For as long as I can remember, I have had a deep yearning to explore. Growing up, my brother, sister and I would spend hours in the woods behind our house pretending we were discovering vast lands in new worlds. Now that I am grown, I am blessed to have had the opportunity to travel to many different countries, and with each adventure, I learned something invaluable about life.
Here are just a few of the things that travel has taught me...
1. How to get along with just about anyone
When you travel the world, you meet folks from all different walks of life. From artists in France to businessmen in Japan, and just about everything in between. If you want to get the most out of everywhere you go, you must learn to find common ground with everyone you meet along the way. Whether it be music, food, fashion or fun there is always some common denominator to jump start a conversation.
2. Live in the moment
We live in the fastest paced society in all of history. Since the birth of the internet and smartphones, our ability to slow down and just enjoy life has all but vanished. We have deadlines to meet, clients to please, emails to answer and bills to pay. Not to mention building and maintaining meaningful relationships with friends, families, coworkers and neighbors. Who has time to stop and smell the roses?! If travel has taught me anything at all, it's that life is about the roses.
3. Communication is key
Being a good communicator is a skill that can take you far in life. Sometimes it's just the slightest difference in how you say something that can make all the difference. Once when I was in Germany, I was staying with a host family for a few days. I had only learned enough German to just barely get by. On my way to bed one night, I yelled out "Guten nackt!" Unfortunately for me, I was one (very significant) letter off. In German "Guten Nacht" means good night, "Guten Nackt" means good naked.
5. Simplicity is freedom
When you are globe-trotting, you can only take with you what you can fit in your suitcase. Being separated from so many of your daily obligations and choices allows you to be more present in the moment. Traveling opens your eyes to the little joys in life; people embracing in the airport, children kicking around a wad of plastic bags in lieu of a soccer ball, waves crashing against a rocky shore. What we realize, when we are far away from all the noise of our daily lives, is that life is in those moments. Those simple moments.
6. To take risks
Travel brings out the adventurous risk taker in all of us. One minute your feet are firmly planted on the ground, and the next you are bungie jumping off of a waterfall....ok maybe not. But it's true that when we explore new territories we have a greater sense of "now or never." A deep desire to throw caution to the wind rises up within us as we carpe diem. Because who knows if you will ever get the chance to do this one thing in this one place ever again?
7. To go with the flow
I'm a planner. I like to plan and predict exactly how a situation or event is going to begin, unfold and end. However, in my years of traveling, I have learned that there are certain things that are completely out of your control. If your flight gets cancelled because of hurricane-force winds, you can't schmooze your way out of that one. I used to let these unpredictables frustrate me, until I realized that my frustration wasn't going to change my situation. Now I embrace them, because down every unpredicted path, awaits another adventure.
8. How to"unplug"
My favorite part of flying is when the flight attendant demands that I turn off my cellular device. Wait what?! Turn off my phone? You mean I can't check my emails? Or get sucked into the endless rabbit-hole-vortex of Social Media? How will I know what is going on in the world? What if something happens that I can't do anything about from 30,000 feet above the earth. Oh wait, that sounds awesome. Bye.
9. People are people
I taught music and performing arts to students in 11 different countries for 4 years of my life. During those years, I had to peel back the layers of language, cultural and socio-economic differences to find that deep within every student was a primal desire to be noticed and to be loved. Although very different on the outside, the inner fibers were often the same. And it's not just youth, it's all of us. We are all trying to find our purpose and to be our authentic selves in a world where being different is widely uncelebrated.
10. Joy is a choice
I am the biggest culprit when it comes to complaining about "first-world problems." Sometimes it seems like there is not enough time, money or energy to accomplish all that is demanded of us on a daily basis. However, having seen some of the world's most desperate and seemingly hopeless situations, and the pure joy of the people who are living through them, I know for a fact that it is a choice. And when I am feeling particularly bad for myself, I remember those people, who despite their circumstances, thank God for their blessings, and I remember.....to choose joy.