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OK, I’ll admit it. I’m hooked on travel. I think it’s awesome. There is just something about heading to new places that excites my soul and gets me giddy every time I start packing my bags or planning a trip. So much is my passion for travel that I want to give those that dream of exploring the world further nudging to make it happen. So I sat down and wrote this, to nudge you dreamers again. If you hear the call to travel and need more reason than to experience some of the incredible variety of the world and to explore the playground that is the earth (really?), here are some of the wonders to be found in travel.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Experiencing different ways of life will only widen your perspective and meeting new people from different backgrounds and with totally different experiences of life hones your empathy and ability to understand others. Real world travel offers insights that go beyond historical facts you could learn in a book and you’ll probably even see your home country in a new light. ‘Travel broadens the mind’ – yes it’s a cliché, but like most there’s a truth there, and if you travel with an open mind and make an effort to put yourself out there, you can’t fail to see things in ways you’d never seen before.
Leaving your country and getting out of your bubble of familiarity will stretch you. Depending on where you go, you’ll be pushed in one way or another – maybe you won’t know how to speak or read, how to greet someone, or you won’t have a clue how to catch local transport. The point is that wherever you go there’ll be something unfamiliar to you in an honestly inconvenient way. And while this might not be the funnest aspect of travel, it will force you to be open to your new environment and use your mind to figure things out. Being adaptable to new situations and practising patience becomes second nature; two precious skills that serve beyond life on the road.
The world is an inspiring place but it can be incredibly hard to recognize that truth when you’re stuck in a rut or a predictable routine in what has become a banal and mundane environment. When you travel you’re getting out there, discovering new and previously unseen worlds. Travel will open you up to all kinds of new things – languages, lifestyles, social conventions – and these new experiences lead to new ideas and connections, capable of inspiring in many ways. Here are a couple…
Travel can inspire us to change things in our own lives that we weren’t previously aware were even an option. Through meeting people living alternatives, travel enabled me to see beyond norms and accepted truths of the culture I grew up in – like working 45 weeks a year until retirement, or needing to earn and spend lots of money to lead a fulfilling life – and inspired me to find and create a more appealing lifestyle that suited me.
If you feel like your life is becoming flat and dull, travel can open you up to countless possibilities for change – different jobs and career paths, places to live, how to structure your life, lifestyle philosophies, other ways that you can offer your gifts to the world. There really are innumerable paths, and in this way travel can show you how many options you really have.
There’s something in the mental stimulation of new experiences that inspires and feeds creativity and the urge to do something creative. Exploring other cultures offers whole new schools of styles to spark your imagination. If you’re a musician, you’ll hear new rhythms and instruments; an artist, new styles and schools; a cook; new foods and flavours; photographers; new landscapes and architectures. Whatever your creative outlet, you won’t be pressed to find inspiration.
Self discovery – yes another cliché but there’s truth in them! Coming out of the grooves of your normal life is a surefire way to learn more about yourself. The mix of continually being in new situations and spending a lot of time alone allows a traveler to see new sides of themselves. On the road you’ll see what aspects of your character naturally stick and which ones fall away, which ones are integral to your being and which were simply circumstantial to the life you were living. Maybe there are some things you discover about yourself that you’d like to change. Great, because now you are in the perfect situation to…
The change travel brings represents an opportunity to start over and reinvent yourself. This is why we say we’re ‘making a fresh start’ when we move to a new city or country or make any big life change in which we’re leaving familiarity behind. By breaking old connections and making new ones, a traveler finds opportunity for growth, and for moving forward consciously.
If you recognize traits in yourself that you’d like to drop or have new habits you’d like to adopt, travel is a great opportunity to do this. People you meet won’t have the same pre-existing expectations of you and how you’ll behave and this liberates you from past versions of yourself, from detrimental habits or ways of thinking that you’d like to leave behind. Change brings change, and with travel you are literally moving forward, not remaining stagnant, and this can be reflected in your character too.
Modern western society has enabled us as individuals to be more independent than ever, liberating us from reliance on neighbours and the local community. Whilst this independence is beneficial in many ways, the greater sense of individualism that comes with it can leave us with a sense of disconnection and lack of belonging, often making the world seem like a lonely place.
Naturally, it’s easier to connect with people you share a passion with. The problem is finding them. When you travel you can’t help but meet other travellers, and in this way those of us with an adventurous spirit or curiosity of the world are naturally drawn to each other. With like-minded people conversations more readily go beyond the superficial and onto deeper and more thought-provoking topics. This gives us a deeper appreciation of the world we live in by making those connections that we as humans crave. If you feel alone in your sense of adventure, surrounded by people who are uninspiring, unadventurous, being steamrolled by and into a life of drudgery and monotony, get out, hit the road, find the others!
I think most people know deep down if they really want to travel or not. It’s like a longing deep within, an expression of the human urge to discover, relate, and understand. If you feel the call to travel and are currently finding reasons to suppress it, just know that there will never be a perfect time and there will always be reasons not to. So this is my message to you, don’t let circumstance dictate your life – make it happen and go explore!
