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The Most Important Lesson Travel Has Taught Me

I’ve learned so much about the world while travelling, it’s impossible not to.  But for now I just want to tell you about the number one thing that has been reinforced, again and again, by every meaningful travel experience I have had.

When you spend an extended period of time outside of your normal routine, exploring, taking in wondrous sights, and discovering the astonishing variety of life that exists on our planet, it shifts your perspective on things.  You realise that there is so much more out there.

The view from Poon Hill, Nepal

The view from Poon Hill, Nepal

It isn’t just the endless physical possibilities you now know exist.  More significantly, it is the depth of peace and the overwhelming feeling of aliveness you discover.  The world becomes a so much more enchanting place, and you have a much deeper appreciation for all of it.

Monkeys in Hampi

Monkeys in Hampi

It can be difficult to balance this new found sense of wonder with day to day life in a 9 to 5 job back home.  I struggled with it several times after returning from long trips abroad.  I needed the money, (mainly so I could go off and have more spectacular adventures!) but, more that that, I needed to slow down and enjoy the small pleasures in life.

I could no longer deny the importance of my day to day experience in the hope of experiencing more peace in the future.

I unequivocally had to live for the now.

This brought with it a whole heap of challenges, but my shift in priorities also led me to discover so many wonderful things that I wasn’t open to before.  I got into yoga in a big way, I became a qualified massage therapist, I started making my own jewellery, I picked up my guitar again after years of neglecting it, and I even began writing songs.

I've now turned my jewellery making hobby into a business.

I’ve now turned my jewellery making hobby into a business.

Now that I knew how much peace and beauty was available to be experienced in this world, I had to find a way to ‘live it’.  To only have access to this seemingly magical realm when I was on holiday from real life was an impossible thought to bear.  I experimented, failed more times that I could ever manage to relay to you, and gradually found more and more of this peace that I had been looking for, exactly where I was.

Someone tweeted the other day, and I forget who it was or the exact words, something about creativity being a “scavenger hunt for the soul”.  Those 5 words really stuck with me.  It certainly does feel that way sometimes, but my god it is worth it!!!!

Finding the treasure at the end of the rainbow!  Photo:  Iguacu Falls, South America

Finding the treasure at the end of the rainbow!  Photo: Iguacu Falls, South America

When it was just the shortest moments of peace, following so much of the absolute opposite, I feared I had chosen the wrong path.  However, I must have known somehow that things would get better, because I kept trying.  The more I learned how to get my monkey mind to cooperate and tune into my heart’s longings, and the better I became at expressing myself creatively, the more profound and longer lasting the feeling of inner peace was.

So I continue on my journey, collecting pieces of myself along the way.  But now instead of desperately searching, I go wide-eyed in wonder on my quest, knowing that really, all of it is me.  I have learned to live in the moment, content with where I am, amazed at where I have been, and excited for where I am about to go.

Ushuaia, the 'southern-most city in the world'.

Ushuaia, the ‘southern-most city in the world’.

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Why I Travel

Travelling brings me a sense of wonder, awe and enchantment.

Varanasi, India

Varanasi, India

When my only objective is to explore, I am in the present moment and everything feels ALIVE. I slow down and absorb every detail of my surroundings; the colours, the smells, the sounds and the FEEL.

Scene from window of train just outside Cairo, Egypt.

View from window of train just outside Cairo, Egypt.

With fresh eyes I see beauty in everyday scenes that, in familiar surroundings, I would likely pass by without a second look.  I am mesmerized by the most ordinary aspects of life in a foreign land.

Travelling teaches me to find contentment in the here and now; not waiting for anything, just living fully and completely.

As well as the magic experienced in the simple things, there is the profound impact of experiencing nature in all of its immense glory.

Iguacu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.

Iguacu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.

There have been moments I will remember forever, and places that stir up ancient memories that surface from deep within.  Memories that don’t belong to this life, but to a time when a connection with nature was ever present.  Now, during precious moments in a contrasting age of separation, the beauty of this bond can be perceived.

Often when I’m travelling, unexpected situations lead to the most wonderful experiences.  When the stifling heat in Marrakech forced us out of our bedroom to sleep on the roof of our hotel, I had no idea it would be so nourishing and inspiring.  Calls to prayer reverberated around us from all over the city, coming together with the dark night sky and thick warm air, to form a protective blanket around us.  Magic was quite literally in the air.  I woke up with the sun, a new person, with clarity about my path in life.  I knew what I valued and vowed to live more in harmony with this great force of peace.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

I have shared so many extraordinary experiences with special friends, old and new, knowing that we felt the same joy.  Travelling with good friends, spending 24 hours a day with them, dissolves all social boundaries and leads to spectacular amounts of fun.  These times have brought me so much happiness, and to begin to describe them here would turn this short post into a novel.

Along with this peace, wonder, contentment and connection with nature, travel provides the opportunity for something that is even more valuable to me.  Adventure.

I sometimes suffer from quite debilitating anxiety.  If it weren’t for my love of adventure, my mental state could be a LOT worse than it is now.  I still have my struggles, but knowing all the crazy things I have done (and survived!) really helps when I’m having a crisis of confidence.

I’m not what you might call a dare devil.  I have a healthy amount of caution, but my desire to experience new and exciting things has put me in some pretty hairy situations on more than one occasion.  I could do without adventures like being stuck halfway up multi-pitch rock climbs, or escaping The Great Fire Of 2012 in Laos; but they have taught me how much I can actually cope with.  I’ve overcome my fears sky diving and bungee jumping, and survived many a minor accident while testing my boundaries white water rafting, handstanding in inappropriate places and riding mopeds on potholed roads.

White water rafting in Peru, just before we flipped over and smashed my face on the rock!

White water rafting in Peru, just before we flipped over and smashed my face on the rock!

These things are all great learning experiences (some more fun than others!), but it’s the feeling of limitless possibility that being out of my comfort zone brings me that keeps me coming back for more.  Whether I’m looking out over a new city from a tall building or viewpoint (one of my favourite activities), trekking through beautiful unknown landscapes, or pushing my physical and mental limits, adventure to me is about possibility.  That is what I find so exciting.

When I do something out of the ordinary, I experience a feeling of expansiveness, and I know that there is so much more to explore and do.  I know that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was, and my heart longs for the next adventure.

View from the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, Bangkok

View from the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, Bangkok

 

 

 

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