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8 Valuable Lessons I Learned From Traveling

8 Valuable Lessons I Learned From Traveling

I grew up in small town America, so I had never traveled outside the country until recently. I took an amazing trip to Costa Rica a few years ago to meet up with my college-aged daughter, who was finishing up a foreign study program.

Here’s a look at some of the lessons I came home with, after my initiation into the hectic world of traveling, as I wandered around in a foreign country for 10 days of sightseeing with my daughter. I admit that my experience was somewhat idealistic because I went to an American friendly country.

If you are planning a trip, be prepared for a new and exciting, yet unpredictable experience.

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Here are 8 valuable lessons I learned from traveling:

1. Expect the unexpected

The first and most important thing I learned from my experience was to expect the unexpected. You never know what is going to happen when you are traveling. When you are an inexperienced traveler, you are immediately thrown into a situation where you do not always know what to do. It’s easy to become anxious when you don’t know what is coming up next, but I learned to just be patient and let things unfold. For instance, you can be sure that things will never go as you planned them. Flights will be delayed, some of your luggage might get confiscated, or you might not know where your next meal is coming from. Be prepared financially for unexpected things, because you will probably spend more money than you planned on.

2. Relax and Have Fun

Experienced travelers learn very quickly to adapt to new situations and new environments. It may be easy to forget that you are there to relax and enjoy yourself.  Relaxation is one of the top benefits of travel.  Be sure to make time each day to just sit, take in the view and unwind from all your sightseeing activities. It can be exciting exploring new places and taking it all in.  I also recommend talking to as many people as you can, because you are thrown together with them (usually in the close quarters of a plane, train or bus). Just enjoy wherever you are, and take things in as they happen. Be open to meeting new people and having new experiences wherever you go. You will learn unexpected things that way. So, you might as well relax wherever you are, and have a good time, especially when things do not go as planned, like if you become stranded at a large airport for hours on end with nothing to do but wait.

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3. Learn to be spontaneous

Being spontaneous is an art that must be acquired. Not everyone can do it, so traveling is a good way to learn the skill. You will find yourself in new and changing situations with no predictable outcome. You will see things in other countries that you do not expect. Some things you will enjoy and others will make you uncomfortable. That is because you are thrown outside of your normal routine, so you are naturally out of your comfort zone, and completely away from all the people (or most) of the people you know and talk to everyday. When circumstances force you to change your plans, the best thing is just to go with the flow and do whatever seems logical. I guarantee that most days will be different than anything you can image ahead of time.

4. Enjoy new people

Being in new countries and around strangers all the time can be stressful and it will make you feel like you are on another planet. It can make you uncomfortable because you don’t know anyone. And, there might be barriers to communication, like when everyone around you speaks another language, that you do not know.

Here is where you must simply trust in people. Have faith that most people you meet will be pleasant to deal with. If you are in a country where Americans are treated well, you should be ok going anywhere. Your attitude is the most important thing when you meet new people. You may not be able to understand them, but there are ways to communicate that don’t require words. You will gain the most if you just show them respect as human beings. Learn how to enjoy being around new people and don’t be afraid to talk to them.

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    5. Live in the moment

    Most people are used to doing the same routine in their lives, day in and day out. We get used to our jobs, our friends, and our usual places that we go for fun. Traveling takes you away from all that. It throws you up on a beach like a fish out of water. But, this is a good thing. Why? Because it makes you feel more alive. You learn to trust your instincts in a new situation and allow yourself to just appreciate each moment for what it is. You take a deep breath by the sea, you walk barefoot on the beach, you see things you have never seen before and it wakes you up, as if the rest of your life was a dream. When you learn to be in the moment of right now, you are more aware of everything going on around you. You are more observant. You see and experience the newness of each day.

    6. Respect other cultures

    When you travel outside of your world and go to another country, you will notice right away the cultural differences. People might dress differently. They may do everyday things that you don’t expect. They might communicate in a language you don’t know and their lives may appear to be so unfamiliar to you. Here you learn to respect who people are. You see them and acknowledge that they live in a world apart from you, and you learn to be non-judgemental about them. You see them and it changes you on the inside. It makes you think about the world on a bigger scale. It makes you more aware of some of the ways that other people struggle in their lives.

    7. There is beauty in everything

    Traveling is fun. You see beauty in the most unexpected places. You never know what you will see next. This is exciting, and it changes you, making you more observant of everything going on around you. Here is where you gain so many valuable memories. You want to enjoy your trip, so you naturally do all you can do to make it a good experience. You take photographs of all the things you want to remember. It becomes almost an obsession to capture as much as you can about the places you visit. This is one of the most enjoyable things about traveling. You may even find that the way food is prepared and presented can be beautiful as well.

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      8. Appreciate the life you have

      One of the biggest lessons I learned from traveling is simply to appreciate the simple things about the life I have. I appreciate all the things I used to take for granted before I traveled. I know now how fortunate I am.

      I appreciate my loved ones more than ever. I appreciate modern conveniences, like driving a nice car, living in a comfortable house, having a cold drink, and a warm bed. I appreciate being able to buy anything I want and get any type of food I want at just about any time of day. I appreciate all the laws of my country and all the public officials that make them. And I appreciate the cleanliness of my city and most public places that I go to every day. I have a great life just where I’m at, and I appreciate everything about it because I went away.

      Coming home

      One of the best things about traveling is returning home to your life again. You come home to the people who love you and count on you. But you are richer because of the great memories you made. You have learned a few things. You have seen new places and you know how to expect the unexpected, relax and have fun, to be spontaneous, enjoy new people, and live in the moment. You can respect other cultures, see beauty in everything and appreciate more fully the life that you have.

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      Karen Bresnahan

      Photographer/Writer/Artist

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      Last Updated on October 16, 2018

      The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

      The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

      It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

      If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

      One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

      Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

      In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

      Why you can’t sleep through the night

      The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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      Stress

      If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

      Exposure to blue light before sleep time

      We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

      While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

      Eating close to bedtime

      Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

      Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

      Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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      Medical conditions

      In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

      The vicious sleep cycle

      The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

      Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

      You get a bad night’s sleep
      –> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
      –> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
      –> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

        You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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        How to sleep better (throughout the night)

        To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

        1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

        What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

        Here are a few suggestions:

        • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
        • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
        • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
        • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
        • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

        2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

        What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

        • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
        • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
        • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
        • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

        3. Adjust your sleep temperature

        Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

        Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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        Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

        Sleep better form now on

        Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

        I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

        As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

        Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

        Reference

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