(Part 1 in a 2 part travel series. Click here for part 2.)
Is traveling an important part of your life?
It certainly is for me. Why? Because we live in a beautiful, amazing 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.
A few years ago, my family and I spent two weeks in an RV 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. However, we were so much more connected to the world around us and each other in so many different ways. We also experienced many lessons learned from traveling that can translate to every day life that I want to share.
Lessons learned from traveling
1) You are part of a community– A lot of us have lost the sense of community that used to be so commonplace. We often don’t talk to or even know our neighbors. We move away from our families to strange locations. We isolate ourselves in front of our screens our temperature controlled homes.
However, 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.
2) Sharing amazing travel experiences as a family is a great way to bond– 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 those memories to look back upon together. Think about that the next time you want to schedule your children’s last free hour with an Indian classical dance (a real thing!) class. Maybe you could just go play in a creek or ride bikes together instead.
3) 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. I’ve talked about the dangers of unchecked stress before here. That’s why we ALL need to get outdoors sometimes. On vacation, we spent probably 80% of our time outside, either hiking or swimming. I understand you might need to work indoors. But you can get the same effect at home sitting under a tree in your backyard or stepping outside 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.
4) 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.
Keep in mind 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 okay to have some down time, even if only five minutes to catch your breath.
5) 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. While we did buy the minimal amount of supplies needed- sheets, towels, a few pans, etc.- we actually 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.
6) We need to get uncomfortable in order to grow as a person– 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.
Nevertheless, 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 pleasant 60° temps every day. Plus, I felt much more accomplished for completing each hike.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to trek across the country like we did to get uncomfortable. 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.
“Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”