July 28, 2013

9 Lessons From the Road. ~ Katie Hussong


Travel without reflection is just tourism.

Back in Charm City and finally feeling recovered from mega-jetlag. Thailand and Bali were amazing. Just thinking about the trip brings a smile to my face. Now that I’m home, it’s time to make some sense of it all. After all, travel without reflection is just tourism.

Here are just a few lessons from the road:

1. Slow down.

America is a very work-work-work kind of place. Lots of rushing, lots of deadlines, lots of stress. (I’m sure you know what I mean.) And all for what? What are we missing in the meantime? Friendships? A new passion? The chance to make a difference?

Make a conscious effort to slow things down and you’ll begin to notice not just the world around you but also where you’re going–and why.

2. Quality over quantity.

On this trip, we deliberately chose fewer destinations. We were tempted, sure, to “squeeze in” Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma but chose instead, to stay put. Taking time to get to know the people and places around us was definitely the way to go. No stress. Just taking it all in.

3. Do something you’re afraid of.

Romantic as it seems, I was secretly hoping my husband wouldn’t want to rent a motorbike and go exploring. Inexperience, steep hills, sharp curves and frequently rain-slicked roads seemed reasons enough to abstain. I’ll admit it; I was scared. But you know what, I felt the fear and did it anyway. And oh man, am I glad I did! Freedom to roam, breathtaking views and beaches all to ourselves–totally (frightening, exhilarating and) worth it.

4. Disconnect.

Try not to let your camera get in the way of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. From time to time, practice disconnecting. Put the camera down and simply be in the moment. (Resist taking a picture of the moment.) It is often while we’re adjusting the settings or the flash that that moment passes us by.

5. Give back.

This requires a bit of research but there are a lot of folks out there doing some pretty amazing things and you can help. We found a cooking school whose profits fund an animal welfare centre,  got massages at a women’s prison rehabilitation training centre, visited an elephant camp that promotes sustainable tourism and helps at-risk women escape poverty and spent a weekend building, cooking and cleaning alongside volunteers in the mountains of northern Thailand. Whenever possible, it feels great to be able to put your money (and time) where your heart is.

6. Find your tribe.

There’s just something special about connecting with familiar people in an unfamiliar place. Although you don’t know each other, it’s a bit like finding a home away from home–at a vegan café, in a yoga studio or during a cooking class. Suddenly, you’re connected. And the world is that much smaller.

7. Give thanks, every day.

In Bali, beautiful handmade offerings or banten, are laid out on the sidewalks several times a day. Such offerings are the Balinese way of giving thanks. The word banten comes from the Sanskrit bali, which means gift, tribute, offering–or from enten, which means to wake up or to be conscious. Taking a few moments a day to practice gratitude is medicine for the mind, body and spirit. It can change your life.

8. Reinvent yourself.

Try something new while you’re away–something you’ve wanted to try for a while but haven’t felt comfortable enough or brave enough (or had enough time) to do in your normal, day-to-day environment. Green juice? Yoga? Meditation? You never know, you may love it–and it might just follow you home.

9. Less is more.

This applies on so many levels; being on the road always gets me thinking about how little I really need–in my backpack and back home. It challenges me to consider what is truly essential in my life. Coming home, I feel the need to simplify–to let go of some of my stuff.

It’s a liberating experience.

It creates time and space for the things that matter most–like feeling loved, finding joy and making a difference.

The thrill and adventure of the road is intoxicating–and Bali and Thailand were wonderful–but one thing’s for sure: There’s no place like home.

Appreciate and enjoy what you’re coming home to.

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{photos: Katie Hussong}

Assistant Ed.: Stephanie Sefton/Ed: Sara Crolick


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