Heather Stephens

Following an abrupt divorce, Volée teammate Asia Dawn, stepped outside of her comfort zone and embarked on an unconventional path towards self-discovery. She had the courage to start over and write a new story for herself. It is one of strength and resilience through running and travel.  


My husband left me shortly after our wedding day. I didn’t see it coming. Shocked, I moved back in with my parents and quit my job. Now I’m living out of a backpack in Latin America and getting to know myself all over again. This new chapter of my life entails some serious soul-searching.


As I watched my relationship collapse in slow motion, it felt like a lot of things were happening to me. I certainly didn’t want the divorce. I didn’t want to be on my own for the first time in 10 years. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want the change that I so often craved. I had the support of friends and family to help me get through a very turbulent time. I became more involved with Oiselle meet ups and my yoga community. My best friend encouraged me to stick to my original plan of 31 runs in 31 days, even if I only made it one mile because every step was filled with tears. I tried hard to take control by taking care of myself while the world was spinning around me. It was a period filled with uncertainty, but I was never alone.


Slowly I started to move forward. I was ready to do something for me and wanted to make a positive change in my life. So, I bought a one-way ticket to Ecuador and quit my corporate job. I had never done anything so extreme! Travel has always been something that lights me up, so I decided to listen to my heart and observe what it needed to heal. I’d always done what society would expect out of someone like me, a “good girl.” I went to university, worked a stable job, went back to grad school, and continued on my career path. This decision was completely out of the box... and it filled me with excitement, anticipation, and hope. I couldn’t remember the last time I had made a decision that felt so good. Scary, but good.


I started to research Ecuador because I didn’t know much about it. In fact, I hadn’t heard it mentioned much outside of the Galápagos. It turns out that Ecuador is a beautiful place and one of the most bio diverse countries in the world. It has over 1,600 bird species... #headupwingsout! I stayed in Quito for 3 weeks when I first arrived and volunteered at a children’s summer camp. I had to speak only in Spanish, which immediately moved me out of my comfort zone. Yes, I had studied español in college, but it had been years since I used it. I was able to brush up on my language skills, but more importantly, these kids taught me not to take myself so seriously. Some came from traditional households while others were orphans. I fell in love with their smiles and laughter. It felt good to love again.


I moved on to the coast and rebuilt homes for families affected by the earthquake that killed nearly 700 people. These families had been living in temporary shelters, sometimes with only a tarp over their heads. I picked up my first power drill, and I learned how to work with bamboo. The Ecuadorians showed me how to live with less, and every day I was reminded to be grateful for what we already have. You never know when your circumstances may change.  


I continued my journey north into Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica. I traveled on public buses, slept in hammocks, tents, and bunk beds, and surrounded myself with good people. I went for a run with my own personal bodyguard and danced the night away in salsa clubs. I became more in tune with nature and spent a lot of time alone reflecting. Nature does wondrous things for the soul. I hiked for hours and sometimes for days. I swam in the Pacific. I swam in the Caribbean. I visited remote jungle and desert locations inaccessible by roads. I traveled for 21 painfully slow hours on a cargo ship. I learned the art of patience and how to be patient with myself as well. This wasn’t going to be a quick fix; I still had a ways to go. I began to accept that things aren’t always in my control, and consequently, I learned how to let things go too. I lived this new way of life to the fullest extent of my being and noticed my heart beginning to swell with happiness. I absorbed and embodied all of these experiences, and slowly, I began to heal.


With each new encounter and with each decision I make, I learn something new about myself. I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever realized. I’ve learned how independent I am. I’m not only able to live on my own for the first time in 10 years, but I’m also confident enough to explore Latin America as a solo female traveler. Definitely adding THAT to my resume! I’m learning to accept my past and am no longer ashamed to share my imperfect story. This new beginning started off uncomfortable and scary. But it evolved into something raw, honest, and eye-opening. If I wasn’t forced to take a new path, if my life wasn’t shaken up in unexpected ways, if I never bought that one-way ticket, I may have never started on this journey to truly find myself.


I’m over 6 months into this one-way flight and not sure where it will take me next. Coach Steph described this “wheels up moment” as “where a grand dream meets doubt, limits, and discomfort” and I say cheers to that! This year, I resolve to continue to follow my heart and listen to my gut, no matter how crazy or unconventional it may seem. And I encourage you to do the same.

- Asia Dawn