Birthday Reflections: Things I Have Learned in Travel and in Life
“A birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the trip.”
As another year comes and goes, I am taking some time to reflect on the past year. I wanted to assess all of the things I have learned, in my travels and in my life. I will admit, I didn’t even have time to reflect (or even realize my birthday was imminent) until the week of my bday. Life has been so hectic lately…
Nonetheless, this is what I came up with.
1. Carpe Diem.
So I may as well knock the cliché item off the list first. But clichés become clichés because they are widespread and true. And this one is very true. The Romans hit this one spot on. While I can’t teach a master class on this by any means, I try to be productive every day and take advantage of the day. Every day is a gift and tomorrow is not promised, so at least, in the busyness and hustle and bustle of life, take a moment to stop and acknowledge that.
2. Things don’t always go as planned (a.k.a. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions).
Sometimes, we plan and God laughs. We do our best to lay everything out perfectly, and, despite our best intentions, it doesn’t work out.
Now this subject I could teach a master class in. I am a planner by nature. It’s what I do. In trips, in life, I plan to the best of my abilities. Anyone who knows me knows this. But in the several years, I have learned that God doesn’t care about my “plans.” His plans are the only ones that matter. And guess what: I don’t get to be privy to those plans. Not even a little bit. So what does a planner like me do now? Plan to the best of my ability and do the best I can, and may the odds ever be in my favor. That’s all I can do.
3. The only person you can rely on is yourself…and God.
God may not always follow my plans, but he is always there for me, through it all. So I try to only depend on Him and myself. I mean, that’s not entirely true. I have an amazing family, along with an awesome close network of friends for support. They are awesome and I wouldn’t be here today without them. But you have to rely on yourself. Because when the chips are down, people will and have got to worry about themselves first and foremost. And that’s probably a good idea in many situations. So I am learning to rely on myself (and God) more than anyone else. Self-sufficiency is key.
4. Book now, plan later.
I have been fortunate in the last several months to connect with folks who live by this mantra. This falls in line with number 1, along with some other points on my list to follow this one. You have got to live, man! For me, this lesson is an intersection of my need to plan and my desire to be more spontaneous; balance is key.
On Christmas Day, an error fare allowed thousands of travelers to scoop up deals to amazing destinations like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the Philippines and South Africa for less than $300. The catch: you had to book within a few hours, or the deal was gone. Since then I have seen numerous deals to that effect that were only available for a few hours, at best. The moral: seize the dang day! Book the trip now, and plan it later! What’s the worst that can happen—you end up in some exotic destination in a few months for a fraction of the cost it would have been any other time? Even if it ends up coming at a bad time at work, guess what… if you boss (or any other co-worker) had a vacation scheduled and it happened to come at a bad time, chances are they would still take it (unless expressly told to cancel). They would take care of themselves, so why shouldn’t you?
5. Know your worth.
This has truly been a year of learning this for me. Be it in your personal or professional life, you have to know your worth. So often I find I am discounting myself in various aspects of life. One such example is professionally. Liam Neeson said in the movie Taken “I have a very particular set of skills…” Well, it's true. I have a very particular set of skills that I have worked long and hard to acquire, so why am I willing to discount those skills, that knowledge? Why am I so afraid to assert my worth? I think this is particularly prevalent amongst women, as we try to appease those around us and not seem to boastful or overconfident. We—I—have to get past that, because if I don’t assert my worth, who will?
6. Not everyone will approve of my love of travel… and that’s okay.
A love of travel is a lifestyle. It’s not being satisfied with your little slice of the world, but longing to experience new things and peoples and regions and cultures. Not everyone has that love. About 46% of US citizens have passports, according to a State Department study from January of 2014. That number is up substantially from 10 years ago, when the percentage was said to be in the teens. That is encouraging, but in my opinion still not high enough. As I see it, why wouldn’t you want to see other parts of the world? It certainly makes you appreciate what you have at home. While I cannot understand it, I try not to judge those who haven’t realized that yet.
