Hi! I’m Jen Nilsson of the Lens of Jen. My goal is to help you travel deeper, live sweeter, and dream bigger. I feel a sense of urgency to encourage you to follow your dreams NOW. Because I learned the hard way that life is just too damn short to wait. 

The Lens of Jen is about embracing a new “lens” on life when life doesn’t shake out quite the way you planned. Because, believe me, where I stand now doesn’t match the path that I mapped out.

My perspective is shaped by my decision to quit my job and travel the world full time after my fiancé died of cancer when he was just 40. After that, I changed literally everything about my life.

Today I am unapologetically solo, sustainable, and seeking. 

A Note on Delaying Dreams

Just like so many of us, I delayed my dreams for far too long.

For years, I talked about traveling the world but, in reality, I didn’t have the flexibility and I didn’t make the time to take more than a long weekend here or there. For years I talked about being a writer but, in reality, my journalism degree gathered dust while I worked nine-to-five jobs that provided more security but less fulfillment.

And then, on Feb. 14, 2018, my partner – my person – was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer.

A happy couple before a cancer diagnosis.

Jeff and me in Seattle before he was diagnosed with cancer.

Jeff died on June 4, 2018, not even four months after he was diagnosed. Before his diagnosis, he showed me how to love more freely and to trust more completely. After his diagnosis, he showed me how to seek joy and to live for every moment – even during the hardest of times.

I wrote this post one day after he died. 

A month later, I followed a promise that I made to him to stop delaying my dreams. I quit my job, packed a suitcase, and dusted off my laptop. For 18 months I wandered through 22 countries, traveling 70,496 miles by way of 39 flights, 39 trains, nine buses, six cars, five ferries, and one very long walk across Spain.

Along the way, I learned about myself (or rather unlearned about myself, I changed the way that I travel (I would now seek to travel by a more sustainable train rather than a plane), I challenged myself to seek more from life, and I transformed thanks, in part, to my grief process. 

When I returned home to Portland, Ore., I started a freelance writing and blogging business. I now have the flexibility to travel whenever I like, and I get paid to write. I am living my dream.

I really believe that it’s a dream that I would have been too afraid to follow if not for the lessons that I learned from Jeff in his life – and in his death.

While I do not wish this kind of grief or loss on anyone, I do wish to inspire you to follow your dreams and to follow them now.  And you can bet that I’m not going to let grief stop me from seeking the most from the short time that we have here.

I’m going to live in the way that I think Jeff dreamed for me back when I was too afraid to dream for myself. 

Why Travel Fulfills Me

For me, it is easier to see what I really want from life when I travel. Putting all of life’s responsibilities and obligations on hold if only for a short while inspires me to think – to dream – about what I might change when I return home. 

Whether traveling solo or with a loved one, I feel like I learn a little more with each new destination seen, summit achieved, or new friend made.

And the more places that I see in the world, the more places that I put on my bucket list. I have an insatiable desire to see and experience more.

How I Travel

Permission to Dream Granted

Elephant Nature Park

I learned the hard way that life is too short to delay our dreams. Take it from me, there is no reason to wait for a tragedy to start seeking more from the time you have on this planet.

This blog is all about inspiring others to seek more, to seek often, and to do so unapologetically. 

So, here you go: I grant you permission to achieve your dreams.

What is your dream and what are you waiting for?

I would love to hear from you about your dreams. Sometimes putting your dreams into words leads to action.

Purification ceremony in Bali