Voyage to Vulnerability is a movement that encourages people to share their experiences and reflections with vulnerability, transparency, and authenticity. Stories have the potential to cultivate empathy and build bridges of understanding across difference. The capacity of stories to aid in that kind of soul-to-soul work is even more transformative when stories center around real-life experiences. Voyage to Vulnerability allows people to share their truths and find common connections when others take the brave step forward to do the same.

Voyage to Vulnerability is a safe space on social media where honesty and transparency are encouraged and embraced. Vulnerability is scary. But it also allows us to honor our truth while opening the door for others to honor theirs. This is a movement meant to allow us all to use our stories to not only empower ourselves but to inspire others as well. The more often we make the choice to be brave through vulnerability, the more opportunity we will create for our honesty and transparency to become the norm in a world consumed by insecurities and false appearances.

@thelifeofasolivagant: I used to think I could travel the world alone forever. That being alone would be easy. That’s why I adopted this ‘solivagant’ thing as a part of me after the end of my last relationship. But in the past few years I have really clung to the quote, ‘happiness, only real when shared’, from Into the Wild. Living my life abroad, constantly moving from one place to the next, is amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it can be hard when it comes to relationships with people. This was especially noticeable being home for Christmas. I felt like an outsider more than ever. When you are never around you tend to get pushed to the side. You are no longer anyone’s BEST friend but just ‘one of’ their best friends. You are overlooked for plans to do things even when you are home cause you usually aren’t around so you don’t cross their mind. When your family all works together, literally, as they talk it feels like a foreign language cause you just can’t relate. Friends talk about their marriages and babies and while you are over the moon for them and how happy they are, you can’t contribute to the conversation and just sit and listen. Every time I go home, less and less people make the effort to see me. And this time being Christmas, and everyone having tons to do, it was even more apparent. But it’s a two way street, I only have so much time too, and you have to make choices of who to see and not see, and end up making those you don’t see feel bad, and they will make even less of an effort next time. There was one night at home I laid on the couch, trying to zone out watching Netflix but I just bawled but I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I chose this life and I love my life, so what do I have to complain about? Woe is me. But it made me even more grateful I have one constant, stable relationship that I can count on, and I’m not doing this alone. So even though my friends where I am living may change year to year, my friends back home may eventually forget about me, I’ve got my best friend with me and a life that some people only dream of. Makes all those hard days a little easier knowing I am never truly alone.

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We’re often taught to hide the painful and challenging aspects of life, while only showing people the good and positive (even when it’s not our reality). But the scarred, wounded parts of us are just as real and they most often have a bigger impact on the way we move through our lives and show up in the world. So many of our beliefs and decisions are ruled by fear. We give away our power by trying to hide the most honest parts of ourselves. Social media so often serves as a crutch in this process, allowing us to hide while creating unrealistic and partial portrayals of our lives that others are unjustly envious of. We can change that narrative, and we have to do it together.

My own journey in discovering the power of vulnerability first began in my years as an undergraduate student in university. I had grown up being incredibly secretive as a child. There were a lot of things going on in my home life that led to a great deal of embarrassment and shame. I remember playing with my friends and having to lie about the bruises on my body and where they had come from. So it was about more than just shame–it was also about fear. I have some rebellious tendencies, so I opened my mouth on occasions when I shouldn’t have, and in an environment that could be quite volatile and unpredictable, I learned my lesson quickly. 

These experiences conditioned me to keep quiet, to keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. It wasn’t until I went away to school and found a solid community and support network that I began to open up about these parts of my life. It was in this opening up and sharing that I discovered the power of vulnerability. I began to feel empowered by my own story and the strong, compassionate woman I had become because of it. Sharing my story became a way to give these oppressed parts of myself a voice; vulnerability has become a tool in the process of my own healing. 

@michameleon: A lot of people were shocked when they found out I was traveling alone. Isn’t it scary/dangerous/lonely? It can seem that way at first. But within the first week of setting foot outside of the country, I started meeting people who came from similar places, who had been asked the same questions over and over again. And they persisted and found ways to cope. Personally, the thing that makes solo travel travel challenging for me isn’t necessarily fear or danger, but rather, the act of experiencing things alone. __ If asked if I ever felt lonely living back home, I would have responded: of course. In my own peculiar way I’ve grown accustomed to being and feeling isolated, having grown up a timid bookworm kid who had a difficult time making friends. And while I made some of my closest friendships in college, I also left feeling jaded from the idea that such beautiful things cannot last forever. __ If asked if I still feel lonely now, I’ll respond with: of course. It’s not that I feel completely isolated every day, but from time to time this feeling settles in. It’s inevitable. Loneliness is a cry for human connection. And if there’s something travel has taught me thus far is that wherever you are, you still suffer from the same demons. The desire for affirmation. The desire to be understood. The desire to be fully accepted. The desire to be loved unconditionally. __ And yet in the same way, I’ve learned that I always have a choice. I can choose intimacy, or I can choose isolation. I can choose vulnerability, or I can choose self-preservation. Whichever I choose, I must also face the consequence. Sometimes I choose incorrectly, and sometimes I force myself to make a choice I don’t feel like making. But in the end, what matters to me most is how I learn from these choices and their consequences. As much as I’d like to think that traveling into the wilderness could enlighten and free myself from the pain of human connection, I recognize that this kind of liberation is a fantasy. We are still social, interdependent creatures. We still need community.

