My name is Ola and I am a born traveller.
I grew up in London and have since lived wherever I’ve been put or have had the pleasure of landing. My mother is Polish and my father is British. Since the age of 1 I’ve been put in a car/coach/plane and driven/flown across Europe to visit family in Poland.
I am now 32 years old. My twenties were all about growing up, financial responsibility and climbing the career ladder.
Somewhere along the way, I lost myself, so I have chosen to leave my job and to go travelling, to discover what it is that I really want to do with my life.
Why I’ve Decided to Travel Now
I was in the rat race. The 9 to 5. It was the one thing in my life I wanted to avoid. I was consumed by it, had lost a sense of self, and I needed to break free.
I always wanted a creative career but opted for the safety net of academia and full-time work. My older siblings are both successful artists and writers but the age old ‘artists never make money’ really unsettled me when I was younger. Family life was a far cry from The Waltons, so personal security and financial independence has always been my priority. Until I felt I could achieve that level of stability, my dreams would have to go on hold.
I worked as a Marketing Manager – not a bad career as it allowed me to be creative to some degree, but as with working for many companies (particularly during a recession), you feel as though you are living to work, rather than working to live.
Bigger than a career break!
Some people would call this a career break, but it’s bigger than that.
I used to walk to and from work every day and I could no longer recall the things I saw along the way. I felt a sense of blindness had taken over me and travelling seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a step back and to see again; to discover my place in the world; a world unsung to me, and to reconnect with my creative self.
There were two important things I needed to do before taking to the road:
1. Deciding who I was going to be on this journey
What do Muhammad Ali, Dynamo and Evel Knievel all have in common? They all reinvented themselves under different aliases. When I was young I did the same.
Growing up with two names and two lives
There’s the Polish raised, creative child; Ola – who travelled from an early age, was artistic, outgoing and fun. She was happy and she was confident and everyone wanted to be her friend.
Then there’s the adult, the professional, the one people at work call Alex. Alex is cautious and guarded because at various stages in her earlier life Ola got hurt, and so chose the name Alex (the English equivalent of Ola). Alex is a strong, safe name. No one messes with Alex. I feel protected by this name, I feel stronger, but I need to get Ola back on the road.
I loved travelling when I was younger. Art and creativity was my passion and my drive, and I miss that side of me.
So my first step on this journey was to start it as Ola.
2. Pause, focus, live – how I could use this opportunity to be creative again
I went through a stage of being completely consumed by my thoughts, to the point where every night I would have terrible nightmares or incredibly vivid dreams. I felt as though I was living two different lives. It was exhausting.
A therapist told me that one thing I needed to do was to focus on the present. I was haunted by my past and the uncertainty of what was going to be my future. He suggested photography as something I should pursue as it forces you to focus on the present.
It was interesting to hear that as I’ve always been a keen photographer. At first I thought it was just something that ran in the family as my mum was never without a camera, and my dad is a professional photographer for The Imperial War Museum. I now know that taking pictures was my way of trying to connect with my life around me.
Therefore, I’ve decided to use my trip as an opportunity to take up photography again.
Welcome back, Ola, here’s your camera!
The first step to making any life changing decision is to have a better understanding of yourself, your dreams and your desires. Then whichever path you decide to take, it is one you take with a greater awareness and understanding of yourself.
I recommend that everyone at some point read ‘The Artist’s Way, A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self’.
My sister recommended it to me and it was a great starting point for figuring out what I might want to do with my life. The weekly tasks really helped me to discover myself again; my needs, desires and how to act upon them. After a few weeks I found myself doing things that I really wanted to do and I started to develop a healthier, happier outlook on life. It’s a bit spiritual to begin with so I did a bit of skimming but I was surprised at how effective it was in helping me to move forwards.
“The Artist’s Way provides a twelve-week course that guides you through the process of recovering your creative self. It aims to dispel the ‘I’m not talented enough’ conditioning that holds many people back and helps you to unleash your own inner artist. Its step-by-step approach enables you to transform your life, overcome any artistic blocks you may suffer from, including limiting beliefs, fear, sabotage, jealousy and guilt, and replace them with self confidence and productivity. It helps demystify the creative process by making it a part of your daily life. Whatever your artistic leanings, this book will give you the tools you need to enable you to fulfil your dreams.”