In this episode of Wellspringwords: The Podcast, Nkem has a conversation with good friend and fellow solo-traveler, Federika. Through storytelling about their journeys through Mexico, the two talk about their journeys deeper into themselves along the way. Self-belief, transformation, and personal purpose are a few of the themes they discuss in this episode. It’s full of personal stories and insights aplenty. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride! Let us know what it brought to mind or heart for you in a podcast review, on Instagram, or via email at email@example.com. Be well!
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The vibes are high as we dive into today’s conversation and Federika introduces herself, honestly, as a living, breathing human, just figuring things out. Her journey to get here started by studying political science during undergrad, traveling around after, and then going back to school to study digital audience strategy before just recently turning thirty. Nkem and Federika met in Mexico through a mutual friend, Desi, who Nkem invited in for a podcast episode not too long ago. Nkem and Federika have found that their conversations with each other are always enlightening — the kind of conversations that poke holes in their thinking and help them to think more expansively. When conversations are fluid and there’s such a good connection, like this one, you should maintain it!
Federika has always been naturally curious about who she is and what makes her tick. Therapy has been a big component of her journey inward but it led to an over-intellectualization of herself; she began watching herself in her interactions. Traditional talk therapy can be a wonderful tool for peeling back the onion layers that make you up, but for Federika, she noticed she was getting inside her own head too much. Travel became her vehicle outside of self — navigating different countries with different laws and languages makes being present at all times a necessity in order to survive. She was also drawn to traveling because of the way it provides an opportunity for you to recognize qualities, skills, and talents you have, that you wouldn't have found otherwise. A different environment can shock the seemingly fixed systems that have conditioned you.
Finding new qualities within herself through traveling boosted Federika’s self-confidence. For some people, solo travel can be too much – they miss home and don’t think they are cut out for it. When you’re questioning whether or not you should do something, there is always a voice or feeling inside you that knows you will succeed and make it through – though the other voice saying you can’t make it might be louder. That louder voice may come in and remind you of not having enough money or comparing your travels to what others’ look like on social media, but the point is to individuate: become who you are and become more whole. Nkem recalls that she typically remembers her wholeness not through beautiful experiences, but through difficulties. Her biggest lessons on living come through when she’s questioning: What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Who am I, even? What is life? After a period of questioning, things feel different and she moves differently as she stands firmer in what she knows and in uncertainty. Federika also deals with much less self-doubt after embarking on solo travel. It’s not easy being in situations where you are all you have, you just have to be uncomfortable and figure it out — but on the other side of it, you get to say you showed up for yourself and solved your own problems. Each time Federika is placed in a situation like that, it provides evidence for her future self that she’s got this! Despite anything in the past that has worn you down, you still have the power to triumph.
Solo traveling develops your capacity to handle the unknown because faith can be so disconnected from logic. Logic requires you to know you have all the tools you need and know what's coming; faith means despite not knowing what's coming, you still got this.
Many of us are under a false notion that the tools we need are external — resources, money, job, contacts, but the tools that are most useful are internal ones — cultivating an understanding of yourself.
Nkem’s experience being stranded in Mexico is a prime example of how confronting uncertainty and fear can do wonders for your self-confidence. The first night she spent in Mexico, she had met some new friends and they had a wonderful night partying together. Afterward, they dropped her off at home, or so she thought. Her new place of dwelling was at the top of a huge hill so she told them to drop her off at the bottom and she would walk up to where her place was on the left — no problem. She ended up walking up a street that was near the street she lived on, but not quite. It's dark out, there are no street lights, and she's walking up this steep hill without supportive shoes on thinking, “Is this how I die; is this how it ends?” She realized she was in the wrong place and calmly walked back down the hill and up the correct street which made her recognize her inner resolve. She knew she was not actually going to die — not after such a beautiful night at the beginning of her journey. She did not allow the fear of not knowing where she was, physically and mentally, to let her feel like she was in the wrong place. Instead of panicking, she just had to have faith.
Federika has had similar experiences but also to an even more intense degree in the form of death cycles. Death cycles refer to a transformation – the end of things as they were, rather than a physical death. They can be extremely uncomfortable both psychologically and physically. Journeying is a lifelong experience without a traditional beginning, middle, and end – instead, it takes form in a life-death cycle of rebirth that happens throughout our lives. Both times Federika experienced this, she was physically ill and felt an external fear of lack of safety, but also an internal one — she entered survival mode and had the irrational thought, similar to Nkem, of “Am I going to die?” She had to use her internal tools to talk herself down and remind herself that she is safe — no one else was going to do that for her, which also means no one could take that power of self-reliance away from her. The first time Federika went through a death cycle, she was in Tulum, Mexico working remotely. She found love in Mexico — in the street food, in nature, in the people, and so she decided to stay instead of going back to the USA to resume work in person. She was also aware enough to know that she had to put in her two weeks now, instead of waiting it out and playing it safe. As the death cycle began, she had a vaginal infection and felt super flu-like — having digestive problems while she was also totally stressed about free-falling in Mexico. It almost convinced her that she was making a mistake. The real culprit was parasites, which is common ground for travelers, but mentally, the experience made her realize she had to sit with her discomfort and move through it.
