Thursday, June 27, 2013

4 Important Things Travel Has Taught Me

Aside from the usual perks of travel: the excitement, the adventure, the escape from reality, there are also a few other things packing a bag and hopping on a plane can offer. I've learned a few pretty important lessons from my limited travels so far.

You get out of life what you put in
Market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Nowhere has this lesson really made itself known, with clarity, like it does when I travel. For all the times you get to a new place and say "wow, this is incredible" without having to put any work into your enjoyment (yes, sometimes enjoyment takes work), there will also be a time where you say, "whoa, what was I thinking when I got off the bus here?!" 

When that happens you need to kick up the effort a notch, look for the good in something that on the surface isn't so great. That lesson translates easily to everyday life because life isn't always packed with rainbows and amazing job offers and surprise financial windfalls. You need to give some to get, just like you do on those travel days where you just want to go home, or you're not as enamored as you'd like to be with your newest destination.  Smile, try something new, introduce yourself to someone - you never know how even the smallest amount of effort can change your day or your path for the better.

It always pays to try something new
Little India, Georgetown, Penang
Whether it's a new food, a crazy-sounding drink, sport, activity or class, trying something new when you travel is an essential part of the overall experience. I find that even if I don't like that food or that activity, I always feel better about myself and my travels after having given it a shot. It makes me feel alive. I can't say I'm as good at trying new things at home as I am when I'm travelling, but the lesson has stuck and I know that the more I push myself, the more I put myself out there and say yes to new experiences (no matter how scary or outside my own version of "normal" they may be) the better I'll feel and the more I'll get out of life.

Planning has it's place but so does spontaneity
I've written before about how I'm more of a planner than a "let's just do it" type of person, but travel has taught me that you can be both (really). I always thought that in order to be defined as a "traveller" I needed to be more spontaneous, more willing to hop on any bus or train, or change direction on a whim, but I've since learned you need to do what's right for you, based on the moment and the situation that you're in. If you need to plan, if that's going to make your travel experience richer and you'll get to see more of a certain place with some strategies in place, then do it. But if you have the luxury of flexibility, don't feel pulled in any particular direction and are more interested in just "being" somewhere rather than experiencing specific sites, put the guide and itinerary away. It's totally OK to have a split travel personality - I do. The planning versus spontaneity rule also applies well to non-travel life.

Fear doesn't have to be limiting
Sarawak river, Kuching
Travelling is something I love, but it also scares the crap out of me. The tingle of excitement I feel when I start researching a new destination turns to a sliver of fear creeping up my back as soon as I book that flight. Yet I still get on that plane, still go wherever I've planned on going - despite that initial fear of the unknown. I used to think fear meant you shouldn't do something (and I know in many cases it does) but there are a lot of times fear is holding you back from something amazing - in my case, travel. If I were to stop planning or decided not to book that flight just based on those stirrings of fear, I would lose out. But by  acknowledging the fear without giving it power, I get to grow and experience something great.

What has travel taught you so far? I'd love to know.

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