• Barbara Murphy-Shannon

The Beginning

Updated: Mar 9

Tears ran down my face as I tried to wipe them away. The outback tour ended, and we were all saying our goodbyes. I hated leaving Mitch, but I was trying to stick to my plan and be an independent woman that makes up her own mind. Not influenced by a man.

I arrived in Brisbane and immediately regretted my decision not to go home with Mitch to Tasmania for Christmas. I tried to stop thinking about him, but I was lonely. I was all by myself now, no Mitch, no Big John, No kangaroo gang…just me.


How did I get here?

November 1984.

The first day of my backpacking journey around the world.

I’m excited and scared shitless at the same time. I’ve never backpacked anywhere, never mind circling the globe with someone I hardly know and I can’t speak a lick of any other language but English.

“I’m backpacking around the world” WHAT!!!

When I say it out loud, it sounds so crazy. !!!

Mom wasn’t happy when I told her I wanted to backpack around the world. I know she was just looking out for me, but I had to go. If I stayed, I had this vision of my life of owning a condo in my hometown living with 23 cats all named Fluffy. Unkempt hair, dressing gown, and slippers, living alone, rarely leaving the house? I’d become the “crazy cat lady,” of Stoughton.

I had to go.

This was huge for me. Up to this point, the only country I’ve been to is Canada and now I’m heading for New Zealand, Australia, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and all of Europe including the UK.

"Holy shit," the thought of it is overwhelming.

When I decided to go on this world trip, I guess I didn’t think everything through. You don't know what you don't know…as they say.

For example, many second and third-world countries lack modern healthcare, and diseases that are long gone in the US can still be widespread there. I had to get numerous vaccinations. So many, my arm was looking like a pincushion from being jabbed so many times with every vaccine that is supposed to protect me from all the god-awful deadly diseases in the world.

Maybe Mom was right?

It's strange how things happen.

After my divorce, I moved in with my sister Mo and her husband Tony. My brother Dan was living there also. Dan and I were runners and he just started to get into triathlons and encouraged me to do the same. We would train together and this is how I ended up racing in a triathlon which changed my life forever.

We (Dan, Cindy, Beth, Beth’s boyfriend Rick, and Me) are all gathered around in a circle sitting on the ground waiting for the awards after racing in the triathlon (not that I was going to win one) But my brother Dan won the race!!!

We were all talking when my brother asked Beth, “When are you leaving Beth?”

I was curious so I asked, “where are you going?”

Beth says she plans to backpack around the world and hoping to leave at the end of October.

I thought to myself, I’d love to get out of town especially since I’m newly divorced and in a small town it really sucks. Everyone knows your business. I just want to get away from everyone and everything. And I don’t want any fucking cats.

“I’d love to go on a trip like that,” I announce.

“You should come but most people don’t have the time or money to do it” states Beth.

“Well, I have the money - divorce settlement, and I have a part-time job at a gym that wouldn’t be hard to quit” I rationalize.

“Who are you going with?” I ask.

“By myself but I will be meeting a friend in Nepal and then Rick is meeting me in Europe”

“I should go,” I burst out.

“Ya, you should if you can get all your stuff put together and get your vaccination in time,” Beth agrees.

I go over to my brother and ask, “Dan, what do you think I should do?”

“Go now while you have the chance. You might not get this chance again,” Dan encourages.

SO… here I am meeting Beth at LAX.

Beth is a year older than me but seems much, much wiser, and definitely more worldly. She has a carefree attitude and walks through the world as if she owns it. Not in a cocky way, but in a pure confident way. She’s taller than me and very fit. Her smile lights up a room like no other. When she speaks to you, you can feel her curiosity heighten but then other times she appears to be in another world in thought. As I said, I don’t know her very well so it will be interesting to learn more about her as we travel for the next couple of months.

I head to the gate. First stop— Hawaii. We plan to go west around the globe starting and ending in Massachusetts. Our flight lands in Waikiki at 1 am and Beth has suggested we should plan to sleep in the airport until morning then go find the hostel.

Probably a good idea. Two women roaming around a strange city in the middle of the night carrying backpacks the size of a baby elephant making us marks for any Tom, Dick, or Harry that decides they want to dance… I’d hate to start the trip having to pull a full Thelma and Louise.

“Certain words and phrases just keep drifting through my mind, things like incarceration, cavity search, death by electrocution, life in prison, sh*t,” Louise Sawyer

I see Beth, she smiles, and we greet each other with a big hug. We jump up and down with excitement.

It’s just past 1 am when we arrive in Hawaii. The airport is very, very quiet, and all the stores and restaurants are closed. I only see a few people waiting for flights, a cleaner, and a security guard walking around. We find a couple of chairs in the corner, and we try to sleep sitting up, but I swear they purposely make these chairs uncomfortable as hell. I try to get comfortable and sprawl out over a couple of chairs, but within minutes the security guard comes over and tells us we have to move. I get the feeling they don’t like backpackers.

Beth suggest we go in the women’s bathroom in hopes we wouldn’t get bothered or kicked out. The security guards were all men so it might work. The bathroom is bright with white tile floor and walls. There is a row of sinks on the left and a row of stalls on the right with an open back wall. We prop our backpacks against the cold tile wall and sit on the dirty floor leaning on our backpacks and attempt to get some sleep.

Occasionally, a woman would come in and wake me up. Beth seems like a good sleeper and doesn’t wake up as much as I am (bitch…no, just jealous of anyone who can sleep).

My eyes are closed but I’m not getting any sleep. My ass is falling asleep because the floor is so hard. I rotate every couple of minutes.

I’m trying not to think about what women do in the bathroom and how gross this place is and the witch's brew of germs in here and…

Nope…I’m not sleeping.

I decide to pull out my journal.

Journal entry: Day 1

Flew to Hawaii. Slept on a dirty, germ-infested, cold airport bathroom floor.

Hummm… I hope all them shots are working.


This is a true story that chronicles my rebellious journey when I was 24 years old backpacking around the world looking for solace after the end of an abusive marriage (ok to escape). An intensely graphic and heartfelt memoir of self-discovery is about how getting lost can be where you belong, how traveling to new cultures and meeting new people helps you heal (they don't judge), how to find your voice and remember who you really are, and want to be. It is certain to inspire anyone who has ever woken up in a life they don’t want to be in. Many life lessons and some bad decisions (sorry Mom) along the way. Buckle in! It's going to be a bumpy ride.

xoxo, Barbara

Barbara Murphy-Shannon, Psy.M. is a Breakthrough Business Coach. Love to hear your thoughts. Reach out at Barbara@barbaramurphyshannon.com