We live in a beautiful world. Yes, that’s right, I said it. I’m not an ostrich with my head in the sand ignoring all of the problems of the world. I am fully aware of war, discrimination, poverty, disease and famine. If you listen to the daily news (which I don’t do regularly), you would think the world is a scary place to venture out into. But I know better. I know that the world isn’t just about crime, illness and misery. I know there are many joyful lessons learned from traveling, if only you are willing to take the plunge.
I just spent the last two weeks in an RV with my family exploring the Mighty Five national parks in Utah. We didn’t have a tv or reliable radio reception. We had questionable Wi-Fi at many locations and were sometimes able to check social media and email, but often couldn’t even make a phone call. It was glorious! In other words, we were minimally connected to the outside world compared to normal. However, we were so much more connected to the world and each other in so many different ways. We also experienced many lessons learned from traveling that can translate to every day life and need to be shared.
Lessons learned from traveling
- You are part of a community– A lot of us have lost the sense of community that used to be so commonplace. We don’t talk to or even know our neighbors and move away from our families to strange locations.
When on the road, it doesn’t matter if you’re in New Jersey or New Delhi. You share the common experience of exploration. We have met people in Chile, Greece, France and, of course, Utah and all are willing to pull up a chair and talk about what they have seen or where you should go next. Ironically, traveling might provide some of us with more of a community than we have at home. However, the lesson is that we all need to belong to a community, and you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to find one.
- Sharing experiences as a family is more important than any extracurricular activity, sport – It’s great to be well-rounded and do a lot of activities, but you can’t replace the quality time spent together as a family. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have the normal bickering that we have at home, especially when everyone was tired or hot. However, we will always have the memories to look back upon together. Think about that the next time you want to schedule your children’s last free hour with a “Pokémon in clay” class. Maybe you could just go play in a creek or ride bikes together instead.
- Time in the outdoors is the best form of therapy (and it’s free!)- Of course it helps to be in the beautiful mountains of Utah. On vacation, we spent probably 80% of our time outside, either hiking or swimming. Obviously, most of us have to work indoors. But you can get the same effect at home sitting under a tree in your backyard or at a park for five minutes. We are biologically created to spend time outside and actually need that time with nature for good health, as discussed here. So no excuses! I used to walk to work (only a 1/4 mile, but still) every day, even through rain or snow (uphill both ways, ha!), and I felt better for doing it.
- You don’t have to schedule your whole life- Sometimes the best things in life are spontaneous. It’s very hard for me to admit that, because I am a scheduler. I live and breathe by my schedule. However, vacation taught me that the world will not end if everything isn’t scheduled. That doesn’t mean that you completely skip out on work and go to the mall. Just leave some breathing room for impulsive activities. If we hadn’t done that, we would have missed the amazing views of Dead Horse Point, basically a mini Grand Canyon and the location of many movies. Also, it’s ok to have some down time, even if only five minutes to catch your breath.
- You can get by with less in life- We could only take a small amount of clothes and some snacks with us on vacation since we flew across the country. Then we lived in an RV for two weeks. We did buy the minimal amount of supplies needed- sheets, towels, a few pans, etc.- but made due with very few things. Plus, we even (gasp!) wore some clothes more than once! It made me realize that I really don’t need every kitchen gadget invented. It actually feels good to purge, and this book can help you do that (an affiliate link). Plus, when your home is less cluttered, your mind is less cluttered and you have more time to take a walk or play with your kids or find your joy. However, that doesn’t mean that we will be moving into a tiny house anytime soon.
- We all need to feel uncomfortable at times- That means get out of your comfort zone in order to change and grow as a person. In my case, I was literally uncomfortable from the heat. I have never been heat tolerant and always avoid the direct sun as much as possible. However, we faced 100° for many days of our vacation, had very little shade and were constantly reminded how dangerous the heat could be. But that helped to change my perspective of the land and admire those early Native Americans who survived and thrived in such extreme circumstances. I also focused downward on the amazing desert plants, animals and fascinating biological soil crusts that inhabit the harsh terrain. I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the same appreciation if we were hiking in a pleasant 60° every day. Plus, I felt much more accomplished for completing each hike. Nevertheless, you don’t have to trek across the country like we did. Just do something that makes you feel a little awkward or challenges you, like speaking in front of a group or climbing the steps at work instead of taking the elevator.
Hopefully I’ve inspired you to think a little differently about your life and the world we live in. Next time, I’m going to discuss more lessons learned from traveling. Even if you can’t take a two week long vacation across the country, you can find joy in everyday life, if only you change your viewpoint.
Joyful thought for the day, “Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”-Ibn Battuta