Thankful for Silver Linings: Reflecting and Rising from a Painful Year

seattle-sunsetsHappy Thanksgiving – Canadian Style. Yes, we too celebrate Thanksgiving, without the pilgrims, and a month earlier. You see, it gets colder sooner so we need to bring in all those crops before the frost comes and destroys them. It gives us more time to build our igloos too.

Naturally at this time of year I am feeling thankful, though that tends to carry through the other 364 days of the year as well. During this ‘extra’ thankful time, I was pondering what I could reflect about here on the blog and that’s when I came across the post  that starts a few lines further down.

It’s been written, then left, then edited, then left again, multiple times over. I’ve just never been sure when or even if to hit publish. With the theme of ‘thanks’ upon us, and this piece being so focused on silver linings and the incredible gratitude I have for the amazing people in my life, I felt like now was a good a time as any.

Keep in mind, most of it was written in April ’15, and a lot of additional great things have happened since then but we’ll get to that awesomeness later.

And be warned, while it is a longer read, I have no doubt there are a number of you that would benefit from it’s content and can surely relate.

Thank you for reading.

***********************

thinking-in-mexico

April 2015

It has been pretty quiet around here for some time. Twelve months or so? Fifteen? Longer perhaps, depending on how you look at it. Maybe you noticed, maybe you did not. But that’s not how I’d like it to be.

I could just leave it, unmentioned, with the assumption that it was in fact not noticed and simply continue on as if nothing happened, but that just isn’t sitting well with me.

Sometimes, you need to get something off your chest. Today is one of those days.

The last four months, spent travelling through Latin America – Mexico, overland through Central America to Colombia and back up to Mexico again – have been wonderful in too many ways to count, including the opportunity I had to slow down, think and reflect. Long distance buses will do that to you. They’ll make you think. Especially the 18 hour ones. I’ve ridden more long distance buses than I’d like to recall or ever want to in the future. So much thinking.

As I come to the end of this particular journey and begin the next stage of this life and career I have built from a ‘one year trip around the world’ that became so much more, it feels important to take stock of all that thinking and some of the discoveries, pain and peace that it resulted in.

This can be for any number of reasons, but in my case, it is in an effort to acknowledge the past, accept what happened, learn from the experience, clear the air and move forward!

2015 – Good Riddance!

Rather than tip toe around it, I’ll be straight up: 2015 was a jerk!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not foolishly overlooking the incredible things that happened – the marriage of friends, road trips, my grandma turning 90, buying my first car – that list of awesome is fortunately still pretty darn long.

Amongst all that incredible however – in the gaps and overlaps – there was a heck of a lot of crap, and life tested me.

I live a fortunate existence but when compared to other years in my life, 2015 was not the best of them.

April might have been the worst (a conclusion found in bus ride reflections), so it is fitting perhaps to offer up these thoughts exactly one year later.

Truth be told, I have gone back and forth about whether to share this on Backpack With Brock, writing and deleting and then rewriting, fearful that I’d come off as mopey or negative. What I kept coming back to however is that this side of life is important and relevant to all of us.

It is context.

We could all use a bit of a reality check and reminder that nobody (I repeat: Nobody) has a perfect life.

Along with the exciting status updates and beautiful photos we are inundated with, it is necessary that we are also privy to the challenges and struggles our peers face if only to help us feel ‘normal’.

Yep, I get to travel around the globe and share photos and videos of my adventures in an effort to encourage and help you to get out there and do the same (how about that for an elevator pitch?) but I too am human. Things go wrong, I get sick, I get hurt, I fall down. And then, like everyone else, I have to pick up the pieces and get back up again.

Without delving too deep into what exactly went down in 2015, I will say: I lost myself. That is pretty painful to write and something I hope I never have to write again, or experience for that matter.

A series of events, which culminated in a flight to Toronto in early July, had me standing at the door of two of my best friends, holding most of my belongings and emotionally spent.

As of that moment, my entire life was turned upside down. My home, my routine, my work, my relationships. Everything. And in the months that followed I would find myself attempting to reestablish, while also mentally unpacking why it all happened in the first place.

Grief is hard. Really hard. Like, way harder than they tell you it is. I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but ‘they’ make it sound so easy with the whole seven step thing. (sidenote: if you are currently experiencing grief, I get it. Please keep reading, it might help).

