The Hidden Bonds of Freedom

Heather Markel, Writer, Photographer, Speaker, Globetrotter, Business Strategist

29 November 2018

An innocent question from a new aquaintance got me thinking.

While in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I had the pleasure of meeting Kris and Lili from Hungary. As seems usual during conversations with new friends, we discussed my current life choices and trajectory. Lili asked me a simple question, “Do you feel free?

Kris and Lilli from Hungary. (Check out my Cool People page to see all the great people I’ve been meeting!)

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

My brain interpreted the question at face value. The word that quickly escaped my mouth was”yes,” but as I took in her question, I realized it was a lot deeper than I understood. I saw that, in fact, my freedom has boundaries which I hadn’t even thought about.

“Choice is our ultimate freedom.”

My freedom, in fact, is constricted by my limitations and fears. For example, I’ve decided many times not to drink or stay out late since I’m a female solo traveler. I have no desire to jump out an airplane. I don’t like super spicy food. I don’t indulge in 5-star hotels and fancy meals every night. Am I free to do all these things? Yes. However I choose not to because I want to feel safe, stay alive, and make money last as long as possible. So, I restrict my own freedom.

Ziplining in Costa Rica – testing my limits and sliding outside my comfort zone!

I also feel the pressure of responsibility. I’ve chosen to come home to see my family for certain holidays. I chose to come home to pack up my apartment. I’m looking for various paid work opportunities as I travel. These are all things of my own choosing, but they definitely take away from a feeling of complete freedom as I travel because that need for money feels like the opposite of being free. It could be that I constrict my freedom by believing I need money. Or, perhaps the reframe is that I am free to travel and live my life as I choose, and within that choice I opt to also have a sense of duty and loyalty. After all, it is me making all my own choices.

I find this question of freedom fascinating. On the one hand, I am “living the life” and feel undulating freedom – doing what I want, how I want, where I want. On the other hand, I naturally bind my freedom because friends, family and responsibility are important to me. My perception of responsibility is of my own making. If I chose, I could opt to run away forever, release all my possessions and exchange work for food and lodging. So, I suppose what this question makes me realize is that I do feel entirely free to choose what I want. Sometimes my choices are about the desire for connection and to give to those who have been giving to me. Sometimes my choices are entirely for myself. True freedom, I think, lies in understanding that we are always free to choose. If we choose for duty, loyalty, or someone else, it’s still our choice.

I think about my ex-marriage and my time in corporate and remember feeling like I was making most of my choices for someone else. Those choices made me deeply unhappy and trapped. The irony is that I thought the caged feeling of my existence was someone else’s fault. Now I see that I simply forgot my own freedom to choose an experience that would make me happier. And seeing that, I am amazed at my own courage to make the tough choices (divorce, quitting, giving up my home) that now allow me to own the power of my own choices which really is quite freeing.

Learn about Heather and what set her on her world journey. She also explains why this life is not just for Millenials, it’s for anyone that wants to create a life around what they love most in life. 

Listen to an episode of the video interview series that will inspire you to follow your heart. Whether you want to travel full time or have another calling, this series is for you.

See the amazing people I’ve been meeting on my travels and the fun stories that go along with the meetings.

Check out my travel photos from around the world to see the world from wherever you are.

If you’ve been thinking that there’s got to be  more to life than work, or, you’ve lost your job, and wonder whether now is the time to do something you’re more excited about, this quiz will help you. Answer a few questions and get a free guide to help you know the areas you need to work on, followed up with inspirational and helpful tips to put your dreams into action.

Traveling the world full-time may sound glamorous and exhilirating. (In many ways, it is!) But, it’s not full-time fun. Before you decide to go, take this quiz to make sure you’re ready, and, if not, find out how to bridge the gaps.

This fun quiz helps you understand what your travel personality is, and how to make sure you indulge it when planning your next trip to maximize your enjoyment!

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If you want to see every post I’ve written, starting with the most recent, this is the place to start!

In 2020, I was traveling in New Zealand as the coronavirus pandemic brewed, and, got stuck there. If you want to read about what this time was like and traveling during this time, check out this page.

Many of my blog posts are about things I’ve discovered about myself or about being, while I’ve traveled. If you’d like to focus on posts that only have self-discovery themes, click the button below.

I’ve been traveling the globe solo, and many of my posts share thoughts and resources specifically for other solo travelers. If you’re a fellow solo traveler, or you’re thinking about solo travel, this is a collection you will find of interest.

Sometimes I write posts where I give insider information on certain cities I’ve visited, which may be more along the lines of places to go, how to save money, etc. If that’s your main interest, check out this compilation of posts.

At the heart of international travel is learning about the many different cultures and ways of being around the world. The posts compiled on this page speak, specifically, about the cultural observations I’ve had.

If you’re looking to read blog posts about specific destinations, click the country of your interest below to go to it’s blog page and get country-specific reviews and thoughts.






Costa Rica


New Zealand








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Want more in-depth information about travel? Trying to figure out how to afford full-time travel (or, doing what you want to do, full-time)? Check out these items!

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