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Onederland and Wanderlust

Jessi and Matt on a 2018 trip through Tennessee. Jessi and Matt on a 2018 trip through Tennessee.

I struggle with my wanderlust most of the year, but there’s something about the change from summer to fall that really lights a fire under me to travel. 

Maybe it’s the cooler weather or the leaves changes. Maybe it’s because that’s usually when all my traveling memories start popping up on Facebook reminding me it’s time for some R&R before the fourth quarter begins. 

Last September I was roaming the Italian countryside with friends. In 2018, My husband and I road tripped through Tennessee with stops in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and several days spent in Nashville. In 2017, I was on a European dream vacation to London, Paris and Rome. 

We knew this year would be different once COVID-19 hit. There would be no traveling abroad, there would be no high-priced trips to California or Seattle and for a while we thought we probably wouldn’t be going anywhere this year — and I had made peace with that until I remembered a promise I’d made to myself pre-pandemic. 

When set some major health goals last summer, they seemed unattainable, but it was a part of the program I was doing and it was supposed to push me to stay committed.

Even in December when I was updating my goals based on my progress (about 40 pounds down) I still didn't believe I'd get there. I wasn't focused on the final result, but by the beginning of 2020, I was determined to see "onederland" — a magical place where people actually weighed less than 200 lbs.

I don't even remember the last time I saw a number under 200 on the scale, something that has been really depressing for me and I'm sure for thousands of other women who've struggled with their weight for years.

For such a big accomplishment, I had to think of a big reward. What would I gift myself when I reached my goal? What would be my reward for not only losing weight but for becoming the person I wanted to be — someone who hikes, someone who isn't afraid to try new things and someone who's always up for an unexpected adventure.

Then it seemed so clear — I would reward myself with an adventure! I've always wanted to do a road trip out West. I've never seen the desert, or been to the Grand Canyon and visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico has been on my bucket list for quite some time.

So, that's what I wrote down — I even spent some time mapping out an itinerary to see how much we could fit in to the trip — and I kept chipping away (slowly) at my goals.

Then COVID-19 hit in the spring and by summer most of us were realizing nothing about 2020 would be what we expected, especially travel. As we all tried to navigate this new kind of shelter in place life, planning a big trip just didn’t seem to be in the cards. I was worried about keeping my job, Matt keeping his job, paying our bills without any live music gigs, and all the other daily stresses that were thrown our way.

But I still didn't give up on my goals. It took much longer to get there than I wanted, but eventually the day came where I was looking down at the scale to see 198 lbs. I was so happy I made it! It was surreal because even all the way down, I had a hard time believing I would get there.

Then I remembered my commitment to myself — but how was I going to do that during a global pandemic? I kept trying to talk myself out of it. I really don't need to be away from work that long with everything going on right now. We really don't have the money to go on a big trip. How can I leave my dogs for 11 days? I don't know if Matt can take off that long from work.

I waffled for weeks, thinking of scaled-down little jaunts we could take instead of my dream to go out West. Then Matt and I talked about it and realized we have all this vacation time we need to take before the end of the year and the window to take it was closing. I need to take the time before the big election nears and Matt works retail and can't take time off in November and December so we realized it was a now or never thing. And driving and camping is the safest way to travel right now anyway!

Once Matt was on board, I pulled the trigger, but I wish it wouldn't have taken me so long. Why was I trying to talk myself out of something I have so clearly earned? I didn't believe I could reach my goals and when I did, I was trying to get out of what was supposed to be the best part!

Maybe I still don't believe my accomplishments are worth the reward. How many of us are guilty of downplaying our successes and giving ourselves new goals before we even allow ourselves to celebrate how far we've come? Why is it easier to convince ourselves we're not worthy than to tell ourselves how amazing we are?

Well, we may not believe it in the moment but I'm a big believer in faking it until you make it. I'll keep telling myself how worthy I am until my brain accepts it and I recommend everyone do the same. We've spent years conditioning our brains to pick apart everything we do, so it only makes sense that it will take a lot of time and practice to rewire the brain to think otherwise.

Meeting this goal isn't the end of my journey. I still have a ways to go, but I'm enjoying the ride and from Sept. 24-Oct. 2, I'm going to enjoy the ride from Waynesville to the Grand Canyon, with many stops in between. I will fit in all the adventuring I can and be grateful for the time, the space, the support, and the strength it took to get there.

To follow Jessi's blog, visit www.jessistone.com.

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