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This idea of a ‘process’ is intentionally reflected in the name of this movement. In authentic vulnerability, we’re moving toward something, whether it be our own kind of liberation, learning, growth, empowerment, or healing. This is a process. These things don’t happen overnight, and they never stop. Ideally, we are constantly moving toward our very best selves. The term ‘voyage’ not only reflects this process of movement, but it also alludes to the idea of travel, which was critical in my own personal voyage to vulnerability.

A lot of people say that those who are addicted to travel must be running from something. I don’t believe that’s necessarily true, but it’s how my own travel addiction began. I was running away from a lot of the painful aspects of my life when I first started traveling, and in many ways, I was running away from myself. But over time, it became less about running away from something, and more about running toward something, including myself. I had spent the majority of my life trying to separate who I really was from who I was expected to be; traveling gave me the freedom to discover and embrace my most authentic self.

@expatpanda: It was the hardest blog post I’ve had to write. . But once I started, the words flowed so naturally. . When my husband, Expat Fox, asked me for a porce saying he no longer wanted to be married, I was stunned and devastated. Despite cross continent flights, long discussions and suggestions for compromise, he remained steadfast in his decision. . The pain I felt was overwhelming and constant. Sometimes it was at the back of my mind like a pulse. Other times, when I thought about a future without him, the pain pushed itself forward demanding attention and stinging with every breath I took. There were long nights where I thought I wouldn’t survive. . And as bad it still is sometimes, after all these months, I have learnt something about myself- that I can go through something like this and still survive. Time hasn’t healed anything but it’s taught me to manage the pain… One day at a time, together with the support of my incredible parents and remarkable friends, I’m learning to grow through what I’ve gone through. I guess most times we make our choices but sometimes… others’ choices make us. * * * * * * Visit the link in her bio, and read the post called “To the One Who Will Love My Husband Next…” It’s beautiful ❤️

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We are conditioned to be a certain way by our society, our culture, our families, our peers; we allow all these messages to define who we are. But these messages are of a particular context, and when we free ourselves of that context, we also become free of its expectations. Suddenly there are no more constraints, no more chains, no more messages keeping us tied to what and who we have been told to be. We are free to be who we are. Travel has given me the opportunity to discover and define who I am apart from who I have been taught to be. As I started to recognize which aspects of my life and qualities of my character truly belonged to me, and which of those things had been imposed upon me, I began to step more bravely into myself and into my own truth.

Traveling can foster the freedom to discover and embrace our truth, but it doesn’t necessarily make the process of coming into oneself an easy one. So many people idealize travel, and they seem to have this perception that people who travel or live abroad are in constant, worry-free vacation mode. This simply isn’t true. Life continues to happen, no matter where it may take us. Travelers continue to battle real-life challenges. Leaving home doesn’t magically erase life’s trials and tribulations; in some cases, it intensifies them.

@ashleytscn: ED recovery is never linear. It’s a long, arduous process I wonder if people ever fully “recover” from. I’ve talked about my struggle with eating disorders before, something I’ve dealt with for over a decade. I recently shared a post where I was so proud of the progress I had made the last couple of years, only to find myself having one of the worst relapses in years this weekend. The kind where you emotionally and physically break down and feel like you have no control. It’s an experience that’s hard to understand unless you’ve been through it. This isn’t a woe is me, pitty post, it’s about transparency. It’s about sharing the reality that recovery is hard, really fucking hard, and one that I’m constantly having to work towards, no matter how much it may appear on the outside like I have my life put together. I’m so grateful for angels who’ve come into my life that I’ve been able to turn to to help me when I’ve felt the most down and to be there to show me that relapses are normal and in no way determine my worth. If you’re out there dealing with your own ED recovery, or any recovery for that matter, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE…you will have good days and you will have bad days…and that is okay ?

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Many of the stories being shared on Voyage to Vulnerability reflect this reality; travelers are using the platform to share their experiences. Travel tends to be so transformative for so many because it forces us to confront things we may have previously tried to sweep under the rug, or because it reveals to us things we may not have even been aware of. Of course, it’s not necessary to travel in order to be vulnerable. Anyone anywhere can practice vulnerability. It’ll show itself in different ways through different kinds of experiences. Visit Voyage to Vulnerability to read and be inspired by the stories of others who are contributing honest reflections of their journey. To be a part of the movement yourself, tag #voyagetovulnerability on your Instagram posts. 

Lena Papadopoulos is a first-generation Greek American and has lived in 10 cities across 6 countries on 4 continents. As a cultural anthropologist, award-winning intercultural educator, and writer/storyteller, Lena’s work focuses on self-discovery and personal development as the first step to responsible global citizenship. Follow her on Instagram for more of her reflections on life and travel.

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