July 16, 2014

Thriving in the Discomfort Zone: 10 Ways to Travel Well.


It is better to travel well than to arrive. ~ Buddha

I have been traveling for the past three weeks and will continue to zig-zag across Colombia until late August with my husband and our one-year-old. It would have been much easier and cheaper to stay home, in my comfort zone, with my own cozy bed and my own vegetarian kitchen.

So, why on earth did I choose this?

Well, to be honest, this trip was mainly spurred by the fact that in six months, our daughter will no longer fly free. And I wanted to spread the joy that is Jade to my husband’s family here in the south of Colombia.

But, also, I love to travel. It is enlightening. It enables us to see new places, meet new people and live—and ideally thrive—in the discomfort zone. Plus, it makes us more grateful for home once we get back there.

Here are 10 tips on how to travel well, happily and mindfully. May they be of benefit.

1. Pack light.

Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag. ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

2. Slow down & look around.

What is the rush? Meander. Look at stuff. Notice details. Be a sponge, and soak it all up.

I’m here to tell you it’s okay to travel  by foot. In fact, I recommend it. There is so much ahead that’s worth seeing, so much behind you can’t identify at top speed. ~ Cheryl Strayed

3. Expect detours and delays.

Because they will happen. A lot.

The plane will be delayed. The road will be blocked. They’ll tell you it’s a six-hour bus ride and it will turn out to be nine, because the bus will get a flat tire and there will be construction on the highway and you will get so fed up and irritated if you are watching the clock and expecting to arrive in precisely six hours.

Let it go. Pack plenty of snacks. You’ll get there when you get there.

You get educated by traveling. ~ Solange Knowles

4. Remember that there is no final destination.

Q: Are we there yet? A: Never!

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

5. Converse with the local folk.

Some of them might speak a bit of English. You might be able to speak a bit (or more) of theirs. Smiles, gestures and other body language goes a long way. Instead of depending on TripAdvisor or Google, ask the locals for recommendations of where to eat, sleep and shop. They tend to know best.

Although I was often homesick during my travels, I nevertheless felt as though I were truly home for the first time. ~ Nelson Mandela

6. Have flexible plans.

It’s good to have a general idea of where you’re going, though reservations are usually overrated. One who clings to their itenerary will inevitably suffer.

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. ~ Lao Tzu

7. Be spontaneous.

Be willing to let go of the plans. Wander with wonder. Get lost intentionally. It’s going to be okay.

Real travel requires a maximum of unscheduled wandering, for there is no other way of discovering surprises and marvels, which, as I see it, is the only good reason for not staying at home. ~ Alan Watts

8. Maintain an open mind.

Other cultures are typically very different from our home culture, but that doesn’t have to mean that one is better or worse. Don’t be judgemental. Be curious. Refrain from making generalizations. Appreciate the amazing diversity of humankind.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. ~ Maya Angelou

9. Take a picture with your mind.

Sure, take some snapshots. But you really don’t need to photograph and share every meal you eat or sunset you see. Don’t spend all your time looking through your camera lens. Look through your eyes. Be there fully and experience the moment, instead of thinking of clever captions to put on Facebook and earn dozens of “likes.”

10. Maintain joyful discontentment.

Don’t be afraid of discontent, but give it nourishment until the spark becomes a flame and you are everlastingly discontented with everything—with your jobs, with your familes, with the traditional pursuit of money, position, power—so that you really begin to think, to discover.

…one must have this total discontent, but with joy. Do you understand? One must be wholly discontented, not complainingly, but with joy, with gaiety, with love. Most people who are discontented are terrible bores; they are always complaining that something or other is not right, or wishing they were in a better position, or wanting circumstances to be different, because their discontent is very superficial. And those who are not discontented at all are already dead.  ~ J. Krishnamurti


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Son of Groucho/Flickr

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