Traveling is a wonderful way to learn more about ourselves and the world around us. Besides, escaping our problems and finding a fresh perspective has its perks, especially when we are surrounded by white sand beaches or Gothic architecture.
But along the way we find something else: a few pivotal life lessons that shape our identity and the lives we lead – both during our travels and away.
Here are three of the biggest life lessons that I’ve learned during my own travels, and I hope you recognize them as your own.
1. Make Your Own Fun
If you’re traveling independently (and I highly recommend that, at some point, everyone does) there will be numerous moments when it’s just you, a folded map, and foreign money.
Whether you’re taking a hike through the mountainside or grabbing a Mai Tai in town, there will come a point when you feel estranged. You are not surrounded by the comforts of your own home and desperately searching for entertainment. But where to go?
Traveling quickly shows us where we find our fun. The local coffee shop, the outdoor winery, or the nearby yoga studio – wherever it is, we tend to frequent the same types of places during our travels. Notice this. What can you do to get out of your comfort zone? How you challenge yourself to experience something new?
Put into Practice: Tree Pose. While standing in tree, you have to dig deep into our roots, just as we have to do while traveling. Notice what happens when your balance is challenged. What are your perpetual habits? Do you drop out of the pose, or recover by leaning into a certain side of your foot? How can you change this?
2. Be Friends With Everyone
Chances are that no matter where you travel – at home or abroad – there will always be locals who know you’re a visitor. Frequently they will want to chat with you, give you advice, and ask you questions. Sometimes they become overbearing, ready to show you around for the day and introduce you to their grandchildren, but often they have valuable insight into their hometown.
For some, this can be daunting – especially if your energy levels are already running low. But meeting new people is an important part of the experience, and if none are coming to you, then it’s time to go to them. Talk to the bartender, barista, or hotel staff. Ask questions. Smile. Treat them like your closest friends. If they’re rude, also remember: you’re just visiting.
Put into Practice: Bridge Pose. With both feet firmly planted on the ground and the heart opened, it’s easier to feel where the heart is closed. How can you breathe deeper into the heart-space? How can you expand your acceptance and embrace the unknown?
3. Be at Home Within Yourself
I mean this in both in the existential and physical sense of the word. Traveling is not the most glamorous of activities. We often feel grimy and sluggish, eating foods and sleeping in beds that are not our own. Along with packing to-go snacks and tiny toiletries, it’s important to take time for the physical body. Move. Stretch. Breathe. Learn to take care of yourself in the simplest of ways, even away from normal exercise routines and beloved yoga teachers.
Realizing that you can to survive – no, thrive! – away from the home you have created is the most profound part of traveling. To learn that you have everything you need, even when you’re far away, brings us back to our most basic, primal instincts. It returns us to our inner simplicity. Reminds us that nothing is permanent, and we will always be okay.
Put into Practice: Downward Dog. The central posture to yoga asana, one that brings us back home time and time again. Stay in Down Dog and feel your feet and hands pressing into the earth. Relish the connection. It is not permanent. Continue lifting your sit bones higher and know that, no matter what the practice brings, you can always come back here. Back to your roots, your strength, and your breath.
So go ahead and buy your ticket. Whether it’s a bus ticket to the next town over or a plane ticket overseas, there’s always a good reason to find a moment away. If only so that you can make your own fun, befriend strangers, and be at home within yourself.
There are so many life lessons that travel teaches the curious souls, the wanderers, those seeking respite from life stresses, and everyone who has the desire to see the world with open eyes, mind, and heart. What has travel taught you? Bon voyage!
Image credit: Stephanie Birch