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March 10, 2021

Travelling taught me that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed

Photo by Meru Bi on Pexels.

I am currently writing my first travel memoir with the working title ‘Follow Your Joy’. It is an ode to learning about myself and discovering the joy of life along the way. I only hope I inspire someone to take the leap into the unknown.

Travelling the world doesn’t change your appearance, you don’t earn an extra gold badge to wear for free hugs from strangers, but it changes you deep inside. Through my travels, I have gained ninety countries’ worth of perspectives, at least ninety separate trips’ worth of stories, and endless obstacles to tackle and overcome. It feeds your imagination with far-flung adventure and turns what was once your dreams into memories. It changes how you see the world and how you live your life – if it didn’t then what has it all been for.

For a couple of years now I have asked myself that deep question, “What is this thing called life all about?”.

For me, it isn’t working the 9 to 5 existence to pay the bills or settling in a life where society’s blueprint directs you. Wishing away your week where Monday to Friday is about existing, resulting in a blur of a weekend, mainly with booze filled regrets, to repeat it all– focussing on a break in the circuit when you embark on a summer holiday. I believe every day is a day where we choose to be happy, to make a difference, and see the joy in the simple things. So many people around the world don’t have the privilege of what we take for granted in the West. So many people don’t have another day; their life gone in the blink of an eye.

Travelling has taught me the world is a playground, it is an adventure waiting for you to leap into. Endless possibilities are waiting for you if you quiet the doubts and fears, if you tear up the blueprint and if you remove the boundaries, labels, and expectations we restrict ourselves with. How many people prevent themselves from that dream trip, or ticking off the bucket item list all down to an excuse, or that killer statement “ Maybe next year”. What happens if there is no next year. When you travel and go after your goals, you slowly wake up and realise you can design your own life and happiness! By making things happen, by taking a seed, an idea, something you spot on a blog or social media and turning it into a once in a lifetime adventure.

I probably use travelling as a release, an escape from the daily grind. It is a chance to reset – let my mind wander, shoulders drop from the daily stresses that build and provide perspective to bring back into my day to day. We are conditioned in the western world to strive for more, a bigger house, the latest car, job promotions, and all the designer gear. Everything is disposable – your dinner one click away. We chase likes and followers, selfies layered with filters as everyone tries to out-compete each other. In the east life is simpler – meals made from the food grown from the land, things happen when they happen. There is an appreciation for each day. What will be, will be. No one seems in a rush; they are living in the moment.

I’ve seen real hardship and poverty on my travels. On some trips you notice they have nothing, but they are happy. It can be confronting, shining a light back on your own life. I’ve realised we place burdens on ourselves and manifest our own stress with the expectations we associate with life when all we need is very little. Travelling taught me to enjoy the day to day, the small stuff. The fresh cup of coffee, the smile as you catch someone’s eye, a sunset run as you feel the energy of the day rise.

I practice gratitude each day, every morning listing ten things I am grateful for. It balances you, and grounds your expectations from life. Stops you from chasing the big stuff and living in the future. It focuses your mind on the present. I travelled to Ethiopia in 2019 where I felt sadness, not at the little the local community had but sadness that in the West we don’t know the privileges we have, and we waste the opportunities we do have. Their smiles would break your heart as you realise people in the West have forgotten how to be happy. Comparison is the thief of joy, and social media is one big comparison engine.

Travelling taught me we make our own future. No one is going to come along, hold your hand and walk you through life. You need a plan, an idea, and if you don’t know where to start then figure out the things that make you happy. I know what fills me with joy. The great outdoors. It is a free source of energy. In 2018 I spent eight days trekking in the Himalayas, I felt a sense of connection – maybe something bigger. Being surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the world, with no access to the outside world makes you realise all we need is within us. We are stronger than we appreciate. I travelled to the Faroes Islands with some of the most amazing natured infused landscapes ever – only one hour away on a plane. Life isn’t about sitting at home on your couch surfing Netflix or scrolling through Instagram waiting for bedtime. It is about being curious, exploring and feeling alive.

Through travelling, I have learned that we need to take chances, go with the flow and connect with people. We are all on the same path and have more in common than we like to admit. Try new things, stepping out your comfort zone is when you will feel the most alive. What is the worse that could happen – face your fear bubble and lean in. I started 2020 in Sri Lanka where I learned to Surf – I probably nose-dived into the sea more than I rode a wave, but still I surfed. Back in 2018 I dated a guy who convinced me to head to the slope and I skied for the first time. That same year I was training for my first marathon in Barcelona. Thankfully, I didn’t break a leg on the slope and finished the marathon – experiencing that runners high.

I’ve travelled to places which have blown my mind – your imagination trying to keep up with its new surroundings. Japan once sat as my favourite country, soon toppled by passion filled Colombia. Now I find it impossible to have a favourite. There are countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal which stripe back your ego as you experience their simpler way of life. Lebanon is up there, home to some of the most stunning Roman ruins in the world. Petra in Jordan – simply breath-taking. Angor Wat in Cambodia is something else, sailing through Halong Bay in Vietnam – once a dream. Then there are the Eastern European capitals that have thrived following the fall of communism – Budapest in Hungary, Tirana in Albania, and Bucharest in Romania. I have ran a marathon in Bratislava, Slovenia. Visited the fjords in Norway. Salsa danced in Colombia. Enjoyed all the caipirinha cocktails in Rio. Snorkelling off the coast of Belize. Climbed the ancient ruins at Tikal in Guatemala. Visited six of the seven wonders of the world – the Great Wall of China remains. Danced the night away at a random wedding in India, and in a cave nightclub in Cuba. And experienced the magical Easter Island.

I’ve realised people can be serious – too serious, always fearing the worst; I like to be playful. When did the world get serious? People allow a two-week holiday to be ruined by a one hour flight delay. Life isn’t perfect, it is raw and filled with hurdles. Don’t live your life expecting everything to be perfect. It isn’t. We create our own misery by setting our expectations too high. Expect little, and be surprised by what you do experience.

One of my favourite things on a trip is to enjoy the sunset. It is that time of the day where you pause and reflect. Appreciate life and nature. It allows the opportunity to take a break from the demands of the modern world, slow down and watch as the day turns into night, knowing the next day is a new day where you rise and start afresh.
What would I share with anyone interested in being part of the game called ‘Travelling the World’? Keep going. Plan. Sometimes go with the flow, but always have a rough plan. Get excited. Scribble notes for future trips – it never ends. Make it happen. Lie-ins are not something to collect. Do You – Cry, Smile, but Breathe. Be Curious. Regret nothing. Embrace it all. And remember, everything is figureout-able, as coined by Maria Forleo in her 2019 book.

Travelling taught me that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. We overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, and under estimate what we can achieve in ten years. Start living today. Wake up and be grateful. Try something new. Surround yourself with likeminded people. Follow Your Joy and life in the moment. Remove the burden, the expectation, the seriousness from life. Be happy, Be Grateful, Be Present, Be Connected, Be Motivated, Be Curious, Be You.

You are unique and life is a gift – open your eyes and experience the stuff that gives you goosebumps – that is when you know you are alive. ‘Follow Your Joy’

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