What have you found in travel? How has it shaped or altered your life? Have you gleaned any insight from your time on the road? Share your experiences in the comments below 🙂
You’ve heard about meditation and have an idea about all the apparent benefits, but you’re not sure exactly how it works and if its really worth doing. I’ve been meditating for a few years now and credit it with lots of positive changes in my mindset and life, so I wanted to share how it might help you too.
Research shows tonnes of benefits to consistent meditators – studies at Harvard have shown that regular meditators grow grey matter in key areas of the brain associated with self-awareness and compassion, and shrink matter in the areas associated with stress. Yes, meditation actually changes the physical structure of the brain. The stereotype that meditation is just for buddhists and hippies is dying and thats why its drawing in people from all sorts of high profile arenas, from professional athletes to workers at google. This is because it can benefit people from all walks of life.
“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it?
The pill exists. It’s called meditation.”
Jonathan Haidt – The Happiness Hypothesis
Sounds to good to be true right? Well, here’s the kicker- it requires patience, commitment, time and practice. But so does anything that is truly worthwhile. A crucial foundation when embarking on any new journey of learning or discovery is motivation. With more and more research being done it’s becoming clearer by the study that meditation offers numerous benefits to the consistent practitioner. So here’s a few examples to kickstart that motivation and get you keen to start meditating…
The past is already gone and the future never comes – the truth is that the present moment is all we ever really have. If you spend all your time in thoughts of the past or future you will miss the amazing world we live in. Meditation is the practice of tuning in to the present, leaving thoughts of past and future behind – being aware and in the moment and really alive. This is powerful in many ways, not least of which is how it helps to clear your mind which as well as being rewarding in itself will…
Being able to focus your mind is one of the most powerful tools you can have at your disposal. Meditation is a continual practice of retaining your attention and sharpening single pointed concentration. When you meditate you practice being conscious of your thoughts and where your mind is, and when you realise it isn’t where you would like it… you bring it back. A formal practice trains this awareness ‘muscle’ and with it comes a greater capacity for focus and attention.
It improves not only performance but efficiency too. And this can be applied to anything, to whatever it is you want to put your energy into. You will be more precise and able to work with less distraction and greater proficiency. You will upgrade in everything that you do. With increased efficiency you will save time. Less time spent in useless and unproductive thoughts and more time for you to think about what you actually want to think about. Less time spent procrastinating and more time doing what you actually want to do. Less actions through habit and more through conscious will.
Meditation triggers what psychologists call the ‘relaxation response’ which lessens stress and hypertension. This is because it trains us to let go by calmly observing our current reality without reaction or resistance. Rather than getting wound up or agitated, meditation helps us to accept the reality of any situation. In meditation we practice accepting things we cannot change and this helps to stop us from worrying unnecessarily.
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”
The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama is someone whom I suspect has clocked up his fair share of meditation time. Of course we can understand intellectually that worrying is not helpful but we all still have times when we do it. Meditation as a practice helps us to embody this understanding and to accept the unexpected and sometimes undesirable twists and turns as an inevitable part of life, rather than resisting them and creating stress and tension. We observe our thoughts and feelings and learn to let them pass. As we become more conscious of our anxieties and troublesome thoughts we have more ownership of them and are less affected by them. Meditators find it easier to relax, they’re practiced at it.
So often we think something and we are that thought. We don’t recognise it as a thought, we just think it before thinking something else and continuing in a series of thoughts. These thoughts grow into opinions and inform our actions. They form the basis of our belief system and define our truths. They shape who we are.
With meditation we learn to observe thoughts and see them from a greater perspective. This increases awareness and clarity of the mind’s habits and thought patterns; what occupies your mind and how you think. In this way meditation gives you the opportunity to know yourself better and also to gain insight into why you are the way you are.
With an improved self-awareness you’ll have a clearer perception of your strengths and weaknesses, your personality and your emotions. A clearer perception of your strengths allows you to use them more effectively and the ability to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings reveals room for growth. With a clearer understanding of the unique traits of your personality you will become more aware of how other people perceive you, and of how you perceive others. Relationships will improve and social situations will feel more natural, whether it’s meeting new people, making friends or collaborating with others in creative pursuits and business ventures.
Meditation doesn’t only improve mental health but physical health too. Enjoy being healthy? Another reason to start meditating. Your body’s response to potential illness improves with meditation: it boosts antibodies, stimulates immune system brain-function regions and with its reduction of stress increases oxygen uptake and blood flow. This is why meditators take less sick days and why meditation is now being prescribed as a preventative medicine for all kinds of ailments. It boosts your immune system. Research has linked meditation with a long list of health benefits and this shouldn’t really be surprising given the link between physical and mental health and the correlation between stress and sickness.
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These are just a few of the benefits meditation can offer; if you’re still hungry for more there’s a heap of literature online about the topic… go dive in. Hopefully by now you’re ready to set up the pillows on the floor. It’s something I think anyone can benefit from. In twenty years I reckon it will become like how eating vegetables, exercising and brushing your teeth are today; a complete no-brainer. So get on your ass and start the habit today.
Have no idea how to meditate or where to start? Head over to How to Meditate: A Beginner’s Guide.