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How To Turn a Life Rut Into a Major Life Change, From Someone Who's Been There

Lisa Niver, creator of the award-winning online travel platform We Said Go Travel, shares her insight on making the most of a tough situation.

When it comes to making major life changes, most of us are pretty guilty of sticking to what's tried-and-true – that is to say, avoiding them at all costs until we're forced to face the not-so-silent elephant in the room. But when Lisa Niver, co-author of Traveling in Sin and creator of the highly successful travel website We Said Go Travel, was faced with the same proverbial elephant, she chose not to tiptoe quietly away. Instead, she hit the ground running.

Lisa initially created the website with her now ex-husband, after they traveled through Southeast Asia and wrote a memoir together. So for her, major life change meant choosing herself over her marriage – a choice that was just as challenging as you can imagine, but ultimately rewarding. In reality, she says she had been seeing their relationship through the quintessential rose-tinted lenses we've all been guilty of trying on – and keeping on – for a long time.

But how could she know that this period of happily coexistent, globe-trotting bliss would be followed by a messy divorce? Regardless, Lisa had the perseverance to build herself back up from what she saw as rock bottom.

And as a writer, teacher, and travel entrepreneur, she had already carved out a special niche for herself within the travel blogger community, as the creator of a truly unique travel website – one that functions as both personal travel blog and interactive online community. So when I talked to the successful travel entrepreneur, I was excited to hear her insights on how to make 2016 your best year yet: Yes, even if you feel like you're stuck in a rut, and even if you're not quite as successful as she is just yet.

Photo by Amy and Stuart Photography
Photo by Amy and Stuart Photography  

Speak your truth.

"It’s interesting to me when I first left my marriage, and I came back to the United States, so many people told me I was brave – which I didn’t believe. I actually looked the word up in the dictionary, because I thought maybe I didn’t understand what they meant," Lisa shared with me.

"I wanted so badly to make it work, that I was willing to [avoid making] sure my side of the street was being taken care of... and at some point it didn’t work [anymore]. I had a similar thing when I dropped out of medical school, that I just had to finally look in the mirror and say, It’s just not right.

It’s hard to compare dropping out of med school to losing your marriage, but [I] finally just had to say… I can keep going, but it’s just not right. And I have to make a choice that’s really all about me, and I really have to be the one to take care of myself and say, 'I don’t wanna be a doctor. I don’t wanna be married anymore.' And it was really, really hard. But it was worth it."

Choose what will make you happy, no matter how difficult the choice.

For women especially, it's both intimidating and difficult to prioritize, What do I want? What will make me happy? Those who do are often looked down upon for making that very choice, especially as a single woman. Or, for example, as someone leaving a situation that they're in, like a marriage, to move into that position on their own.

"One of the things that made it a lot easier is that I had a really good team," Lisa was sure to mention. "I had really good support from my family and my friends, from the very first moment. I was in Thailand, and I called some friends on Skype and said, 'I think this is the end.' My best friend, when I called her, she was in Philadelphia and she said, 'Do I need to come get you?' And I said, 'Let me understand this. Are you saying you’re going to fly from Philadelphia to Chiang Mai so that I can sit next to you and fly back?' and she says, 'Well, are you going to get on the plane? If you’re not able to get on the plane, I’m coming to get you.' "

Again, it's really important to have that support system – and as Lisa told me, hers was truly exceptional.

"In terms of courage and bravery, being tenacious, and being perseverant – it is hard," Lisa admitted. "Definitely for me, having the support of my family and my friends and a team, has made a huge difference."

How To Turn a Life Rut Into a Major Life Change, From Someone Who's Been There
David Lang

Accept the situation for what it is, instead of what you want it to be.

When I asked Lisa what she would have done differently if she could have, she laughingly responded, "Is this a novel? Maybe a miniseries?"

But in all seriousness, she told me that she's "been working so hard to accept the past, I guess one lesson from the past that I would take to the future, is when I see a whole lot of red flags... I need to think, bad idea! Instead of Parade."

In other words, learn to accept the situation for what it is – instead of pretending it's something it's not. And that's solid advice that I took to heart myself; because it's something I, too, personally struggle with, as both a writer and an idealist. I often want to believe the best in people, as I told Lisa during our interview. It's been both a strength and in relationships, the source of my downfall in the past. When you want to believe someone is the person you're making them out to be, as viewed from beneath the pedestal you're putting them on, you can lose yourself all too easily in what could have been and should have been. 

"I don’t know how I could have done it differently in the past, because I either wasn’t paying attention or didn’t have the knowledge, or I read the signs to mean whatever I wanted instead of what they said," Lisa pointed out honestly. "So one thing I’d like to do differently for the future is accept the information as it is. Lots and lots of red flags is NOT a parade… those are signs.

"Going back to what you said about how hard it is for women to pick themselves and have what they want, I think those two together can be pretty much a recipe for disaster. I like what you said that you believe the best about people – it’s almost like they’re talking but instead of hearing what they’re saying, you're putting your own bubbles above their head, and imagining, This is what they meant."

If someone's giving you a red flag, don't mistake it for a peace offering.

How To Turn a Life Rut Into a Major Life Change, From Someone Who's Been There

If you don't feel you have closure or perspective yet, surround yourself with people who do.

This goes back to having that support system; it can make all the difference in getting yourself out of, for lack of a better words, a "life rut."

"I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m the greatest at having perspective," Lisa admits, "but I think I have a lot of people in my life that have good perspective… and I borrow theirs. Like what we were talking about, [in terms of] being tenacious or persistent... I saw the movie The Martian, and at one point [Matt Damon] says, 'You have to make a decision. You’re either gonna give up and lie down and die, or you’re not. And if you’re not, you solve one problem, you solve the next one, and if you solve enough problems…' I mean, he says you get to go home, but [in our case], good things will happen. The train’s gonna keep going, and you just gotta stay on it."

So no matter what you're going through, whether it's a failing relationship or a major career change, choose your course and stick with it. Yes, it's easier said than done, but it's also what will ultimately be the most rewarding.

Follow Lisa on Instagram and Twitter, and be sure to check out her YouTube channel for more of her adventures.