We all learn in a variety of different ways but, for me at least, the act of traveling the world has been the best education. I’ve learned not only about new places and people, but more about myself as well. It’s helped me become much more self-aware and, in the process, a better person – at least, that’s the hope. Today I decided to share some important lessons travel has taught me, and I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in these revelations.
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 become much more enjoyable.
Most people are nice
This is a great travel and life lesson and is constantly reaffirmed whenever I leave the house. No matter what we think about other countries and cultures, people around the world are very similar to us. They have families, jobs, hopes and dreams. They’re also human and as such are naturally inclined to help out their fellow man whenever they can. Not everyone is like this of course, but most are and it’s learning about these wonderful people more than anything else I think that keeps me incredibly interested in seeing more of the world.
This has ALWAYS been a problem for me; I remember my mom telling me that I needed a thicker skin. So while understanding the nature of this personality fault is nothing new for me, learning how to deal with it effectively is. Perhaps at age 41 I’m finally growing up, but I’ve noticed recently an ability to let more things fall of my back and to hold my tongue in instances I wouldn’t have just a few years ago. This may not be a big deal for most people, but for me it’s practically a psychological breakthrough.
Attitude is everything
I am definitely NOT a new age, hippy dippy type of person but this year I began 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.
Life is fleeting
I guess it’s just part of getting older, but losing close friends and family members never gets any easier. But what it has done is teach me just how very fragile life is. Not to be morbid, but none of us knows how long we have on this earth and as the famous quote goes, life isn’t a dress rehearsal. We owe it to ourselves to make the most out of each and every day and most importantly, we owe it to ourselves to lead a life that makes us and by extension those we care about happy.
The world is huge
Every time I think I’ve been to a lot of places, I look at a map and am once again astounded at the size of the planet. There is so much to do and see on this beautiful planet that it is sometimes daunting to think about. Just consider all of the people and their unique and interesting stories. It would take many lifetimes to see it all, but that won’t stop me from trying.
Power of outrageous ideas
We all see insanely successful people like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and think they must be inherently different from us in ways we can’t change. Part of that may be true, but more than anything what helped propel people like them to extreme success is having the courage to be daring. No one ever succeeded by sitting on the sidelines and hoping that something good will one day happen to them. No, instead you have to get out there and make it happen, you have to dare to be outrageous and must not fear failure. That’s the only way in my opinion to be successful and happy, no matter what you’re trying to do.
Travel has made me happier and healthier
Yes, it’s true, traveling helps us be healthier people. Studies have shown a whole host of benefits including a lower risk of heart disease and coronary death in people who take annual vacations. No surprise there really, taking a vacation helps us relax and calm down in what is an increasingly stressful world. The act of travel itself is also healthy, I know I get much more exercise when I’m on the road than when I’m at home. That same study also showed a lower percentage of depression amongst people who travel, so getting out there and seeing the world helps us be happier people too. Happier people are of course healthier people, so the act of travel helps us physically and mentally. Most Americans do not use all of their annual vacation days, a shocking statistic given how few we get in the first place. Trips don’t have to be long or expensive for you to realize health benefits, the simple act of taking time off and leaving the house, even on a short trip, yields tremendous benefits.
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.
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.