Some people find travel to be a hassle, and others crave the new and interesting experiences that the next great adventure lays out before them like a kid in a candy shop. I am of the second breed. For most of my life I have had the philosophy of working hard enough to make enough money to embark on the next adventure. Here is what I have learned from visiting over 60 countries, a few of them many times over.
#1 – Broaden Your Perspectives
It is pretty easy to get stuck in our own way of thinking and doing things. Sometimes that works for us – for instance, not having to micro-manage our daily morning routine or navigating our way home from work. However, our lives and spirits will lack perspective if we haven’t been exposed to new ways of doing things and shaking things up a bit.
I remember the first time I traveled outside the US. I was 18, young and naive. What an eye-opener! Different languages, different customs, different clothing styles, different manners. I was faced with the concept that what I thought was normal and universal was really just my lack of worldliness. Diversity took on a whole new meaning.
#2 – Be Present, Patient, and Flexible
When we stick to our normal routine, we start to think that we can control so much of our lives. Maybe we create the routine because it was a pattern we developed that only included ways that had predictable outcomes and allowed us to feel in control. Hmmm…something to contemplate.
When I have traveled, I experience a lot more unpredictability. I have to get out of my own patterns, and adapt to the present moment. There can be delays, questionable food, and forgotten items. I have to find outlets to recharge my electronics, adjust to language differences, and simply go with the flow in ways that are not required of me at home. In other words, I have to become a scout and explorer. I have to do all I can to be prepared, and then let go and adapt as needed. I see this as a way to help me develop my creativity and survival skills. I am much more alert, present, and observant.
#3 – Less is More
How many times have you returned from a vacation starkly aware that a good portion of what you were schlepping around never came into play? There you were with so much you were lugging, hauling, lifting, protecting…and never actually using! I hate that!
When I am traveling I love to challenge myself to taking along the least amount of “stuff”. I travel light, which gives me flexibility and mobility. I can carry my luggage onto the airplane (no lost luggage or waiting at the carrousels), and have it with me if there are delays, a change of plane, or a need to change clothes. I do have a horror story of wearing all white onto a plane (what was I thinking?), and having the flight attendant spill an entire Bloody Mary onto my lap. Imagine the joy of walking through the destination airport not only grossly stained, but also rather wet.
Instead of worrying about the safety and whereabouts of my possessions, I can turn my attention to the wonders of my destination. I can focus on learning a new foreign language phrase and admire the landscape, the customs, and the culinary delights of a new and exciting location. After all, isn’t that why I ventured there in the first place?
Don’t get me wrong. I have been known to still take too much. But I am getting much better. I typically pack a day or two in advance, and then spend the remaining time taking things out, whittling away, simplifying. And it all has to fit in carry-on only!
I have a friend who frequently travelled internationally for work. He gave me a brilliant idea. He said that he purposefully “forgets” to bring something along so he has an excuse to buy it at his destination. Toothpaste, shampoo, an extra shirt, or an umbrella then become wonderful “souvenirs” from a foreign country that remind him of wonderful memories of a faraway place. So much more interesting than toothpaste purchased at the local drug store!
#4 Value the Important Things
So when we minimize the “stuff”, we can focus on the real value of travel: gaining greater awareness, deepening our character, acquiring new knowledge and skills, making friends, learning words and phrases in a foreign language, drinking in the atmosphere and environs, and tasting the culinary delights of this new and exciting place on this planet.
I’ve seen the Southern Cross from the deck of a boat off the shores of New Zealand, sampled grubs in the Amazon and guinea pig in the Andes, I’ve watched the sunset over El Morro in San Juan, and scuba dived in the Caribbean. I’ve laid my hands on pyramids in Egypt, the walls of the Treasury in Petra, and the standing stones of Stonehenge and Avebury. I’ve shared a meal with a family in Morocco while their daughter was going through an extensive ritual of getting engaged, and given alms to the monks at sunrise in Laos.
These are true values that have enriched my soul. These are the experiences that are worth far more than anything I could buy or receive. I treasure these memories and the way the experiences have shaped my soul. And I am not done yet. Not at all!
If you are interested in a travel adventure while enhancing your soul, please go here.