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5 Valuable Life Lessons Travel Has Taught Me

5 Valuable Life Lessons Travel Has Taught Me

We see and hear quotes every day stating that travel is the greatest teacher. We meet and know people who have ventured over to other countries and returned with exciting stories, all telling us that going to another country has opened their eyes.

I never really understood it until I, myself, went venturing out into the big wide world. Upon my return, everyone who I knew told me that I had changed. Not in a bad way, but they all said I had grown so much from when they last saw me and I had changed for the better.

Everybody changes throughout their journey, and everybody grows at their own pace. We just don’t seem to really notice it until we take a moment and reflect on who we are now, compared to the person we were last year or the year before.

I have only been to 18 countries (and counting, I plan to do more!) and I know there are many other people in the world who have been to a lot more than I have; but I want to take a moment and reflect on the top five things I have learnt from my travels so far:

1. Every Single Person Is Beautiful in Their Own, Individual, Way.

Throughout your travels, you meet so many interesting people along the way. I did find, however, that I met a lot more people when I traveled alone than when I went with friends. I think this is because when you are alone, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and make friends with whomever you can. Otherwise, you will have a pretty boring time. What is the point of going overseas if to not meet a person from that country?

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You meet all sorts of characters. Funny, serious, classy, rude, obnoxious, shy, friendly; you name it, you will meet them. What I did find was, once I got to know them on a deeper level, we were all very similar. We all had our fears and insecurities, we all had our dreams and desires, and we all wanted the same thing. I realized that every human being I had met on this planet, thus far, all wanted to feel valued and wanted. We all want to feel like we are appreciated in some way.

Once I realized this, I learnt to look past the flaws and the walls people had built for themselves and learnt to see the beauty within them. I learnt that every single person deep down really did have a big heart. Some just didn’t know how to show it as well as others.

Our journeys and past experiences create the person we are now. Some people have experienced such turmoil and just haven’t come to terms and healed from it. We are all messed up in some kind of way. No one is perfect, but we are all so beautiful in our own individuality. We just express it differently.

2. You Really Don’t Need Much to Survive

When you are jumping from one country to the next, you really don’t want to be carrying a great deal with you. I’ve learnt to ditch the five thousand outfits, the several pairs of shoes, all the gadgets, and whatever else I was used to having so accessible.

I’ve actually become a pro at packing and am renowned for packing my bags within an hour of leaving for the airport. All I really need is clean underwear, a few outfit changes, bikinis, some toiletries, hairbrush, a jacket (in case it gets cold), running shoes, thongs/flipflop/jandals (depending which country you are from), nice shoes (in case I go out somewhere that I need to be dressed up at), my phone, camera (must take photos of EVERYTHING), house keys and passport.

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I have realized that we really don’t need much with us. Especially when you are too busy watching sunsets, going on adventures, tasting exotic food, and experiencing new and exciting moments.

3. The Little Things Can Sometimes Be the Most Priceless

When we are at home in our comfortable surroundings, sometimes we forget to appreciate the little things like watching the sun rise or set, noticing the people around us and the emotions they are feeling, having a proper bathroom and toilet, the warmth of our own bed, I really could go on . . .

After experiencing some amazing sunrises and sunsets all over the world, when I am back home I always try to take a moment to watch the sun rise or set and just enjoy the beauty. You don’t need to be overseas to see a sun set or rise, it’s there every day wherever you are. Just admiring the world and something so natural for even a minute can elevate your mood.

One of my favorite past times when I am overseas is people watching. I love sitting at a cafe or restaurant and just watching those around me. Even at airports you see so many people saying good bye, and the farewells are filled with tears. It is one of those places filled with emotion. People are jetting off somewhere full of excitement, saying a sad goodbye to a dear one or coming back from a business trip tired and flustered. Sometimes, when we are at home, we forget to notice others around us.  The world is a beautiful place and there are so many emotions around us.

How about when you get home and finally get into your warm, cozy bed? How good does it feel after sleeping on several different, sometimes uncomfortable beds? And hooray, a proper bathroom! If you ever find yourself in a third world country, a toilet with toilet paper is a blessing we definitely take for granted.

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4. We Never Remember What People Do for Us, We Remember How They Made Us Feel

When you travel, you meet so many people. You form many friendships, some for a short period of time, some that can last a lifetime. You learn that people will come and go in your life. The ones that leave an imprint are the ones who made you feel either really good or really bad.

Along my journey, I have met some people who I will forever hold dear in my heart. They are those genuine souls who I know will be my friends for life. The people who you had the best days with, and who were there through some bad days. The ones who you laughed with until your bellies hurt, and the ones who held your hair up because you had too much to drink.

You also remember those who you only had a brief encounter with but who had such a beautiful aura about them. It’s nice to know there are genuine people out there, and it’s a blessing to meet them. On the other hand, the ones that gave us bad vibes or made us feel uncomfortable in any kind of way are also people we remember.

From learning this, I try to my best to consciously be aware of how I can make another feel. For I know this is how they will always remember me. As an old saying goes, it’s not where you go, it’s who you meet along the way.

5. You Will Be Much Happier If You Appreciate What You Have

After experiencing a few different cultures, the one thing I noticed the most was that the people from third world countries seemed to smile at you more. They didn’t have much, yet they were always smiling when you walked by. They appreciated what they did have and they were genuinely happy.

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I also found that the majority of those in third world countries were the most generous. They knew what it was like to have nothing, so they never wanted to see somebody else go without. If they only had a banana to eat, they would split it and offer you the other half.

Sometimes we get so stuck in our ways of society and the rat race we find ourselves in that we forget to stop and appreciate just how much we really have. If we have a roof over our head, a bed to sleep in, and can eat every day, we are richer than millions of other people in the world. We get so caught up in what we want and what we don’t have that we forget to notice what we do have, which really is a lot. We really are blessed.

There is a practice that the Law of Attraction has taught me, and that is to take five minutes of your day to count your blessings. Every morning, and before I go to sleep, I take a moment and say thanks for the fact I woke up and I am still alive and healthy. I give thanks for my family and friends. I thank the universe that I have a roof over my head and I have all the necessities I need. I also reflect on how far I have come as a person and let that feeling of gratitude rush over me. Since starting this practice, I really must say my life has changed for the better. Something has shifted and I highly recommend you try it for yourself; I would love to hear how it affects you.

These are the top five lessons I have learnt through my travels. What are your top five?

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    More About Living in the Present

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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