That being said, sometimes when I announce a destination I am traveling to, or even considering traveling to, I am met with questions like “Why would you want to go there?” or comments like “I can’t believe you would go there given how they treat their people.” HELLO??? Have you been watching the news lately? Things ain’t so rosy over here, either (but I digress). Point is, you can’t appreciate what you have until you see and understand how others live. That can be an eye-opening experience and puts things in perspective (ever heard of the phrase “first-world problems”?).
7. It’s all about priorities.
I am learning this in life as well. Everything is about priorities. And mine are shifting. With respect to travel, people comment on how much I travel. I don’t have kids (that helps, obviously), and I am the queen of searching for and finding a deal, but the rest is about priorities. I am starting to value new experiences more than new things. Now mind you, I still shop, but I am trying to be content with what I have. So instead of buying certain luxury items, I would prefer to go on a luxury vacation. There is a lot of world out there that I have yet to see, but I already have many handbags.
8. Be still.
Work in progress. This is the hardest one for me yet. I am an overthinker. I analyze scenarios and I am a planner. I am working on learning to be still and let God move and handle it, but it’s so hard for me. So I guess this is a lesson I am still learning and struggling with. I am sure many can relate to this one.
9. You can’t control everything…so stop trying.
This is the Type A in me. I don’t think I am a total control freak but this goes back to my planning and overthinking. But man, if I could control some situations, I would be so good at it! But alas, I can’t make others do what I want them to do, and I can’t control others thought/actions/mindsets. Just like sometimes I cannot understand the reasoning behind why people do what they do. So I have resigned myself to stop trying. It’s a waste of precious energy that I don’t have to spare and could be devoting to fruitful endeavors.
10. Everyone should travel solo (internationally) at least once in his/her life.
As I write this I am returning from my first solo trip. And it was liberating. It was absolutely amazing and something everyone should experience! I was fortunate to meet up with some people who either lived in the destination I visited or were traveling the same time I was. But meeting up with locals and travelers that I had never met before was awesome. I got to experience the country like a local experiences it. I had time with other folks and I had time to myself. And that was invaluable. At least part of the time, I didn’t have to answer to someone else’s schedule; I moved to my own beat. I had time to relax, time to reflect, and time to hang out. I actually read an entire novel in just a few days! It was perfection, and I recommend it for everyone. Could you feel lonely? Of course. But if you cannot learn to be comfortable with yourself in these situations, who can you be comfortable with? For me, it was all about growth. If I could do you, you can, and I definitely plan to do it again!
11. You can only do what you can do.
This has become my mantra of late. I try to seize the day. I try to be as productive as possible. But sometimes, I am just tired. My body very clearly lets me know when I need to sit down or take a break or just stop. So instead of ignoring those signs, I am stopping and I am listening.
12. Take care of yourself or no one else will.
When the flight attendants recite the safety warnings on a plane, they always talk about a decrease in cabin pressure. The flight attendant instructs you to put on your mask first, then help others around you who may need assistance. Why is this? Because if you don’t put your mask on first (read: take care of yourself) then you may pass out trying to help someone else and then two people are in danger instead of just one. You can’t help someone else until you have helped yourself first and foremost. For my mommy friends out there, I know this probably seems impossible, but how good of a mom can you be if you don’t take just a little time for yourself every so often to ward off a nervous breakdown? We all need ‘me time’ or ‘personal health days.’ Now, I am going to try to practice what I am preaching.
13. Pack light.
Both literally and figuratively.
When I think of this point, I think Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady”: "Bag lady you gone hurt your back; Dragging all them bags like that; I guess nobody ever told you; All you must hold on to; Is you, is you, is you… One day, all them bags gone get in your way; So pack light.” In fact, I’m listening to it right now.
This is such sage advice. For travel and for life. I am working on both facets. Shedding the excess baggage. I unequivocally know I overpack in travel; I am frequently at the 50-pound limit praying for a miracle on the scale. So tell you what—I will touch base with you guys on this one next year to share my progress.
Sound off. What are some life lessons you have recently learned or are still working on?
Main Photo Credit: Ruth Black/Shutterstock
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I co-sign on this post 100%. I'm one of those people who actually like to travel solo. And indeed, there are some things you have to just say yes to right away and figure it out later. Sometimes those make the best learning opportunities!
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