Finding Joy in the Journey

Stacy Hope Small
5 min readJun 6, 2022

This isn’t the first time I’ve tackled this topic, nor will it be the last. I think I first wrote a “joy is a choice” post back in 2014, shortly after my mom died. That was when I was awakening to the fact that everything happening “to” me was actually happening FOR me. I didn’t quite know what kind of ride I was in for, but eight years, several major life shifts and a big fat pandemic later, I stand by my mantra. Choosing JOY definitely isn’t “easy” and I get that it takes extra conscious effort to recognize what brings us joy. And then it’s totally up to us to add more of THAT into our lives as I was reminded yesterday by my friend/wellness coach Dr. Amy Chadwick (

Dr. Amy reminded me to practice what I preach, and get back to daily doses of writing, walking, dancing, exploring the unknown. And, to add microgreens to my meals! Nothing crazy, but easy things that will make me feel better physically and that’s key to thriving in this crazy world. When I feel my best physically, my intuition and spiritual gifts heighten. And then life feels easier, and dare I say more fun? It’s alignment at its best, and there is joy in knowing “all is well, I am safe”. Even if my surroundings are new (I relocated to Northern California recently), I feel totally at home and surrounded by all that brings me joy (water, mountains, dogs, smart people, great food, delicious coffee, dance studios, yoga spots, live music festivals et al!).

Back to my mom for a minute, as I truly had to find the “joy journey” on my own. Because it was engrained into her at some point, my mom let me believe that she “was who she was” and we should NOT ever expect her to change. I was told I had to love people for who they were, and it took until she passed away that I started to make major changes as I outgrew “that” version of myself (and then that one, and that one, and that one and you get the idea!). Still evolving, tbh.

One of my favorite therapists (Dr. Toby Salter) in LA taught me at age 28-ish that it actually wasn’t true that people can’t change! She also gave me permission to forgive my mom for holding her beliefs around change, and to forgive myself for believing that people don’t change. FACT: People CAN choose to change, just like people can choose to live a life filled with whatever brings them joy — ESPECIALLY in these tough times.

Do what you can and make sure it brings YOU joy.

I learned in 2014 that I didn’t have to follow my mom’s path. I know she actually wanted me to take a much different path, as we discussed this shortly before she died. She told me she often wondered why life would have brought her had she not gotten married at 19 or had us so young. I was annoyed she was even telling me this, but looking back, I sense she knew her time here was limited and it’s part of the process of wondering if you truly lived your best life?

NOTHING at all wrong with wanting to live your best life, I encourage it!

In fact, I strive daily to do this by making sure I live in a peaceful beautiful space with a few rescue dogs who shower me with love while manifesting my human soulmate/partner. My mom met my dad as a freshman in college. They got married within the year (1965!) and had me and my sister a few years later. And then they were winging it as parents and partners, and I saw an example of a life I wanted to evolve beyond. I never loved the cold/snowy weather where we grew up in Rochester, NY and am sure that’s why most of my adult life has been spent in sunny warmer climes like California and Maui.

My parents used to joke that their dreamlife included retiring to a condo in Florida or the Bahamas and selling t-shirts on the beach. They did not get to experience that dream life, so I’ve made sure to live my version of mine with the resources I’ve had available until manifesting next-level versions.

For me, writing has always served as a creative outlet. I realized yesterday while on a call with Dr. Amy that I need to get back to my roots. Even if I don’t know what I want to write about, I need to write whatever in my head needs to be shared. If my stories resonate with you, great. They won’t always, but sometimes they just might. I say this based on the feedback my first book received, many people had interesting childhoods and challenging lives that forced major change and healing to find joy in the journey. ( Customer reviews: Why Not Me?!?: 12 Lessons a Year on an Island Taught Me About Living My Dreams, and How You Can Live Yours Too)

Since I was a young child, when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew-up, I would say “I am going to write stories!” I LOVED magazines and read every single one in my house. I wrote stories for fun in third grade, and always excelled on any assignments through college that encouraged creative and intuitive writing.

My first career included 15 years of writing for magazines and even launching one (Elite Traveler) back in 2001!. What’s funny is that along the way, I stopped enjoying the “writing for magazines” because it felt like “WORK” and I also didn’t feel properly compensated for the late nights, crazy deadlines and busy travel schedules that it entailed.

That led me to where I am today. An accidental entrepreneur selling luxury travel to a curated members-only elite travel club. I love the freedom that comes with being a TRAVELPRENEUR but I know that my calling is as a writer, and that I can and absolutely must do both. My sequel is ready to be written.

Lots more to come, but I promised Dr. Amy I’d write “something” today, so it felt like a JOY-themed post needed to be shared. What brings you joy? Can you bring more of that into your life? It’s such a part of loving the journey. Have a joy-filled week and let me know what you’re adding into your daily world, even if it’s “just” a 60-minute walk to amazing music which brought me a LOT of joy and a personal best of 9700 steps (!) today. Let’s go. Life’s too short not to enJOY it! xo Stacy

When you choose joy, you’re a lot more likely to LOVE your life.



Stacy Hope Small

Founder & CEO: Elite Travel Club | Author: Why Not Me?!? | Santa Monica, CA