The ability to travel is a privilege and it is not one that is afforded to everyone. I am continuously grateful for all of the opportunities I have had in my life to travel and learn, because I truly feel that to travel is to learn. As cliche as it may seem, I find that I learn more through travel than most other experiences. I learn about myself, I learn about others, I learn about different cultures, and I learn about the world.
In July, I had the privilege of exploring and travelling with my two sisters, as we explored cities and countries we had never been before. It was a truly amazing adventure and I am beyond grateful for this experience and the lessons it taught me. I offer some of the lessons that travel taught me this past summer to you, perhaps they resonate with you as lessons you have also experienced, or perhaps reminders that will serve you in your day to day life.
Lesson Number One:
Flexibility is so so important. So often when we travel, things do not go as planned. Maybe it rains. Maybe it continues to rain. Maybe it rains so much that all of the tours are cancelled and the WiFi is down and you cannot leave your accommodations. Maybe the toilet is a hole in the ground, maybe the ferry is cancelled and no one tells you why. Maybe the lunch provided is entirely meat based (when you are a vegetarian). Maybe you are forced to stay one more night on an island when you no longer have accommodations and you are suddenly without a place to stay and ALL OF YOUR BAGS.
Flexibility enables you to continue to go with the flow, to move on, and to make the best of these situations. Even when they are not quite what you had in mind.
Lesson Number Two:
Kindness is key. It is important to be kind to others and to yourself. Change can be challenging and each day may pose something new you were not expecting. And the idea that change can be challenging is a soft way of understanding it. Change can be f'ing hard.
Speak kindly to yourself, offer yourself space to make mistakes, to stumble, to wander in the wrong direction, to fumble through ordering your lunch and dinner. I find travel to be the perfect time to try something new and often times I am not immediately good or great at the new activity I am trying. Instead of offering myself judgment for panicking as my scuba mask filled up with water and I sputtered to the surface, offering myself kindness and laughing a little at my inability to breathe underwater because I am HUMAN.
It is also a privilege to be able to travel and it is important to be kind to those who live with less than you and happily assist you on your adventures. These people are deserving of kind words, smiles, and attempts for connection. All people are deserving of kindness-even when you are tired, frustrated, annoyed, or damp. It can be overwhelming at times when travelling because of your fatigue, or the challenges you are facing, or because of language barriers, but kindness translates. Maybe you learn how to say "thank you" in the local language (maybe you just say "thank you"), maybe you smile when your eyes meet someone else's, and maybe you learn more about local practices to show your respect and appreciation for the culture you have the privilege of exploring.
Lesson Number Three:
Seek connection. Seek connection with yourself, with others, with your surroundings. In my experience, a smile is universal. Even when language fails, a smile can cross boundaries. A smile can create connection. A smile can create opportunity for community, even when you are miles away from your home community.
One of my favorite ways to connect when I am travelling is embracing fear and the awkwardness of talking to strangers. Maybe you try to start a conversation with those people around you, even if you do not share the same language. There is such magic in learning about why other people are travelling or what the people who live where you are travelling to love about where they live. Even if these conversations do not come easily or through English.
Lesson Number Four:
Patience is paramount. Things take longer than expected and longer than you may be used to. Forms of transportation may just never arrive (with no explanation or warning). Your dinner may arrive after your dessert. That drink you ordered may never appear at your table. Give yourself extra time to hurry up and wait. Better yet, give yourself extra time to enjoy the wait. Remember that when you are travelling, you might not be eating, sleeping, exercising, and caring for yourself in the same way you do at home so you are likely to feel more irritable faster and your patience may not be an easily accessible resource. But it is an extremely important resource and creating time and space to settle in and breathe is one way that I find that I can soften into patience when I am travelling.
Lesson Number Five:
Be present. It can be so easy to slip into the "what's next" head space. Even on vacation this head space comes quickly to my mind. It becomes a list of how many sights I can see and how many activities I can accomplish within my limited time frame at a destination. Or you might get caught up in the feel good vacation vibes and want to rush to plan your next vacation or adventure-before the one you are currently on is even over. I am 100% guilty of this.
To counteract this next next next mindset, I slow down. I breathe. I sit still. You and I cannot and will not see everything there is to see at a particular destination but also, if we are not present we won't see anything at all. Appreciate this moment. As it is. Rain or shine. Food poisoning or delicious meal. Beginning or end of the adventure. There is a little good in each moment, but it requires that we are present for it. That we are watching for it. Create space for awareness. Create space for the now.
Lesson Number Six:
Allow yourself to feel. When you are travelling or on an adventure there can be this (self-imposed) obligation to feel happy, joyful, and excited in every moment for the entirety of your travels. This is a standard that I have definitely held myself to in the past-but it is not realistic. It is not possible to be happy and content in every moment of every day-even on the vacation of your dreams.
Give yourself permission, space, and time to notice your feelings. It is okay to feel frustrated that it is raining on your beach day (AGAIN). It is okay to be annoyed and tired because your neighbors were a little wilder than you were the night before. Returning to lesson number one, flexibility is key and can change these moments from terrible to less than ideal. But don't alienate yourself from your feelings as you move through each moment.
On moments when we were frustrated in our travels my sisters and I would give each other verbal permission to share exactly how we were feeling for a set amount of time. For five minutes we all voiced our frustrations about the rain, the crummy food, the terrible mattress, or the (once again) pouring rain. And for those five minutes we acknowledged how we were truly feeling. Then, we moved on, coming up with an alternate plan or idea for what to do next. Often times giving voice to our discomfort was enough for all of us to shift out of focusing on it and move into the next moment.
These are some of the lessons that travelling this summer has gifted me with. I live each day with a grateful heart that I have the opportunity to travel, to explore, to connect, and to learn beyond the streets of my hometown and the walls of a classroom. It is an amazing privilege to see our world.
What lessons resonate with you? What, if anything, has travel taught you about yourself?
In darkness and in light,