transformed my fear of change and became my driving force.
Armed with a newly found sense of courage, I broke up with my fiancé, gave up my house, and sold, gifted and donated all of my possessions to charity.
Left with only a bag of modest clothing and my toothbrush, I freedom camped in my van around the North Island of New Zealand, with only my dog for company.
I lived simply off the money I had made from selling all my stuff, I ate basic food and I learnt to make do without. I showered outside in cold public showers, and I spent my days walking along long stretches of New Zealand coastlines, exploring new communities, sunbathing on stunning beaches, doing yoga and making friends with the locals.
For one year I lived entirely self-sufficient and doing even the smallest of daily tasks had their challenges and rewards.
I had pretty much fallen off the familiar path of normality and into my own little world far away from my old life in inner city suburbia.
I spent my evenings beneath the stars, pondering over what I really wanted to create in my life and I began to map out a plan. My passion for yoga was too strong to ignore so I decided I wanted to go to India and train to become a yoga teacher. I began looking into courses and as soon as I found one that resonated with me, I booked my ticket.
I was still unsure where I wanted to make my home, but I was drawn to Byron Bay in Australia and I knew I needed to develop my skills in order to live a life that I truly desired. Ultimately, I wanted to earn money through my passions and live a life that was more in line with my true self, so I made moving there my goal.
I set off to India where I ended up traveling across seven states and 21 towns via plane, train, bus, taxi, rickshaw, motorbike and elephant. Then I ventured across to Nepal, which led me on an entirely different path from what I had previously mapped out.
I fell in love and narrowly escaped the deadly April 2015 earthquakes before resuming my old nomadic lifestyle back in New Zealand. But my heart was still in Nepal so a few months later I returned to live there.
Some people thought I was crazy going back to a country that was in the grips of a humanitarian crisis; I’m not going to sugarcoat the truth, the road wasn’t easy, but it was in the challenges that I learned and grew the most.
I spent nearly half a year embracing a new culture and adopting a Nepalese family into my life before I returned to New Zealand to follow my dream of moving to Australia.
I realize now that everything is a choice and our current situation—whether we deem it to be good or bad—is something that we have created, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Usually, we are not as stuck as we think. We can decide what role we play in this movie called life and if you are not happy with your current situation then you have the power to change it!
It takes a lot of courage to let go of the old for something entirely new and sometimes it’s scary as hell to take a giant leap into the unknown, but often what you are afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.
Once you get a taste for freedom and true happiness, there’s no looking back!
Here are seven things that I learned from breaking free of my old life:
Become debt and financially free
The first step I took to live this fantastically rewarding lifestyle was to become debt free.
I didn’t want to be tied into a 9-5 job in order to pay for a lifestyle that I wasn’t even enjoying, but like most people, I didn’t have an excess amount of money in the bank so I sold all my stuff to pay off my debt and live the life I wanted to live.
That’s right, I sold everything! Which meant I didn’t need a house to keep all my stuff in and I saved money on rent and utilities.
Don’t be fooled by the false sense of security that a job gives you. Unless you work for yourself, you are at the mercy of your boss and where is the freedom in that!
Instead, start thinking about how to create an income through your passions, rather than being a cog in society’s factory and working as a means to an end.
Be willing to let go
In order to create the life you truly want you have to create space for something new, that means you need to be willing to let go of the old and anything that no longer serves you.
This can include relationships, a lifestyle, a job, or anything that holds you back from true happiness.
Know that everyone’s journey is different and try not to compare yourself to others or take on their judgment because it is your life and only you are living it.
I came across a lot of criticism, judgment and jealousy and I had to let some relationships go but that was inevitable.
I realize now that the people who stood by me are my true friends and family.
Lets face it, when you change you can’t expect everybody to understand so rather than harboring bitterness or resentment, send them love and light and let them go.
Commit to self-inquiry and take action.
Ask yourself, what is it that you’re truly passionate about?
When I realized how much I loved yoga, I sold my car and used the money to buy a ticket to India where I trained to be a yoga teacher. While I waited to leave, I read books on every subject that I was passionate about, I practiced yoga every day, I furthered my training in Reiki and I started my blog.
I invested my time into things that I was passionate about and developed the necessary skills to become financially free.
I spent a lot of time alone, which meant I couldn’t use television, social engagements or entertainment as distractions. Most addictions arise to give us a false sense of happiness and a temporary escape from reality. Whether it is an addiction to being in a relationship, or with food, sugar, alcohol, drugs, work, sex, excessive thinking, spending money, looking good or anything that takes control over your life.
Instead of trying to escape reality, why not focus on building that which truly serves you?
Be willing to take risks and make sacrifices.
In order to fulfill my goals, I did what I needed to do in order to get to where I wanted to go, knowing that my current situation was only temporary. I lived rent free in my van with only a small bag of clothes. I did away with make-up, lived off rice and vegetables and used public bathrooms.
For one year I lived in this very basic way, and this is where I found myself again.
I can remember going for two weeks in the cold winter without a shower and feeling desperate for one, so I snuck into a gym and had the longest and most exquisite hot shower of my life!
Going from having everything to nothing (in a material sense) made me appreciate the little things that I had previously taken for granted.
We have to be willing to take risks and make sacrifices to get what we want—life would be boring otherwise! It is through making mistakes and going through hardships that we learn, grow and become stronger.
Get to know the real you.
People will try to tell you who you are—don’t believe them!
Once you realize you are not a product of society or your childhood, that your past doesn’t define who you are. When we learn to look beyond all societal conditioning, the labels begin to drop away, creating space to reconnect with our authentic selves.
From this new space of awareness, self-love and acceptance arises—you will become more energetically in-tune with the higher vibrations of the universe and you will find that situations will magically appear to help you create the life you truly desire.
Realize that the present is all that we have.
Once you dive into an entirely new way of life, things start to look different. You may find that you no longer enjoy doing the same things as before.
For me, I could no longer stomach eating animals so I became a vegetarian and I found myself only wanting to eat foods that nourished my body, which meant I stopped my long addiction to sugar. On the negative side, I kept mulling over certain events that happened in my past, which made me relive the feelings over and over again.
Try not to live in the past, worry about the future or over analyze your situation, which only takes you away from the present.
Our thoughts create the reality we exist in right now, so enjoy the present moment, because that is all we really have!
Practice trust and hold your faith.
The two most important things that helped me through the difficult times was to have trust in the universe and faith in my journey.
Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and trust that everything will come to you at the right time and when things don’t go as planned, try to see the blessings that are so often hidden.
Looking back, the past year and a half certainly has had its ups and downs, but let’s be realistic—life wasn’t designed to stay static and we have been created to experience and express a full range of emotions, it is only the attachment to an idea or expectation that forms the basis of unhappiness.
Above all else, stay true to yourself, follow your heart and never, ever give up on your dreams.
Author: Taleta McDonald
Editor: Renée Picard
Images: via the author