azulik tulum

The Journey of Personal Transformation and Why Travel and Service is Key

azulik tulum

By Maria Russo

It’s been a while since I sat down to write. When I started Humanity Unified, I turned all my efforts to building the nonprofit and developing our first project in Rwanda, abandoning much of the work I did in media and trusting our editorial production to Emerson College. It was almost as if overnight I became someone new, someone completely focused on finding her way to the path she was born to live – awakening to a life dedicated to serving others.

As much as I am grateful to have finally aligned with my purpose, it has been a tremendously difficult transformation. Since many of you are travelers, I think you will be able to relate to what I’m about to write.

I’ll take you back about two years ago when I first began to realize that something profound was missing in my life. I was working a job that didn’t fulfill me and one day something snapped. I went spiraling down a hole that was dark and stifling. Months of little to no sleep made me feel like I was drowning at my job from being overtired, sick and unfulfilled. Yet I showed up each and every day with a smile and pretended as if nothing was wrong. To this day, I don’t think many of my colleagues knew what was going on.

I began doing yoga several times a week and during my practice would repeat the words: “love, light, freedom, community.” At that point in my life, those words represented everything I desired. I wrote each word on a stone and placed the stones on top of others that filled a jar, which I used to burn incense during my practice. I was never a religious person, but this was a ritual that comforted me each day because it represented a small amount of time I used to focus on myself and on restructuring my life.

Slowly, over the course of two years, all of these words became reality. I found the courage to resign from my job; I became involved with a large community of amazing people, which to this day continue to be uplifting, supportive and always willing to offer their love; and I found  light in everyday meetings and encounters with others. I learned that the thing I loved most about life is finding that light in people and learning their incredible stories.

As things with the nonprofit began to unfold, I became deeply passionate about my work to the point where it often became difficult for others to understand my commitment to it. The feeling reminded me of when I first started traveling 13 years ago. Each time I returned home, I felt out of place and most conversations seemed menial in the scope of what was happening in the world. My work with the nonprofit has only intensified that feeling as I see the world as one living, breathing organism and view each and every human being as connected on both a subatomic and metaphysical level. I believe that the most important things in life are the things we cannot see and because we cannot see these universal connections, many people have yet to awake to the reality that what hurts others hurts them.

As travelers, it’s sometimes hard to explain the feelings we have after returning from a trip that joins us with nature and with people who leave a lasting impression on our hearts. It is difficult to go through such a transformation because for many of us, it unlocks the purpose within that has been lying dormant all our lives. We begin to question everything including the status quo of the way in which we are living. It can be unnerving and at best it is difficult. When we are going through such a process we can feel isolated and disconnected from a society that is caught up in a smaller picture.

Yet, there is greatness that lies in transformation.

When the wounds begin to heal and callous, we become ready to step into that greatness and, hopefully, never look back. We find the path we were born to live (some of us reconnect with the path after veering off) and simply by living in this way we help others find their way. Most of us don’t realize that every human has the desire to create and when we do not tap into that instinctual, innate desire we are truly wasting our time here. The second part to this that not many people talk about is if we use our purpose irresponsibility or to the detriment of others we suffer greatly. Don’t be fooled by the facades of wealthy individuals who are consumed by greed – they are suffering just as much as the poorest of the poor.

Today I encourage you to examine your life and think about how you can begin to create and transform. Earth truly is a magical place, but to find the magic you need to first look inward. Focus on the the kindness, the good, the people who choose to be heroes every day by showing up to serve in the most dire circumstances. Do not be fooled by the media and all the crap it spews – there is so much greatness happening.  We just need to keep our intentions in check and take the time to look inside each day.

A good daily practice is to look up at the sky and remind yourself that life and this greater thing we are all a part of is so much bigger than the reality you have created that day, week or month. You are a part of that infinite vastness and the energy that lives in the moon, the stars and all of the universe lives in you (seriously, it’s a scientific fact). So go with that thought and start your transformation.

About the Author

Maria is a writer, an editor and the co-founder of Humanity Unified Int’l, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to lifting vulnerable populations out of poverty through education, food security programs and economic opportunities. She has worked in television, print and broadcast media companies such as: MTV Networks, People, Harper’s Bazaar, Warner Bros. and WOR News Talk Radio. Her work withThe Culture-ist has been featured by Architectural DigestNational Geographic, BBC AmericaThe Huffington Post, FATHOM, StyleList and Men’s Health among others. Russo is a humanitarian and avid traveler who loves nature, slow food, yoga and good conversation over a cup of matcha tea. Follow Maria on Twitter @MariaCultureist

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