I’ve been traveling for over a decade now. I recently returned from a visit to underrated Turkey and timeless Amalfi Coast in Italy and wondered…why do I travel? Why isn’t it enough to just watch Rick Steves on KQED while he explores Europe…through the backdoor….or drool as Anthony Bourdain swaggers his way through exotic culinary explorations 🙂 Have I learnt anything from my travels??
I think it would be fair to say yes..I have 🙂 Here are my top 5 lessons.
1. Go with the flow
On my recent trip to the Amalfi Coast, my friend and I decided to watch a local soccer match right above our dinner restaurant one evening. The rest of our group had gone back to our villa. As the match wrapped up, we were walking out of the small stadium, when we met an old man taking his evening walk with a beautiful St. Bernard. My friend, an avid dog lover, stopped to pet the dog and even I couldn’t help myself – animal phobic as I was – she was simply just beautiful with big brown eyes. The man soon invited us to his house to meet his dog’s daughter and as we set out toward his place, he explained why the town we were staying in was so peaceful for his retired life. He said for some reason the mafia never come to collect in this town. Mafia would often go to Positano, or Naples and other neighboring towns to collect money. “But we remain a happy people, free from collections”, he said. I will never forget that night, a gorgeous full moon rising above the ocean, as an old man with the beautiful St Bernard educated us on the ways of the Mafia in a small, off the beaten town in the Amalfi Coast. So…go with the flow and be open to spontaneous things. You never know who you might meet and what you may learn in the process.
2. Be tolerant
I’ve learnt to not expect things to be as they are in your hometown. Once you accept that, you are more open to a different way of interaction from what you are used to, whether it is the local grocer, a cab driver, or a waiter at a local restaurant in the city you are visiting. And I think being tolerant has fostered a certain level of patience that has come handy in dealing with people and situations even in my daily life, when I’m not traveling.
3. Freeze the moment!
My friends who know me well will laugh at this one. I have a way of just trying to be in the moment because it is really hard to do so! Especially with the advent of smart phones and social media tools, I feel like even vacations have us constantly buried in our mobile devices trying to update our fb friends with our activities. So whenever we are someplace, either eating something yummy, or just having a good laugh together, I’ll stop and ask everyone to just close their eyes, and even hold hands sometimes and really just ‘freeze the moment’. It totally helps me be in that moment! Try it!
4. You’re capable of more than you think
I’m referring to my Peru trip when I was camping for 4 days to visit the highly anticipated Macchu Picchu. Our last night it rained …right into our tent. And even though I was wearing ALL my clothes, it was freezing. The rain was dripping onto my forehead. Cold, wet, droplets seeping into the back of my neck. I cannot stand the cold. But I survived. I simply tossed and turned, trying to avoid the wet drops, thinking of ways to avoid the drops, and it was soon dawn and we had to get ready for the most exciting moment: Macchu Picchu. And it was every bit exciting and exhilarating as I imagined it to be – even though I hardly got any sleep the previous night!
5. A positive attitude goes a long way
One thing I’ve learnt consistently is no matter how much you plan, things don’t quite go the way you want them to. Sometimes they do but sometimes they don’t. And when they don’t, I’ve somehow, thankfully, learnt to focus on other things around me to enjoy, learn from, and appreciate, instead of dwelling on what’s not perfect, and thus letting it affect my trip. In the process, my outlook on my travels has been nothing short of amaaaazing. I’ve loved every place so far, enjoyed all my experiences and I can truly say it’s because of a positive attitude…it’s kind of helped even in my daily life!
What are your favorite lessons from your travels?