Seven years ago, I embarked on a road trip with my best friend down Route 66 to hike the Grand Canyon.
Despite the many places I’ve traveled and experiences I’ve had, this trip has become one of my most life-changing.
The trip went like this: we had given ourselves about nine days with only two destinations that we were required to get to. We had no accommodations or other activities planned. We only knew that we had to be at the Grand Canyon one day to get to our camping site, and had to be back at a certain time so I could catch my flight back to New York.
Every day in between was an open adventure, which was so much fun because we got to pick whatever city we felt like going to that day or the next day. We would pick a town that seemed a reasonable driving distance, do a quick Yelp search to see what cheap motels were in the area, or what cool places we could stay at, and then just go. It was this wonderful experience of being able to wake up in the morning with a destination in mind and then freely decide where we wanted to eat, where we wanted to grab coffee, if we wanted to stop for drinks or entertainment or to meet locals, or anything! It was just us, and we let our intuition take the wheel.
It was the most freeing, fun, and spontaneous trip I had ever been on, and it was with my best friend who I had known my whole life. We were just having a blast, and the memories of that trip still bring a smile to my face.
When it came time for me to get on my return flight to New York, it felt like I was stepping into a trap. It felt like I was going from this expansive, enlivening, exciting experience to a confined little box where I couldn’t breathe. I was living a life that did not light me up, I was with a partner who was really weighing me down, and I had a career that felt like it was leading me in the wrong direction. My whole lifestyle felt misaligned.
I remember seeing an acupuncturist at the time, and I told her about my emotional experience. She said that sometimes the universe shows us a glimpse of what we want so that we can build it for ourselves with a strong foundation. I took that to heart, and to this day, when I’m feeling really stuck, I remind myself of that particular trip and think about the qualities of that trip that I can bring into this moment now.
It took me a long time to recognize what I needed to do to gain that sense of freedom after my return. I was living with my partner at the time, splitting rent in an expensive apartment. We had a pet dog who we both loved, and we had been together for five years. I had a career that was supportive and stable but made me feel complacent and unchallenged. Breaking up a five-year relationship, even if it wasn’t doing well, was daunting, and potentially changing my career was even more so. I had to figure out how to deconstruct my life and decide if I needed to remove everything or just rearrange things.
It wasn’t easy, but by the end of that year, I had broken up with my partner, was living on my own, and we had come to a positive resolution about sharing our dog. By September, I took the leap to work for myself and started my own business. In just six months, my life looked drastically different in response to my dedicated search for freedom.
The reason this trip has been coming to mind is because this was the beginning seed of Life Design. In 2016, I was 27 years old and I had been living a life that until then was fine. I was making ends meet. I had a graphic design career that I was building, and I was in a long-term committed relationship. Everything seemed to be moving along just fine. And then all of a sudden, I had an awakening, and I couldn’t go back. This was the beginning of my journey toward self-discovery.
The metaphor of the caterpillar and the butterfly is overused, but only because it is so apt. We can all relate to the caterpillar who is munching along, head down, solely focused on just being able to survive. And we’ve all had the experience where one day we look up and say, “No, no, no. This isn’t for me anymore.” There is an instinct that we wake up to—that it’s time for us to transform and turn itself into something even greater than what we currently are.
Suddenly a flip has been switched, and there’s no going back. Life has to look different going forward. Even if it has to stay somewhat the same for a short while as we figure our next steps, we can’t go back. We have to make changes. We have to do something different. Because if we put our head down and pretend like everything is fine, we feel like we could die.
This was my moment to make my cocoon and rediscover myself anew. Myself without a steady job and instead as a fluctuating, freelance yoga instructor and graphic designer. Myself without a partner and just living and moving on my own. Who was this new 27 year-old Brooklynite?
Over the next three years, I went through the extremely challenging but beautiful process of being able to look inward and try to see clearly the entire internal landscape of myself. I encountered incredibly challenging obstacles along the way, but every time I chose to do the work of bringing that internal self out into the world, I discovered a new level of empowerment, depth, quality, and strength that I had been keeping dormant. It was—I was—finally allowing myself to come alive.
While I was going through the process, I knew I wanted to create something that brought this same level of empowerment to others. I wanted to create an experience where people could recognize who they were at their core and bring that self into existence and into their waking, living, daily lives. It is a lifelong practice to know ourselves and live in alignment with who we truly are. But the sooner we start that practice, the sooner we start to live a life that is devoted to that authentic and true person we are on the inside.
Seven years later, we’re celebrating the one-year anniversary of Life Design. A business that was only a spark of a seed that later grew into an idea and is now a dream come true. Seven years ago, a switch was flipped, and I didn’t look back. Now I have the career, the partner, and the freedom that 27 year-old Hollis could only dream of.
It just takes one hit of inspiration, and your life can change if you let it.
So, I’m curious, what is your Grand Canyon road trip story?
What have been the moments in your life where you felt a switch was flipped—where you had a revelatory experience, and coming out of it, you realized there’s no going back, and you had to make a big change in your life?
In those moments, what strengths did you pull out from inside you that you maybe didn’t know you had? What were the resources that you relied on to help you get through the change? What were those things that you had available to you that you still have available to you?
When did you start to realize that you were living the life that you had wanted to build for yourself? When did you realize you had created what you dreamed of?
Take a look at the answers that you wrote down or take some time to contemplate those questions. Recognize how strong and empowered you are already, by the examples you just recalled. Witness via proof of your own actions that you can make big moves in your life—because you already have.
The beautiful thing about being human is that we’re given so many opportunities to transform and shape shift and turn into the person who we know we are deep down.
If there is something in your life that feels like it’s holding you back or is making you feel stuck or confined, you can look at even just one example of your past, and say, “I’ve done it before. I can do it again. I can get out of this stuck situation. I can get out of this trap. I can get out of this box. I can get out of this feeling, and I can find elation. I can find expansion. I can find joy. I can find myself all over again. It just takes my ability to believe in myself.”