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Travel Lessons We Learn But Rarely Act On

We embark on travel for a sense of adventure. To see beyond our normal world. To experience something new. To recenter. To re-calibrate. To grow.

Through travel, we seek knowledge about the world we live in and our place within in. We come back from our journeys reignited, filled with wonder and a renewed sense of clarity. It’s the travel high we yearn for in the midst of our daily routines when the bigger picture seems to get lost and our roles seem to fade and blur.

There are many lessons we learn from travel that have the ability to take hold in our lives. These are some of the most valuable lessons we’ll ever really learn. They not only have meaning and depth, but amazing potential to turn us into better, happier and more fulfilled people – if we would only act on them.

Anyone who’s ever been inspired knows that travel inspiration comes quickly, often without notice, and is fleeting. Even the tiniest interruption of thought can disrupt the breakthrough, leaving us unfulfilled and yearning for the thing we almost had but somehow let slip through the cracks.

When we aren’t interrupted and a flame starts to burn inside us, it’s as though the word “possibility” has taken on new meaning. We aren’t merely lost beings fighting a tired fight. Our state of being is reimagined and life takes on a new shape. We, once again, have a clear purpose.

Travel is perhaps one of the best ways mankind has found to get back to this place. To learn the lessons that have real potential to alter our lives. But capturing a travel breakthrough is hard to do. And acting on it is even harder.

Through 14 countries, countless states, and a handful of provinces spread across a decade of travel, there are lessons I consistently learn, yet struggle to implement into my daily life.

 

1. Life is not meant to be cluttered.

In many instances, this lesson has been learned in material terms. I come home committed to decluttering my sanctuary to allow more room for what really matters. Then once the clutter is gone, I find myself at malls and boutiques looking for something “I need” to fill some now-empty space. Not quite the difference I thought this lesson would make in my life a year after I learned it. (Or a year after that, after I learned it again.)

Why is this so difficult to act on?

Personally and as a society, we consume an insane amount of media that tells us what we need. It doesn’t matter that two products are saying the same thing, we’ll buy both because, after all, we need them. Moving from consuming to contributing is the underlying goal, but it’s difficult to subdue the feeling of need when we see open physical spaces. Focusing on filling invisible places is a lifelong journey, and a lesson most of us have to learn a dozen times before we get it.

 2. It’s easy to be kind when you’re happy.

Being kind to others becomes difficult for most of us in times of stress, loneliness, anger and confusion. Choosing to be happy in those times actually is a thing, and so is demonstrating kindness when you feel like the world’s bent on running you down. 

Why is this so difficult to act on?

There’s no shortage of love in the world for sarcasm, dramatic complaining and light-hearted mocking. But contrary to popular belief, being happy is a lot more fun than being ironic. Making the choice to be happy really isn’t that hard – it’s what comes after it that is. Sometimes that decision requires making other changes that are uncomfortable, leaving us feeling unhappy temporarily. These small waves we have to fight through that can change course and shape at any time can easily distract us from the fact that the getting beyond the wave is much more important than the wave itself.

 

3. There is an incredible number of wonderful people in the world.

People watching is perhaps one of my favorite things to do while traveling. In our rush to get to important places and do important things, there’s a world of beauty teeming all around us that we claim we don’t see. Traveling allows us to slow down and really look at our surroundings, rather than just rush through them. Stopping for a coffee and watching passersby on the street has reminded me that kindness is everywhere and that people are incredible, even when they think no one is looking.

Why is this so difficult to act on?

It’s tough giving people the benefit of the doubt. Humans aren’t great at forgiveness and we really seem to like blaming our current flaws on the scar tissue other people left behind. Natural tendencies are the hardest to overcome, but these fights are far more rewarding than the ones we pick with other people in their place.

 

4. There are many lessons we don’t fully understand the first time we learn them.

We’re human. And sometimes that means we have to allow time for our heads to catch up with ideas that are so amazingly obvious, just because they’re different from how we already see things. They’re the lessons we want to adopt, the ones we want to believe and we know will make a difference, yet also the ones that we’ll justify talking ourselves out of. How silly a thing to do.

Why is this so difficult to act on?

We aren’t great at being patient with ourselves, and 2., we don’t like admitting that we were wrong. Traveling has the power to make us better at both of these things, if we but let it.

 

Unfortunately, 14 countries, countless states, and a handful of provinces over a decade of travel later, I still don’t have the methodology for effectively adopting travel lessons mastered. But I do know that it starts with writing things down.

And perhaps that’s part of the wonder of travel: to give ourselves the opportunity to again look within and pay attention to the things we already know. To give ourselves the breathing room we need to make small decisions that mean big things – even if we’ll have to make them again and again down the road. To write down the things that inspire us, the changes we want to make, the things we want to be better at. To document the moments and breakthroughs that leave us with refueled purpose. To come home renewed and reignited, ready to make a mark that truly matters.

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