7 Things I’ve Learned So Far This Year

About this time every year, I like to take a few moments to stop, look back and reflect on the year so far. I’m sure I’m not alone in being somewhat amazed that half the year has already passed, but it is what it is and so today I’m mentally taking stock of the year so far. I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s been good, what’s been not so good and what I should keep in mind for the rest of the year. It’s important I think for everyone to do something similar, a mental exercise that ultimately helps us get so much more out of our life experiences and learn and grow in ways that we perhaps didn’t think possible. So, with all of that in mind here are some things that I’ve learned so far this year. What have you learned?

hot air balloon Serengeti Tanzania

Transformational travel experiences

Ok, I’m going to start this post by sounding like a spoiled and somewhat jaded traveler, but that’s ok. I travel about once a month, which is a lot. Lately I’ve worried that the wonder and awe of the travel experience was being lost on me, that it had become a new normal, a new job. Then I traveled to Tanzania and everything changed, again. Traveling with my partner on his first safari with the luxury tour provider Abercrombie & Kent, we spent a week touring some of the most amazing National Parks in the world, enjoying many once-in-a-lifetime experiences in the process. I naturally loved the trip, but I especially loved seeing everything through my partner’s eyes. Witnessing his own wonder and awe greatly accentuated the same feelings I had and as a result, the trip was that much more powerful. The trip would have been transformational for me whether I went solo or with my partner, but by being there with him and seeing him experience this part of the world for the first time made the trip even more impactful than I could have imagined. More importantly, it proved to me that no, I have not become a jaded traveler and that I am still amazed by the many wonders of the world just as I was the first time my passport was stamped.

coffee shop cake

Getting older is (sort of) ok

I’m not one of those people who lies about their age or who dreads every birthday, but I will admit that I paused after passing the 40 mark in January. But it wasn’t from unease, not really, it was to stop and reflect on that milestone birthday. My 30s were ok, but not great and I’m eager to start a new decade in my life fresh and excited for the future. But I do need to recognize my 30s for what they were, a decade of extreme loss but also of extreme (positive) change. It’s when I changed my life completely and in the process finally became a mostly happy person. I think that my 40s will be even better, and I honestly can’t wait to see what they have in store for me.

Fish Taiwan

If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not

This is a good rule of thumb for any aspect of our lives, from travel to more personal situations. Humans are smart, even if we don’t think that we are, and subconsciously we know when something just isn’t right. This happens all the time when we travel, but it can also happen in the workplace. There were several times in my life when I committed to a deal or a project that just didn’t feel right, but which I thought I could make right. I was wrong and many times I wish I had listened to my gut instead of moving forward. Just because something is offered doesn’t mean it’s right for us and many times in life, it’s what we turn down that is more important than what we accept.

Matt Long Panda China

Attitude is everything

I am definitely NOT a new age, hippy dippy type of person but this year I once again learned to appreciate the fact that one’s attitude and outlook on life is an essential component to success. Look around at your friends. Do the people who complain and whine always seem to have bad things happen to them? What about those happy more optimistic people, everything seems to go their way, doesn’t it? This isn’t a coincidence and indeed one’s attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to success. If you never expect anything good to happen, it never will.


Don’t be afraid

One of my favorite movies is “Defending Your Life,” in which the recently deceased have to defend the actions of their lives. It’s a comedy, but the takeaway is that the only thing that matters in our lives, the one thing on which everything is based is how afraid we are during life. Think about it and you’ll soon realize it’s true. People are afraid to do all sorts of things: ask for a raise, apply for a job, ask someone out, be honest with themselves, confront the unknown and so on. But if we systematically confront these fears, our lives almost automatically becoming much more enjoyable.

Icefields Parkway Alberta Canada

I need more spontaneity

As I’ve written about before, I am very much a Type A personality and along with that comes a fierce need to plan and schedule life. It’s almost a compulsion, but I feel more grounded and settled if I know exactly what I’ll be doing in 6 months. Call it what you will, but it’s just who I am. Travel hasn’t escaped this overplanning disorder and looking at my calendar I see that my year is almost completely and totally planned. I know where I’m going and when and I’m not completely sure I like that. I love the idea of jumping in a car and just driving, taking a couple of weeks to explore, see and learn. That’s not entirely realistic, I think my partner might wonder where I’d gone and the dogs would probably get hungry, but it’s the other aspect to my personality that I don’t feed often enough. Yes, I’m a scheduler and a planner but I also have the heart and soul of an explorer and oddly enough, even in spite of traveling often, it’s this part of myself that is being the most neglected. I’m not sure how to fix this, how to add some travel spontaneity to my life but I have to. If I don’t, then the travel experience runs the risk of not being fun for me, which would be one of the greatest losses of my life.

Aruba sunset

Tomorrow is always another day

Even though I usually keep my social media feeds all about proverbial rainbows and puppies, I’m just like everyone else in that life is sometimes great and other times awful. I’m an intensely sensitive person though, so during these hard times I feel those emotions a little more powerfully than others. It’s not something of which I’m proud, but it is something I realize about myself and I am trying to minimize those times to the extent that I can. Helping me accomplish this mental feat is the knowledge that everything is temporary. Every 24 hours the world is renewed and everything becomes possible once again. No matter how badly things are going there is always the possibility, the very likely possibility that things will get better. It’s important during these times of personal strife to take a long-term view of things. Focus not on what’s going on today, but what may happen in a week, a month or even a year. More than just hope for good things to happen tomorrow, make them happen. I believe that we are all the architects of our own personal destinies, so don’t waste this day and instead get out there and make sure tomorrow is indeed that much brighter.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

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