Food for Thought: A Year in Eastern Europe (Ukraine Travel Journal)

I’ve lived in Ukraine for a year now. This experience has given me a different perspective, so I’ve decided to write down my thoughts on this trip today.

  • No matter how life treats you, shifting the perspective makes all the difference.

Matthew Hussey once said, “Everyone’s life is painful. You are not alone.” Indeed, we are only human beings, and pain is inevitable in life, but suffering is optional.

Moreover, what might appear as a storm to one individual can seem a blessing to another person. Living in Ukraine, I’ve met some new friends who have given me new perspectives in life. Seeing life through someone else’s eyes helps me view my own life from a very different perspective. This lifts the lid on my own wisdom without my even realizing it, for new answers then flow. It is all a matter of perspective, in my opinion. There are many blessings to be found through almost every situation. Sometimes they are hidden from normal view and need a completely new perspective to be found.

Things are not always as they appear to be. Actually, they are usually much, much better than what they seem to be. Please let me explain.

After a marriage breakdown, I was devastated; therefore, I moved to Eastern Europe and began to study psychology, human dynamics, meditation, herbal medicine, personal development, art, literature and music. I was trying my best to alleviate the pain caused by the divorce.

One year later, now I’m a changed person. I’ve met the world’s leading relationship coach who has decided to hire me to join her team. Now I have got a new career – I can teach clients and give advice on dating and relationships because of what I’ve learned in my journey.

In other words, without that relationship breakdown, I wouldn’t become who I am today. I don’t want to change my past at all.

But when the divorce happened, the pain was real. Yet today when I look back, I have realized that it was a blessing in disguise. I am the luckiest person in the world.

  • The power of accepting change:

No matter it’s an official seasonal change or not, there are cycles and seasons within our lives. Nobody can hold on to one kind of season simply because they love it more, hoping to stop the other seasons from coming around. Whether on a seasonal, personal or global level, acceptance of change clearly allows life to flow more naturally, bringing new joys and seasons, ones you and I may never have imagined before.

As I’m typing this article now, I’ve been living in Ukraine for exactly 12 months. Like a swimming pool waiting to give happiness and joy to enthusiastic swimmers again in the warmer months, I have decided to open to the joys of change which are gently blowing my way. I also wish the same for all my friends in Ukraine around me.

This morning, I received a message regarding the death of my childhood friend. Talking about such a deep subject is facing the brutal reality. Death doesn’t have to be a terrifying topic. Of course, it can make us sad, to candidly consider that a loved one might not be visibly by your side for every day that is left in your lifetime. Yet doesn’t facing this true fact make the time remaining together much more special and meaningful?

Every successful person that I know values their time most. Reminding yourself of your mortality only gives you wisdom – realizing that there was so much you intended to do, yet now time can run out. Therefore, get on with it now. You must make the most of living. Bravely face your unavoidable death. You are probably not going to be the first immortal person on this planet. Just be grateful for your life and your ability to make choices in your own life.

Everyone’s life is worth celebrating. Until your time to depart arrives, I wish honest, fear-free living to you. Embrace your own life. Be happy. Be courageous.

I received a letter from a friend in Eastern Europe: “Who you will become is who your heart has always hoped you can become. It only takes patience, time, love and openness. You are on your way. It is by far the best surprise you could ever hope for. Congrats.”

  • The worst is now behind

After studying and living in Ukraine for a year, I have healed from the pain and I have realized that the storm has passed already. Although there is still cleaning up to do after the ugly storm, things to put in place, I realize that now I have the strength and clarity to live well. If needed, help will come for the cleanup. I always stay open to that possibility.

I need times of surrender and rest in order to experience my feelings and allow them out. Growth happens during these miraculous times. A beautiful morning can’t be noticed and savored without the comparison of storms and darkness.

Every day brings the opportunity to absorb and appreciate the newness of the morning to realize that I am ready to move forward. This gives me renewal and hope. A new day has come.

Now it’s all about letting go of the need for total control. I acknowledge the fact that I never have complete control of my life. Flexibility is the key to a satisfying life. This is the most important lesson that I’ve learned while living in Ukraine.

Whenever I remain flexible and open to change, I embrace new opportunities more easily. It is said that no outcome is guaranteed, except for change and death.

Therefore, though routine may serve me well to some extent, I should be okay with flexibility and change.

Since now I work on the Internet, I don’t have to go to the office every day (I work on my own computer). I enjoy managing my own time every single day. Sometimes I have a day off midweek, catch up with friends in Ukraine for brunch instead of dinner and go to see a movie all by myself. These are all forms of being flexible and letting go, which is very important to my health and wellbeing.

Flexibility brings pleasures and surprises that could only come about by not being too rigid. Hence, if you plan to do your usual thing over the next couple of weeks, see whether you are able to loosen things up to some degree. Ask yourself when else you may do it, and then choose something very different to do instead. Alternatively, don’t even choose anything; just go out for a walk and see how the time unfolds without any routine, rigidity and control. Sometimes you will find something extremely valuable in this process. For example, Darren Hayes figured out most of his songs while walking around in the street (he usually came up with the melody before writing lyrics, and that’s why a lot of his songs have a walking tempo).

“Traveling to Eastern Europe means daring to step out of self-imposed conformity – this brings rewards and pleasure.”