I remember when I first left Canada in June 2012. I was 24, looking for some inspiration and ready for a change. While I was enjoying much of my lifestyle working as a young professional in Toronto, there was something burning inside of me that couldn’t be ignored. I was seeking something unique.
What could be more unique than going somewhere fresh and foreign, leaving all familiarity behind? What could be more unique than having the opportunity to see who you really are, without the environmental and social influences that defined you before? No pigeonholes, no obligations, and no social titles. People might mock or undermine the cliché phrase, she’s off ‘finding herself,’ but from my understanding and experience, this is the absolute truth.
I genuinely believe that this life is a gift. I believe that we will never stop learning and that there’s no tangible end to this journey. I believe that life is about experiencing a colourful mixture of messy and neat, good and bad, light and dark. While the past 5 years have been extremely important and transformational for me, I’ve had times where I felt completely alone, like a prisoner in an invisible cell, missing everyone and everything from home. Yet, I’ve had times where I felt unconditional love for others and myself, and above all, genuine freedom. When I decided to travel, I decided to put myself first by utilising the one commodity that we know is real and valuable – our time.
While it’s seemingly challenging to put into words all of the lessons that came from my experiences, here is a list of the most profound ones that kept showing up, again and again.
1. You get what you give
Attitude is the backbone of how we experience the world. Travelling takes you for a ride and you must be willing to see the good in situations. If you do, good things will follow. Be kind, you will receive kindness, be open and fun opportunities come a long, be helpful and help will find you when you need it most. With a good attitude, you get to embrace the full potential of the moment, instead of wallowing in disappointment or unmet expectations.
2. Being homesick is a strength, not a weakness
When you live in different parts of the world for extended periods of time, ‘home’ becomes a little more complicated. Home can be in a few places, but it always holds the same meaning. While it’s important to be present, the case of homesickness can strike at any time and instead of rejecting it, I learned how to embrace it. What a privilege it is to have homey comforts to miss. What a blessing to have people who love and support you. How nice to know, that I always have a place to go back to, if needed. Acknowledging your emotions is a strength.
3. Travel helps you to establish your values and distinguish your tribe
Perhaps one of the greatest things about travelling is the people you meet along the way. Our world is full of such an eclectic mix of people, with quirky, fun, and admirable traits. Everyone is a teacher in their own way. Travel gives you the freedom to explore what truly feels right for you. It’s the ultimate liberation, where you can be whatever you want. Plus, you soon work out the types of people that you prefer to spend your precious time with. The people that make you feel good, that inspire you, that see you and best of all, really hear you.
4. If you can see things as they really are, insecurities will fade away
One cup of Ayahuasca, 10 days of silent mediation and 9 days in the Himalayan Mountains later, I could finally understand this statement. There’s a harmonious inner peace within us, that’s rarely taught, and easily forgotten. We often attach ourselves to pain, insecurities and listen closely to the voice (ego) in our head, bringing unnecessary suffering into our day-to-day lives and onto others. When we can observe these thoughts as thoughts, and see our truth without judgment, you not only see, but genuinely know, that you are enough as you are and that you belong here – just as the stars, the plants, insects and animals. While this feeling of enlightenment is fleeting, it is by far the most profound self-realisation I’ve experienced yet.
5. Natural Landscapes have the power to ignite appreciation for our environment
The fast paced work life, social distractions, full diaries, traffic, pollution, devices and Wi-Fi disruptions, can easily make anyone go crazy. If not crazy, then certainly detached from Mother Earth. Open space, nature, and natural landscapes can bring us back to the ground. I’ve witnessed some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes that ignited a special appreciation for our planet, a seemingly crucial mindset in these scarce times.
6. Spiritual Rituals invoke goodness in humans
Cultures that practiced spiritual rituals on a daily basis were more often than not, gentle, kind, compassionate and humble. Noticeably in South East Asia, where Buddhism and Hinduism are commonly practiced, people actively did good deeds, without a hidden agenda or expectation. At the risk of sounding preachy, there’s something there that’s sacred. Whatever it is, it pervades goodness through the land and the people.
7. Gratitude is often the outcome when confronted with poverty
When exposed to debilitating poverty in third world countries, you feel a combination of guilt, empathy, and gratitude. While these emotions can feel uncomfortable, I believe that this perspective is so important, as it enables us to see how privileged we really are. People who find themselves in positions of wealth, can often carry an arrogant sense of entitlement and expectation for special treatment. When you see people living in extremely poor conditions, trying to survive off very little, entitlement becomes cringe worthy.
8. Experiencing different cultures can help unify humanity
In more ways than one, the world feels like it’s dividing, rather than unifying. It’s us and them, ours and yours. I’m right, you’re wrong. However, when you experience different cultures, the line in the sand is less distinguishable. While beliefs, rituals, dress attire and food might differ, our hearts and behaviours are similar. Mother’s kiss their children, Father’s provide for their family, couples embrace and children run around eating dirt. People work to survive, people cry when their hurt, laugh when something’s funny, and smile when feeling happy. We aren’t that different after all.
9. You can run but you can’t hide
Changing your location, doesn’t fix your problems. Regardless of where you are in the world, your demons will chase you. While travelling around the world provides a healthy environment for healing, you still have to make the choice to heal. Many people don’t want to see what’s been buried in their subconscious, but until we face the truth, it lingers and effect’s our day-to-day life in a negative way. How do we heal? For me, it’s through self-reflection, self-awareness, meditation, forgiveness, and acceptance. Yes, easier said than done, but it’s an ongoing journey.
10. Some money can go a long way
Financial freedom is often the ultimate goal for a lot of us. Without question, we need money to survive and to do the things that we enjoy. Having a good relationship with money is both healthy and necessary. But having good habits around how you spend money, is also necessary. It’s easy to frivolously spend in our materialistic, consumer based society. However, with a bit of self-discipline and mindfulness, your dollars can go a long way. Mindful spending is empowering, almost like a rebellion against the system.
Travelling has been one the greatest things I’ve done in my lifetime. While I can seemingly get tongue tied when people ask, ‘what have you learned from travelling?’ I was able to find the words for this blog post. For fellow travellers, aspiring travellers and people who are just curious, travel teaches you things that no textbook or lecture can. Perhaps ‘finding yourself’ is the wrong phrase? Perhaps it’s more clearing the haze that kept you from seeing what was there all along – you.
Thanks for reading!