But you know what? People were there for me. Without a moments pause, or even too many prying questions either, I had a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, listening ears, thoughtful insights and most importantly: hugs. Lots and lots and LOTS of hugs.

I’ve somewhat recently dropped my belief in the ‘Everything happens for a reason’ theory. Why? Terrible things happen to really wonderful people each and every day, and I’ve realized that this theory just doesn’t add up, suggesting that these wonderful people somehow deserve their unfortunate realities. They do not.

Instead, I prefer to focus on ‘finding the silver lining‘ in every situation. Most often than not there is a positive somewhere to be found, and in those rare instances where a positive is truly un-findable, we should at least be able to walk away having learned a lesson from the experience.

Naturally, there were quite a few silver linings to be found in the past nine or so months.

Connecting Deeper with my Mom and Sister

Returning to my hometown and temporarily moving into my sister’s house meant living with both my mom and sister, spending a substantial amount of time together. More time than we had in the past 10 years accumulatively. Living at your little sister’s house is not exactly a 27 year old’s dream and sure we butted heads from time-to-time as family often does, but my goodness, it was SO wonderful. Instead of visits home with just enough time to catch up, my extended stay allowed us to connect on a deeper level. I learned a great deal about my sister and mom, and admire the way they stepped up to the plate, taking care of me as I got back on my feet, never asking for anything in return. Mom and Mallory – Thank you.

mom-and-sis

Inspiration from Grandma

Around the middle of August, my grandma fell, shattering her elbow and fracturing her pelvis. Only months before her 90th birthday too! She was forced to spend a couple of months at the hospital and rehab centre, which is where I find my next silver lining. Because I was home (for the first time in years) and could work from anywhere with my laptop, I was able to call her hospital room my ‘office’ and keep her company as she healed. In addition to really connecting with her, much like I was with my mom and sister, each and every day I was further inspired as I watched her demonstrate determination and positivity in such an astounding way. A force to be reckoned with, she was going home and nothing was going to stop her. Always a role model for me, her latest example of how to take on life, no matter what it hands you, couldn’t have been more timely. Grandma – Thank you.

grandma

Everlasting Friendships

Being in my small town was refreshing on so many levels but spending time in downtown Toronto was just as necessary – to catch up with friends, to explore my favourite city in the world, and in a way, to feel like an independent adult. This is where my friends showed up big time, providing me couches to crash on, including me in activities and most noble of all: listening. Their patience and insights, void of judgement, helped me work through some of the most complex and challenging aspects of my experience. The silver lining here was being reassured that even after three years away, my friendships have held strong and true. To my friends, both in Toronto and abroad – Thank you.

toronto-friends

besties

2016

Kicking off 2016, I flew to Mexico to see my two friends, (the ones mentioned above), get married. I only booked a one-way ticket, spawning a four month adventure through Latin America. Along with the vibrant cultures, delicious foods, new friends and added countries to my #100by30 endeavour, came some harsh realities. Fear of failure, nightmares, regret, an identity crisis and perhaps most challenging of all when you’re on the road, loneliness. S**t got real!

travelling-with-sis

But you know what? I made it through! My business found guidance from my digital entrepreneur friends during my one month in Oaxaca, Mexico. New friendships offered clean slates and companionship. The Spanish language and the locals around me speaking it pushed my brain to learn and be curious (and provided incredible Snapchat material). Street food ignited my taste buds (and even more Snapchat material). Bus rides forced me to reflect and face demons. My sister flying down to travel with me for three weeks brought home to me and her parting words affirmed and reinforced that what I do has value, purpose and, I quote, ‘is a lot of freakin’ work.’ The silver lining of the past four months, taking into account the good, bad and rarely ugly: I’m going to be okay. 

 

Personally, I don’t believe running away to travel will solve your problems, that baggage comes along with you. It even packs itself! My friend Jodi, in her post about long term travel & 8 years on the road explains it this way:

Travel itself is not an answer. It can’t save you from yourself, or the demons that you have. You will bring them along with you as you roam. You can’t absolve yourself of your responsibilities or the monotony of routines that will reappear the minute you stop moving. And if you travel to escape darkness, it will eventually find you.

While there may have been a period of time over the last year that I lost myself, I am back and best of all, I’ve still got it!

oaxaca-cactus-king

 

As I begin the journey back to Toronto, which will take a few weeks, (and no, I’m not taking the bus all the way home), I recognize that I am in an immensely different place than when I set out in January.

