BY SOFO ARCHON
Written in December 2016
I firmly believe that one of the most important gifts parents can give to their children is that of traveling.
Many times, when I was a child, my parents would take me along with them to trips they went, and for that I’m forever grateful. As I was growing older, I got to like traveling more and more, and when I reached adulthood I kept on traveling — much more frequently than before.
Now, in my 29 years of life, I’ve traveled to 35 countries in total, and here I would like to share with you some of the most important things I’ve learned from my experiences traveling the world.
Focus on each step you take
The great semi-legendary Taoist master Lao Tzu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
An experienced traveler knows that each and every moment of his journey is important. He knows that when you travel long distances, the destination that you have in mind might be difficult to reach, but being focused on the present moment, on every single step you take, the journey becomes much easier. You take one step at a time, not worrying about what will come in the future, and this way you eventually manage to somehow reach to your destination, wondering how that was possible.
The same holds true about anything that you want to succeed in in life. To achieve anything of importance, you need to focus on small, seemingly unimportant things. It’s like wanting to build a wall — you need to just lay brick after brick, and then… a wall is there! By being focused on one task at a time, you manage to achieve something truly great.
You can’t control everything
When you travel, a lot of unexpected things are bound to happen. In fact, unexpected events are something to be expected by the experienced traveler. Your flight might be cancelled or delayed, your possessions might get lost or stolen, you might get sick — you might face all sorts of difficulties that can’t be known beforehand.
But that’s exactly what life is: unpredictable. Life can’t be controlled — you might be able to somehow control it here and there, but in the end life has the ultimate control over you. Therefore, instead of fighting against the current of life, one has to learn to flow with it.
Even though you can’t fully control life, you can respond to it in different ways each and every moment, and, depending on the circumstances you find yourself in and your level of intelligence, you can manage to direct your life the way you want. As the American country and bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs once said: “I can’t control the wind but I can adjust the sail.”
Growth begins where your comfort zone ends
In order to travel, you need to learn to be comfortable with getting out of your comfort zone. That holds especially true when you travel on your own, because you have to face any problems that you find on your way all alone.
At some point in my life, I absolutely loved traveling by myself, mainly because of the challenges that this presented me with. Traveling alone to a foreign place where you know nobody and have to figure everything out by yourself can be pretty challenging, and in order to deal with those challenges, you have to do things that you might not find yourself comfortable doing, such as trying to find your way when you’re lost or asking strangers for help when in need of it.
Traveling pushes you out of your comfort zone, and this can tremendously help you grow as a person — you mature, your mind becomes sharper and you are less afraid to face challenges in life. You develop a warrior’s spirit — you are ready to deal with any problems that you are confronted with and make use of them for your own benefit. You stop seeing problems as obstacles but instead use them as stepping stones to achieve your goals.
People have more similarities than differences
Nation, language, ethnicity, religion — among other things — have divided humanity. When, however, you travel the world, you realize that much of those differences that separate us humans are only superficial, and that all people are pretty much the same, no matter the place they inhabit on our planet.
Wherever I’ve traveled, whether to Brazil, Turkey, India or Japan, I’ve come to see that people have the very same basic desires — they want to live a healthy and happy life, to love and care for their families and friends, to play and be creative, and to live in harmony with their fellow human beings.
When you travel, you come to see the thread that unites people, and once this happens, you drop your prejudices and come to embrace all humanity.
The world is wonder-full
Another thing you realize when you travel a lot is how amazingly beautiful earth is as well as how ingenious the human mind can be.
No matter where you choose to travel, you’ll most probably find incredibly beauties to experience that will be imprinted in your mind. I will never forget the forests around Vancouver in Canada, the golden beaches of Bali in Indonesia, or the Iguazu falls in-between Brazil and Argentina, just like I’ll never forget the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Taj Mahal in India, or the Buddhist stupas of Bagan in Burma. These memories are my inner treasure that I always carry with me.
Traveling, as you can understand, opens new windows that allow you to take a deeper look at the beauty of the world, thus changing your outlook on life forever.
It’s all about the journey
Lastly, one other important lesson I learned from traveling is that it’s not the destination that truly counts, but the journey itself.
In traveling, just like generally in life, it’s good to set goals, but in the end it’s not reaching your goals that’s most important — it’s what you have to go through to reach them that helps you grow the most. That is, the challenges you have to face, the pain you have to endure, the mistakes that you have to correct, the fears that you have to overcome.
Life is a journey, but many of us, focused on an end goal in the future, forget to make the most of it in the here and now, thus not reaping the precious gifts it has to offer us each and every moment. Life is like music, and, as Alan Watts pointed out, “In music, one doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest, and there would be composers who wrote only finales.” So while the music is being played, sing, dance, celebrate — enjoy the journey and the destination will come on its own.
Image credit: Matt Sclarandis
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