Hometown: Colorado Springs
I first came to China in 2013 with my husband at the time to teach English. He wanted to learn Mandarin and as a 19 year old girl I decided that I wanted to go with him. We got married then and 3 weeks later embarked on a newlywed adventure in China.
What I imagined was dumplings, noodles, people who spoke conversational English and lots of change to make new friends and meet new people. What I found instead was quite different. I fell into a deeper depression than I’d started with (10 years on antidepressants didn’t seem to fix anything). People didn’t speak any English in this small town, and my adventurous spirit started to die down as the lack of support from my partner, distance from family and old eating disorder patterns re-emerging let to a Rachel drowning in soy sauce, biting Hunan winters and a thick feeling of isolation following her everywhere. That Rachel trucked through for a whole year.
My first taste of this foreign land left me with a bitter aftertaste and I felt resentful to the country. Though the few friends I did make there took such good care of me during that time. The warmth of the people despite the language barrier, the touches of childlike naivety in the countryside fold and the work ethic, history and food culture were always there to remind me of the good.
Despite the bitterness, I came to a place of peace. Because it was and is so different, it provided me a unique opportunity to truly reinvent myself without anyone knowing who I was or what had happened in my past. The constant feeling of being lost and cutoff from those around me provided the opportunity to reconnect with me, and with God, the universe and it’s purpose for me.
After 5 years of marriage, I needed that very place to rebuild myself. I returned to China 3 weeks after signing divorce papers. I’d spent 3 years in my home country on adventure navigating through the challenges of relationships, university, corporate life and entrepreneurship. Overall life was, as it always, filled with moments where I could look to the sky and feel complete freedom, as well as look at my life and see only white walls and prison bars.
The paradox of travel is that when you fell 100% lost then and only then can you have the ability to find yourself again. When the relationships, languages, familiar sceneries and customs are stripped away, what you have left is, just you.
I had lost myself in the relationship. My eating disorder had taken over my life. I cover these topics on my YouTube channel more, but suffice it to say that I could never have found answers without the shining red flag of China.
Everyone else saw irony. 3 weeks after marriage I moved to China. 3 weeks after the divorce I returned. But this time was different. This time I was choosing to go back to the place where I’d left my adventurous spirit. I needed to reclaim it. I had memories only of he and I there. I hadn’t totally chosen to go and live there. But round 2 was all mine. Rachel—strong, brave, powerful, badass, ripping away all security blankets with an aggressive passion of a woman who has only one purpose- to rewrite a painful story and make it her own. To thrive in her health and experience the adventure of life on her own accord.
Right now COVID has prevented me from taking any trips outside this bubble. VPN allows me to talk with friends and family and share memories of previous travels with other solo female travelers.
What is so amazing though, is how much of the world we miss. When we have no escape from our life through travel. We have only our solved and our minds and our problems. It’s easy to get lost in the struggle of wanting to feel the sun of Thailand but being stuck in the 320+ AQI of Shanghai winters.
Yet what I find to be most true – from the 19 year old girl until now, is the adventure is endless when we turn inside and explore ourselves the same way we would when we travel.
Is the river of the Nile any more magnificent than the rivers of love that flow between those around us? Is the hike to Mount Everest any more freeing than overcoming an eating disorder and looking back to say, wow. I just did that? Can Cabo compete with a complete recreation of your career, romance, family life or body image?
You get to decide for yourself. But I think you know where I stand.
Travel advice: Plan as minimally as possible and search for openness inside you when you are there.
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