Around the same time the next year, October 2021, the contract she was working on was closing and she became extremely sick with a flu again. Her apartment lease was up and she planned to take a bus to the beach in Oaxaca. She stayed at a friend's place while he was gone and this horrible flu hit right as she had lost all stability. Again, she had to tell herself, “Let go and release, everything will be okay.” Federika and Nkem’s individual experiences prove the universal: it is often the internal, not the external, that helps make us feel safe.
Solo traveling and cultivating self-reliance on life’s journey both go directly against the pervasive scarcity narrative — that success means having a connection to a steady income and a house. When Nkem was living in Abu Dhabi, her income made it possible for her to pay off her student loan debt but she was hesitant to do so — she had built a relationship with her debt and it had been ingrained in her that the debt was a part of adulthood. This is one way that buying into the scarcity narrative can make us fear freedom. Nkem compares it to being fed from an IV drip when you already have the ability to make yourself a beautiful meal and grow an abundance of vegetables — instead, you think the IV drip is the only way to gain sustenance.
Our society’s paradigm is attached to living from a place of fear rather than love. Nkem had a similar moment when she was in yoga teacher training. She had just paid off her credit card bill for the month so money and deduction were on her mind. Thoughts raced internally, “What am I gonna do? I'm building my platform and I have money coming in but it's not as consistent as when I was working in Abu Dhabi and money was basically confetti.” She started looking up jobs immediately; she knew she only wanted work that was connected to writing but specifically writing connected to your soul and authentic expression. The problem is, those jobs don’t exist, which is why she is creating them with Wellspringwords. She later broke down to a friend saying, “What am I doing with my life?” Saying it out loud allowed her to see how she was, in some ways, still dipped and laced in scarcity instead of living in abundance — thinking these institutions will give you sustenance and fulfillment when they just give you money while taking from your beautiful energy. She had to check in with herself and ask, “What is it that lights you up? Put all your energy into that!” Nkem already puts her energy into what lights her up: this platform. Even so, she still doubts herself when the voices that have conditioned her grow louder. In that case, she knows to go inward and reconnect with the Self.
Leaving the pervasive scarcity paradigm is not just about leaving your job or your home — you also have to detach yourself energetically. We’ve been primed since the beginning of our lives to think our life must look a certain way in order for us to feel safe and adequately provide for ourselves. Of course, our ego wants us to be safe, which makes breaking ties with what we’ve been taught very difficult. It’s important to keep in mind and heart that departing from this paradigm takes time, and some people may not even want to cut ties with it. Nkem and Federika have spent their 20s learning about themselves and learning to cut ties with our current paradigm. They have especially felt this pull because of how the end of your 20s is a prime transformation period full of intensity and depth of energy. Federika has tried time and time again to go back to her nine-to-five office job but she always finds that she feels disconnected. Now, she’s confronting the deepest fear she holds: becoming sovereign and independent. Federika had to dare to ask the question: How will my life be different if I actually step into the life I want?
In Federika’s journey, she’s noticed that her desire to lead an authentic and unconventional life can make other people roll their eyes and say “Just get a real job like the rest of us,” but she has always constantly received reminders throughout her twenties that she doesn’t quite fit a straight path. Finding out that the expected path was not her soul path required asking “What is right for me outside of what people tell me and my conditioning?” For both Federika and Nkem, getting paid to just do the thing does not work, as it seems to work for many people. For them, money is not motivating enough. Instead, they need to come from a place of true desire to give, receive pleasure, and be of service. Treating their jobs in this manner comes from believing that your purpose is your authentic self. Federika has struggled with this pervasive idea that your purpose looks like a job title when her spiritual self does not care about those titles. She believes purpose is about finding whatever allows you to shine your light and be your authentic self as fully and honestly as possible. When Federika nurtures and sees that version of herself, she is filled with unconditional love.
Leaning into authenticity at its core is about leaning into life. In Federika’s words, “Life knows the way, the path is the path and we just walk along it and stay present.” Trying to embody her authentic self means normalizing transition periods and not having a set title or way to brand herself. Though Federika frames her authenticity as something she is working on, Nkem notices how Federika’s authenticity is extremely vibrant and makes her unshakable. Another way that Federika practices this is by choosing to be a part of communities that resonate with her, which can even be found online. If you’re looking for a community to join, check out the writing workshops we have online, once a month! People always leave those workshops feeling like it was a therapeutic experience to be seen and held by others. Nkem is doing her best to cultivate a space through this platform for people who are finding who they are and are unapologetic in that — which is just a reflection of herself.
To stay connected with Federika, her Instagram is @feta_rika, where she tries her best to be authentic and cultivate meaningful connections by posting musings and photographs. Let us know if this conversation brought anything to mind or heart for you in a podcast review on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser, on Instagram, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and feel free to hit us up if you want to collaborate and get involved with our community. Be well!