I am much less stressed and anxious, feel energized (which is rare after a long and busy adventure like this one), have much more clarity on the past (and future), and am thrilled about the projects, opportunities and partnerships that are on the horizon.

But more importantly than anything: I am happy.

It’s simple but it’s true.

This may be a bizarre way to exemplify it but over the last few months I have made Snapchat my main form of storytelling and sharing my adventures. (Some of you might be following along, if not, my handle is: backpackerbrock) The feedback was great from the start but eventually I began to get messages from people saying how happy I looked and that my happiness brought them happiness. Wow! Some even asked how I manage to stay so happy all the time on such a long and sometimes frustrating adventure.

I remain pretty genuine in my storytelling, and lack a poker face. You can very easily read how I am feeling and what I am thinking. I also have somewhat of a reputation for being one of the happiest people around, but you know what? It had been a long time since someone had mentioned that ‘happiness.’

You have no idea how amazing that feedback has been and how incredible it feels to say: I am happy.

brock-in-toronto

As I bring to a close what may be the most personal post I have ever written here on Backpack With Brock, not to mention the longest, I’d like to leave you with the following:

If you are struggling with something or feel lost, don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on those around you. People do love you and will be there for you. You will be okay. I promise.

There are wonderful people in my life who constantly amaze me with their love and support and as such, I am forever indebted to them.

I am so eternally grateful for you too. Yes, you! The person reading this post. The fact that I get to travel the globe and share with you the stories of these adventures, hopefully encouraging and helping you to do the same astounds me on a daily basis and is something I never take for granted.

#100by30

With all that now out on table, let’s look to the future. My next project, #100by30, is about to step into high gear. We’re nearing 100, but we’re also near 30! A lot of planning is in the works but it’s going to be outrageously fun, so stay tuned! More on that to come.

Thank You

I want to bring this piece to a close with these two words: Thank You.

It is such an honour to explore the world with all of you and that all these years later, I trust that I can take a break and pick up right where we left off.

On this Canadian Thanksgiving, remember to take a moment to take note of the positives in your life, but also acknowledge the parts that are a work in process. Most of all though, know that you are loved and never be afraid to ask for help.

If you connected with something in the post or simply want to say hello, please do not hesitate to contact me above!

Love Always,
Your Friend,
Brock

8 thoughts on “Thankful for Silver Linings: Reflecting and Rising from a Painful Year”

  1. Thank you for your heartfelt post on this glorious Canadian Thanksgiving. My husband and I were talking about when we met you, travelling through Spain, and you and your mom introduced us to a Tapas Bar. Many smiles as we talked about our challenging time walking up the countless stairs at a cathedral . . . And that is where we met up with you.
    I love following your travels . . . Keep living your dreams.
    Life’s challenges and trials make us appreciate the days filled with sunshine, and together bring us a sense of balance.
    Our paths may never cross again, but we are richer for our time together ?

  2. It took me 50 years to understand that it is ok to be sad, mad or tired. Some situations just deserve it. It also lets me appreciate the joy when good things happen.

    You work hard at what you do, and I appreciate it. Thank you!

    Thomas

  3. Your happiness brings me happiness via snapchat everyday. Your positivity flows and your genuine spirit makes you one of my absolute favorite travel snappers. Keep on keepin’ on. Do what is best for you and know the fans will always be there waiting on the other side. 😉

  4. Brock,
    I love you so much. You are the sunshine of my life and you brighten up my days just by being in them. Your courage in sharing this post is admirable, but not surprising. You are one of the most sensitive and loving men I know. With this post, you inspire and challenge each of us to bring our authentic selves to everything we do – and remind us of the type of connection that is only found in sharing our full humanity.

  5. Brock you’re a delight and xour cheery snaps light up my feed – even more do now knowing what you were going through at the time!! Thanks for being honest and always positive it’s an inspiration ?

  6. Great post, Brock. I love an honest look at all the feelings that travel seems to bring up, not hide. I know so many travelers who began their journeys as a response to some event that upset them or kicked them into gear (myself included), and every single one of them realized that travel may have helped, but it never solves things for you. You have to work on that yourself. I for one love seeing your happy adventures on snapchat, but I never expect you to smile when you don’t feel like it. Everyone is human and even in a life full of wonderful adventure, you can have bad times.

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