As I lay half awake, the sound of monkeys making the most oddly beautiful sound is what starts to bring me to awareness. I’m lying on a mattress in a floating hut in the middle of nowhere, Thailand. I peek out the door that we kept wide open because well, why not? I see tall cliff-like mountains across the lake covered in trees and a thin fog that’s settled low on the horizon, so I know it’s early. And in this moment, life is perfect. My life makes the most sense it ever has. I feel almost nothing, just complete bliss.
Of course I have felt bliss, happiness, and love throughout my life in familiar places that are close to home, but nothing pulls at my heart strings more than being lost in adventure in a place completely unknown to me. Traveling may not be everybody’s cup of tea. Maybe it’s the language barrier, the long plane rides, the different laws and regulations, or the safety concerns. I know there were some moments where I don’t know how I survived, like the time 20 of us were packed into a tiny wooden boat in the biggest waves imaginable and I looked at my husband with desperation in my eyes and he just smiled and said, “It’s all about the experience.” Yes, during some “experiences” I wish I were anywhere but there. But I made it out alive and I will always remember those moments, how thrilled, scared, and excited I was all at the same time. I would never give them up.
So, what is it that people gain from traveling? Why do people save up all year to take that one awesome vacation at the end of it, and then sometimes never come back? Here are few lessons that can be learned:
Appreciation – You never really truly know what you have until you lose it or until you step into a third world country and realize that this is how many people live their lives. I know when I was in a bus driving down the rickety old roads of Cambodia, I started to question everything I’ve ever complained about. Traveling puts things into perspective.
You are able to roll with punches a bit more – Traveling isn’t always the most glamorous thing in life, unless you’re Beyonce. The bus rides can be hot, the flights can be long, the drivers can be insane, but it’s all part of it. Things can go wrong, A LOT. What’s the point of throwing a tantrum and causing unnecessary drama? Lean back and enjoy the ride. Think of it as a new opportunity to seize the moment and make the best of it.
Independence – What makes you a strong, independent citizen? Traveling alone. You are in charge of YOU, from your budget to how to get from point A to point B. You make every decision on how your itinerary is going to play out. Being alone, you’ll also learn a lot about yourself, with no one around you affecting your decisions or emotions.
Adventure– Everyone should do some things that scare them once in awhile. That can’t always be achieved in our day-to-day routines. Sometimes it’s buying a plane ticket to India, or jumping out of a plane in Dubai, white water rafting in Chile, or swimming with sharks in Hawaii. The options are endless. Take risks. Find what excites you.
People are really friendly – Do as the locals do. I’ve noticed when in a foreign country, the locals are eager to show and tell you how to do certain things. Unless you know you are going to an unsafe area, the majority of places have very friendly people. When going to a place to eat, maybe ask them what their specialty is and let them tell you about it. There’s normally some kind of history behind it.
YOLO – A perfect time for this funny little phrase. You only live once and life is short! Get out there and go take advantage. Life is defined by experiences, so what are the stories you want to tell your kids or grandkids about the life you lived? How do you want to be remembered? What are the regrets you don’t want to have in life?