Sole Sister Lois reflects on turning a year older and what she has accomplished so far. 

In the Philippines, I've already turned 34. In France I'm still 33. And so I'm using up these last few hours I have as a 33 year old to reflect.

~

I met a woman at a cheese and wine party in Paris last night. She told me she was turning 35 in a few days. I asked her how she felt about that. She said she felt horrible.

"What have I accomplished so far?"

She questioned herself. Never mind that she had taken her masters degree from Columbia University in New York, was very well-traveled, was living in a Paris apartment and worked as a banker, you know, handling other people's money.

~


What have I accomplished so far?

In my 34 years on earth, what have I done with my life? Maybe it's time to make a list? We all love lists don't we? Makes us all feel sooo accomplished. 

Graduated from the most prestigious university in the Philippines. It only took me 10 short years. Damn you Calculus. But I didn't give up. And what did I get in return? A nice little piece of paper hanging somewhere in my parent's house.

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Moved to New York CityOkay I lived in New Jersey. But worked in Manhattan. I know, it just sounds more glamorous when I say the first thing.

Lived in Germany and Switzerland. Never mind that it was for love and only for a few months. It was terrifying to give up everything and risk losing it all. And when it didn't work out, I had to go back to the Philippines and start with nothing. I grew up fast after that.

Traveled all over India and Southeast Asia on an extreme budget of less that 100,000 PHP (2,500 USD). This was one of my proudest moments. It was a crazy adventure and it amazed me, broke me down, and totally transformed me.

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Founded a travel blog. 5 years later, and with more sisters on board, it's amazing to still be writing, traveling and encouraging more women to go on adventures.

Became a public speaker and have organized workshops and retreats in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Won my first surf competition. It was a beginner's shortboard competition in the Philippines and I was sick when I competed. But I won first place at my level. I was pretty proud of myself after that. But nothing beat the feeling of receiving the award from a surfer who once said to me at the lineup: "Go away. You don't belong here." 

Got into the fittest and healthiest shape of my life. As a teenager, I always had issues with my weight and appearance. I was chubby in high school and never really felt good with my body and the way I looked. When I started traveling, I stopped putting on make up and hardly glanced at a mirror. I never felt better. When I surfed every day, I turned really dark. I was ashamed of this at first. But then I started to love my skin, my toned body, my sun bleached hair. I fell in love with myself and I still do today. Abs or no abs.

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Found the person to laugh with and choose to be with every day. I can't say I've found my soul mate or the person I'm going to be with for the rest of my life. Because seriously, who knows what happens tomorrow? But we're together. We fight. We laugh a lot. We even laugh a lot when we fight. But no matter what happens, we're family.

Became part of the miracle of birth. Before I had a child, I always raised an eyebrow or two every time someone would say that their children are their accomplishments. I couldn't see a child in the same way people saw careers, possessions or awards. But now that I have a daughter, I can see there's some truth in that. Being part of the magic of bringing a child into this world, caring for them every day, and watching them grow and become themselves IS an accomplishment.

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Moved to France. Moving to a new country where people speak a different language is tough. You will always be an outsider no matter what. You will learn how it feels to be stupid or for people not to get your jokes. But wow, what a rush to be a foreigner! Even the most mundane tasks like shopping at a local market suddenly becomes so fascinating!

Moved to PortugalAdapting to a new country and trying to learn the language can be hard. But you know what's harder? Having to move to another country, start from scratch, learn the language, make new friends and adjust all over again! 

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Surfed in cold waters. As a tropical island girl, I would never have imagined I would be able to swim, let alone surf in below 20°C . And do it frequently.

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What else? Hmmm... I seem to have run out of things to add to my list. I was hoping to make it to 34 but I don't even have 15! 

And so I read and reread my list twice, thrice and then it hits me- waitaminute! I'm better than this! I'm bigger than this! How can I let a list of things define my value? 

How can we do this to ourselves?
How can we allow society to tell us we're never enough?
That we need to be more, do more, own more?

Have you ever gone to your college reunion and felt like dirt? Or saw your old high school buddies and just wanted to disappear? Why? Because everyone seemed more successful than you.

What have you accomplished so far? Nothing much really.

But does that define you? You can never be defined by the things you don't have. You can't even defined by things you do have. 


“Give up defining yourself - to yourself or to others. You won't die. You will come to life. And don't be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it's their problem." 
-Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

What's an accomplishment anyway? It's simply any acquired ability or knowledge. It's anything that adds value to you and makes you feel good about yourself. But how can you feel good if you keep measuring yourself against others? There will always be people who are seemingly wealthier, more educated, more attractive, more well-traveled, or more successful than you. And you will always seem more successful to others.

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When I was a kid, my parents always asked us for an accomplishment report when they came back from work. My sisters were better at it than me. On their list, was "washed the dishes, cleaned my room, did the laundry..."

I always fell short.

In the same way that I'm feeling short now. What do I have to show for all these years I have been alive? 

I grew up. Read a lot of books. I learned a lot. I learned to unlearn most of what I'd learned. I evolved. I laughed a whole lot. I wrote even when no one read my work. I kept on writing. I spoke exactly how I felt. I got rejected. I toughened up. I learned to be alone. I opened myself up. I loved. I still love. I've learned to love without expecting anything in return. I dreamed. I dream everything. 

And this is enough. I am enough. You are enough. 
We are more than enough, we are immeasurable.


Accomplishments are only for people who are done. And we're not done yet, are we?

Always evolving,
Sole Sister Lois

Lois has traveled extensively and has lived in Asia, the United States, and Europe. She is currently based in Europe with her husband and daughter. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters and has written the ebook "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" based on her travels in the region for 6 months on less than 2,500 USD.

Main photo credit: Love the Search

3 Responses so far.

  1. I've also like to travel the world like you do. And seen some places to visit to in this site www.vigattintourism.com before traveling around the world try traveling around the Philippines. Its really a beautiful island.

  2. this is a very nice post.. :D

  3. Thank you Florence. Happy it resonated with you.

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