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Gray Hair, Don’t Care: Why Traveling When COVID-19 Hit Helped Me Figure Out What Matters

I’ve always had thin hair. Since I was a kid, it’s been a baby fine nightmare — especially when my animal barrettes would slide out. My hair never thickened and to this day, I am strategic about covering my bald spots when I put it in a ponytail.  When the gray began… I started getting […]

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I’ve always had thin hair. Since I was a kid, it’s been a baby fine nightmare — especially when my animal barrettes would slide out. My hair never thickened and to this day, I am strategic about covering my bald spots when I put it in a ponytail. 

When the gray began…

I started getting gray hair in my early 40’s. In the beginning, I didn’t mind it. But when I saw a pic a friend took showing the back of my head — I couldn’t keep my eyes off the big gray patch smack in the middle of it!

At that point, I knew I wasn’t ready to rock my gray. So, for the next few years, I continued to use organic coloring to dye it every few months.

Until March 2020…

Let me backup before I share more about not caring that I have gray hair. 

I’m an American who intentionally took a year off to recalibrate after going through some family trauma. In February 2020, I left America for a three-month adventure that included taking a Spanish language immersion program in Madrid and eating my way through Italy with my bestie.

When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, I was attending a women’s retreat in Morocco. As the news imploded and Americans scrambled to head back to the States, I quickly had to process the crap happening around the world.

I had no interest to rush back to America and continued with my plan to head to Portugal after the retreat. Once I got to Lisbon, I halted my travels because of all the uncertainty about the pandemic. So, Lisbon became my home for three months.

Although Lisbon was on lockdown, I thoroughly enjoyed the little I was able to see of the city. This included the funky graffiti art and the lovely views overlooking the water. I also appreciated how friendly the locals were to me. 

And then, something shifted 

It took me about a month for the shock of COVID-19 spreading like wildfire to subside. I was able to quiet my mind from the fear caused by the pandemic by meditating and doing yoga. Soon after, I settled into life in Lisbon during quarantine.

This is when I realized that I really don’t care that I have gray hair. And, let me explain why. 

Tomorrow is not promised 

Before COVID-19 hit, I was already aware of how fragile life is. You see, I’m a breast cancer survivor and my brother died a year ago from skin cancer. I also watched my father die from Parkinson’s disease. So, watching the number of deaths rise all over the world from the pandemic once again reminded me that tomorrow is not promised.

Time to yourself, to ponder, and to prioritize what’s important has pushed me into this creative flow that I have never experience before. Since this shift, my creativity is through the roof and I am now pursuing projects that I only thought about months ago. I’m now creating a content writing business and planning future travel adventures.

I have never cared much about what others think of me and since this shift, I now care even less about how people see me, So, why bother coloring my gray hair when takes away from me doing what matters most. 

Embrace the aging process 

I used to cringe at the gray strands popping up in my hair. Now, I welcome what they represent. They’re a reminder that I’ve lived for 48 years and a reminder that I have more important things to do than worry about my hair color. 

My gray is like my diary. When I had an angled blunt cut, I was teaching English in South Korea. When it was blonder, I lived in Israel and traveled through parts of the Middle East. When it was buzzed and purple, I was a rebellious teenager going through a goth phase. And, when it was permed, I was a kid who wanted thicker hair.

Even when I lost my hair due to chemo in my thirties, it still marked a significant time in my life.

Now, my gray marks the 35+ countries I’ve traveled to. In a weird way, I feel like it’s also telling me to add another 35+ countries to my list of places to explore too. By then, maybe it’ll be completely gray!

Put the money you’ll save towards travel 

I refuse to intentionally put chemicals in or on my body. As a breast cancer survivor, I learned a long time ago that this is one of the few things we have control over to prevent from getting sick. So, I only use silicon and paraben free make-up, lotions and hair products.

It’s crazy that what’s good for you is also more expensive. Since I’m all about organic, coloring my hair has not been cheap. And the results of dying my hair at home were never quite right.

Now that I have made a conscious decision to stop with the dye, I can put the $100 bucks or so I’d save towards my next travel adventure.

Moving forward 

When I look in the mirror nowadays, I smile. My gray is like a badge of honor, a reminder that I still have a lot of living and traveling to do. It’s also a reminder that I will continue to do things that matter. 

And, coloring my gray no longer matters.

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