10 Things I’ve Learned From Life And Travel
I’m thankful for so many aspects of the freedom of my life and the ability to travel far and wide, but the things I’m most thankful for are the lessons my nomadic path is teaching me as I continue to put one foot in front of the other, on desert paths and jungle tracks, lonely beaches, and high mountain passes. What is this life, if not the culmination of the lessons we’ve learned? Here are a few of mine…
This is Your Life
This. Is. Your. Life.
Live it. Don’t waste it. Be in your life, don’t wish it away. Change the things you don’t like. Set your own sails toward the destiny you design for yourself. Chase hard after your dreams. Very little is truly out of reach. But whatever you do, wherever you are, don’t miss the lesson in it. Don’t miss the moment by pining for something else. There is nothing else. This is it. Make it epic.
There Are No Experts. Do it YOUR Way.
Just because someone has a blog doesn’t make them an expert. Just because someone is an expert doesn’t make them right. Just because someone is right doesn’t mean you have to do it their way.
Why would you spend it on anything other than what pleases you most?
Your parents spent their coin their way. Your friends have their own coins in their own pockets. The people you admire are spending on their dreams, and that’s what you love about them. Don’t waste your coin trying to replicate someone else’s purchase.
You get to do your life, your way. It doesn’t have to look like mine. I don’t even have to like, or appreciate, or approve of your life. The question, at the end of the 80-year long haul will be: how do you feel about how you spent your parade of days?
Don’t waste it. Do it your way.
Hate your job? Change your career. Wish you were traveling? Take a leap and book a plane ticket. Book it for a year from now to give you time and impetus to put the necessary things in order. Struggling with a disability of some sort? There are ways around most. Does that sound harsh coming from someone without one? The man who taught me to “apply strategy” has the use of only one arm, and he taught me to build log cabins, build sailboats and sail them, travel the world, speak multiple languages, and get by when none of them applied – hunt, fish, can my own food, drive, light a one match fire, skim a snowmobile over the stretch of open water between ice and shoreline, skin and cook a shark, and use a speargun. Every morning I’d button the cuff of his shirt for him. My dad isn’t disabled, he simply has to apply strategy to the situation.
Stop making excuses for failure and apply strategy to your situation.
Keep Your Stick on the Ice
In short, don’t lose your fracking head and blow your whole life. Plan. Execute. Enjoy. It’s hard to keep your focus over the long haul of a lifetime; I’m noticing that as I slide into middle age. There are moments when it seems completely rational to piss it all away. Don’t do it. Step back from the cliff. Think carefully. Proceed intentionally and with caution.
Keep your stick on the ice. Be responsible for yourself and others. Do the right thing. Man up. Stay the course. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Play the game and play it hard, to win.
It turns out, often, we do reap what we sow.
Pick Up Strays
My kids don’t go to school. I actively employ strangers to teach them. We talk to strangers daily. We invite them for dinner at least three times a week Yes, complete strangers, even the unwashed hippie variety. Especially the unwashed hippie variety. We trade them a meal for lessons. They tell us stories, share music or art; we learn.
Short list of lessons learned from strangers over dinner:
- The fine art of swinging poi balls
- Irish guitar instruction
- Jazz guitar instruction
- Celtic fiddle instruction
- The finer points of Mennonite theology
- What it’s like, first hand, to sit in the cockpit of an Israeli fighter jet over Palestine
- What it was like, first hand, to grow up in Harlem during the 40’s
- How to do string tricks
- How to weave with a back strap loom
- That it’s all fun and games until you’re decked by a big Swede
- The difference, by smell, between pot and hash
- That clothing really is optional
- How to launch a paraglider
That’s the short list. I could go on.
Do yourself a favor, talk to strangers and start picking up strays.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Too many folks launch out of high school into college and out of college into a career, full steam ahead, without thought to where the path is taking them and whether or not it’s even somewhere they want to go. They hit the ground running hard with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt, an education in a field you can’t get a job in, add a house, a car, and a soccer mom, and pretty soon you look up and realize you’ve hit that wall.
Set your eyes on the goal, find your passion, and chase hard after it with the dogged consistency of an Iron Man triathlete.
The tortoise is right: Slow and steady wins the race.
Dream: Always dream
Dream big dreams.
Time Carries Us Away From All Things
There are going to be epic highs and bone crushing lows. There will be great loves and devastating heartbreaks. There will be moments of insane wealth and abject poverty, in one sense or another. You’ll be surrounded by friends and also by enemies. You’ll walk continents in storybook adventure style and you’ll return home like a lonely pilgrim. The only thing those moments have in common is that they are passing. The beautiful as surely as the horrific.
Another pearl from my Daddy’s wisdom file: “If you can just keep breathing, sister, time will carry you away from all things.”
It’s Not a Contest
A few years ago in Thailand, we sat on the beach, watching a ruby sunset melt into the Andaman Sea, celebrating with new friends (some of the strangers I referenced above). It was a perfectly lovely evening with shrimp on the BBQ, local rum in the coconuts, and guitar music floating over the crash of the waves. It was almost a perfect evening, except for the big blond American guy and the young Aussie who insisted on spending the whole evening in a member-measuring contest over their kite-surfing adventures.
If you’re at the stage of life where engaging in the comparison game seems hard to resist, let me offer you a piece of advice: don’t. There are always people who have done more than you and always folks who have done less. In one group, you look like a failure, in the other, a wild success. In reality, you’re neither, you’re just spending your coin, like everyone else. If you have the least bit of sense you’ll be spending it on the things that fuel your dreams and make you happy and not on keeping up with our curly haired kite surfing dude.
If All Else Fails, Take a Walk
Travel won’t help you escape your problems, but it has a way of giving you the time to see more clearly, to focus on what matters most to you for a little while, and perhaps to reinvent yourself.
I was born because my parents decided to take a walk.
Life is full of lessons, these are just a few, and they’re mine. What are yours? What is the world teaching you as you live and breathe and walk the paths across continents?
To read more inspirational stories and advice, check out the following articles and resources:
- Check out our traveler profiles to get inspiration from those who have done it before.
- Read about Who Goes on RTW Trips?
- Read 11 Reasons to Stop Dreaming and Start Planning Your RTW Trip
- Read Why It’s Not Crazy for Working Professionals to Quit Their Jobs and Travel the World