My Gutsy Love Story
“My Gutsy Story®” by Savannah Grace
For me, travel started at a young age. As a kid, I was often subjected to long-haulcamping trips across the US. Early on, I learned how to adjust to living on the road, sleeping in a new place each night and making new friends, living out of a suitcase and in a tent. Despite this background of basic living, in 2005 when I was told at age 14 that the family was about to uproot, sell everything and backpack around the world for a year my whole life crashed before my eyes. This transformation in my life was significant, and perhaps what got me prepared for my own gutsy story.
Instead of one year, our vast and remarkable adventure turned into an 80-country, four- year long trip. I had transformed from a spoiled, naive girl, into someone who could put myself in other people’s shoes, use a squatty toilet under any condition, share my food with strangers and push myself to conquer things I once considered impossible. Despite the many life changing adventures I encountered, there was always a part of me that longed to go home. To return to the life I remembered as “normal”.
The longing for home was quickly diminished when I was 17 years old and fell in love with a much older Dutch man who was on a year-long overland trip around Africa. Because of our 21 year age difference (not to mention cultural difference and slight language barrier) he insisted it could NEVER work between us. We travelled together in his overland truck with my family for 8 months in Africa. We were falling more and more in love each day, yet everyday he reminded me “it can never work”.
In late December of 2008, I parted with him and my family and flew back to Vancouver from Cairo, Egypt and I didn’t look back. I was headed home! Home to the place I’d dreamed of for nearly four long years, or at least, this was how I got myself to step on that plane, walking away from a man who’d eased my pains and changed my life in Africa. It seemed, the impossible dream I’d managed to coax up would cease to exist, fading into nothing more than dizzy memories. I hoped that I could walk away and life would go on as it should. That I could indeed begin my “normal” life….finally! Of course, being alone for the first time, separated from the family, I felt empty and slightly lost. I didn’t know what Vancouver would have in store for me after so long away. The place that was anything but unordinary to me, was now culturally and visually shocking to my many heightened senses. After years living in less developed countries, I had a strong appreciation for the most minuscule things. Ice cubes were treasured in the freezer, running hot water felt glorious on my skin but all the things I’d missed so much like sushi or Grandma’s home-cooked meals didn’t seem satisfying…like I had expected. It was as though all that time I had created a perfect world in my mind, that wasn’t really there. And now that I’d found a man who made me laugh there was nothing that could replace it….and yet I had lost that only thing.
As each day went by I could see the deep creases of dirt, engraved in the bottom of my feet begin to fade but my love could not. A continual ache lingered in my chest and I knew there had to be a way. “If there’s a will there IS a way” and that may have been my biggest lesson that kept me pushing on. This realization was not one that suddenly appeared but something I’d known all along but tried to ignore. He had tried to rationalize with me throughout our entire journey together that I should try for the chance of a “better”, more logical path in life. After all my struggles and “drawing it to me”, to simply let it slip away? Where was the sense in that?! The only rational thing I could see…WAS him!
I quickly took up a job at a bakery and as soon as I had enough money I bought my plane ticket to Holland! With only 40 euros left in my scared, little 18 year old hand, I stepped onto a plane headed to a country I’d never been to before to be with the man I loved.
I understood the warnings from loved ones and from him and the consequences of taking such a risk, but if people could not accept and let me be who I needed to be then I could only wish for that acceptance, not be expected to change my life for other people. Trying to change who I am to please others would not bring me happiness…so I had no choice but to follow my heart.
Although the journey with my family had ended, I hadn’t doubted another would begin. Once again, I was caught off guard and thrown across the world in a whirlwind, but this time, every action was my own and I would be held accountable for every move I made along the way.
Today, 6.5 years later, we are more in love than ever and continue to travel the globe, having visited a total of 38 countries together. We’ve bought property in Guinea, Spain and our first house in Holland. Sometimes all the odds seem to be against you, but when you want something badly enough, you truly can make the impossible come true.
SAVANNAH GRACE was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. Age 24, she has traveled to 100 countries and is the author of award winning series “Sihpromatum” which includes “I Grew My Boobs in China” and “Backpacks and Bra Straps”. Currently living with her Dutch partner in The Netherlands, Savannah continues to write her family travel memoir series. Website: www.sihpromatum.com
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SONIA MARSH SAYS: I admire your courage to go with your gut, and not be swayed by others. What a meaningful statement to help those who are unsure of what to do.
“If people could not accept and let me be who I needed to be then I could only wish for that acceptance, not be expected to change my life for other people. Trying to change who I am to please others would not bring me happiness…so I had no choice but to follow my heart.”