I knew I shouldn’t be walking down the aisle. But I did it anyway.

He wasn’t the love of my soul. Why was I marrying him? My father knew the truth. That’s why he didn’t come to my wedding, let alone walk me down the aisle. I walked myself.

I had just turned twenty-two and graduated college mere weeks before. I thought I knew it all, but some part of me – my soul – knew better as it quietly sat in the pew and watched me walk myself down the aisle.

Fast forward seven years. I walked down the aisle again, but this time at Logan Airport in Boston, with a one-way ticket in hand. Soul-sick from living a lie, I was headed out anywhere but here and in the general direction of Mexico. I had a vague plan, and to my wild-eyed and overly domesticated soul that was enough.

Sixty days later I was a divorced woman living in a small border town where I learned to drive a five-speed manual Jeep across river beds and through tumble weed. I was hunting down my authentic self and I wasn’t sure where it was staked out.

On some days I knew I was crazy to give up being a doctor’s wife living comfortably by the sea for a nomad’s life in search of something I couldn’t name. And on other days, I knew I would go crazy if I didn’t. I was lost in the Badlands of Texas in more than one way.

I was twenty-nine and my carefully planned life was suddenly a blank canvas. I wasn’t sure where to go, what to do, or with whom. That was both the bad and the good news, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I had given myself the precious gift of beginning again and I wasn’t about to get comfortable and settle down into a deeper way of staying the same. So, I bought another one-way ticket and walked myself down another aisle headed in the general direction of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Something about slinging myself to the other side of the world felt like the medicine for which my soul was longing. If my body could make the outward journey, then perhaps my soul could make the inward journey as well.

How could I explain to anyone that this pilgrimage felt like the next right and wild move in the pursuit of my soul. (I couldn’t, so I didn’t. I just left.) I celebrated my thirtieth birthday alone under a full moon in Bangkok, oddly content with the company I kept.

I had reduced my entire privileged life to what could fit in a small satchel and backpacked across Southeast Asia for three months; across rice paddies, through jungles, along barren and dusty roads, and along exotic beaches.

It was a pilgrimage of the soul and I was searching for answers to a nameless ache that would not go away, be suppressed, or denied. I had left behind the extra baggage, my home, the cacophony of voices that included my husband and my church, and my false self. Step by step I was melting away all the shoulds, oughts, and musts of my life in the hot and humid jungle of my soul’s terrain.

One day, months later, travel worn and a sweaty dusty mess, I was standing in a bookstore in Singapore unable to find the travel book and map I was searching for when I heard an inner voice say, “You are done. Go home.”

It would seem as though I had learned the first of many soul lessons: You can’t buy someone else’s travel book and map. You have to write and chart your own.”

In exchange for all I gave up, I had found the courage required to become a fully independent woman, one capable of pursuing her inner voice to the ends of the Earth. It was a good beginning in the quest to find my soul’s True North.

So, I booked another one-way ticket and walked myself down another aisle headed toward a life only I could handcraft. The question was “where, doing what, with whom?”