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5 Life Lessons I learned While Traveling

I explored jungles, dove exotic reefs, and trekked across mountains. I crashed in 5 star resorts and bunked in wooden huts.  I dined on exotic foods and drank with the locals.

I had a lot of time to focus on the Journey, and to reflect internally on myself.

I learned a lot about the world. I learned a lot about life, and I learned a lot about myself.

Here are the biggest lessons I learned while solo travelling for 7 months.

1. WHERE I GO AND WHAT I DO DOESN’T MATTER AS MUCH AS HOW I DO IT.

When I first landed in Bangkok, my mentality was I could “conquer” Bangkok. I would hit the pavement as soon as I arrive and start exploring until I had seen it all. Big surprise after a week of kicking my ass all over the city I had only seen a tiny fraction of it.

I failed in my plan so hard, my view of travelling changed completely.

I realized if I wanted to explore everything in South East Asia, I was going to need 7 lifetimes, not seven months.

The next idea was to try and root myself so deep in a culture, I eventually became a part of it.

That idea got smashed pretty quickly too. I realized even if I spent the rest of my life in one town, I could never become a part of their culture.

At best, I could only, learn to let go of my own culture.

At first I felt defeated.

I was considering ending my trip early. Most ideas of why I was travelling were unravelling. I stuck it out and eventually I learned the real way to win the game of travel.

I realized over the course of my trip, travel is not about exploring, it’s about living. Travel became about giving my soul a chance to take in life without burden.

“TRAVEL BECAME ABOUT GIVING MY SOUL A CHANCE TO TAKE IN LIFE WITHOUT BURDEN.”

While travelling I had no job.

I had no need to stay or go.

I had unburdened myself from expectations.

Travel stopped being about “conquering” and became more about living purely. I focused on stripping away my perspectives on life so I could focus on exposing my senses to life around me.  I began to absorb the world around me in new ways.

I learned how to look and see the world.  It was like going from seeing in black and white to seeing in color.

I watched other travellers bend over backwards to see everything in their tour guides, but they were blind to the world they were moving through.

They wanted to see the sites for the checkmark in their books.  They treated these places like an amusement park and completely missed the actual life going on beneath their feet.

I saw how I once was.  How blind I was.  It’s not about how much I see, it’s about how I see it. Travel gave me new eyes to view the world. It gave me new eyes to see myself.

 

2. MOTION IS THE CURE TO ANXIETY

Anxiety is like weeds in a garden.

No matter what I do, the weeds will always grow.

With regular attention, weeding is an easy task. Neglect that task a while, and the weeds become deeply rooted in the soil. The chore to remove them becomes extremely taxing.

Before travelling abroad I was fighting with anxiety. While searching for a new way to deal with it, I came across an interesting article. In this article, the author mentions walking as a good cure for anxiety.

Originally I didn’t give the idea much mind. That is, not until I started my motorbike trek.

Every minute travelling on that motorbike was anxiety free.  Every time I stopped to plan my next destination the anxiety would come back.

This would happen over and over.  I finally started to see the patern, and realized something that I had missed my whole life. The enemy of anxiety is motion.

“THE ENEMY OF ANXIETY IS MOTION.”

Motion is the secret. It didn’t matter how I move, as long as I’m moving anxiety can’t touch me.

Walking, riding the motorbike, even moving my fingers across this keyboard as I type this. It’s not about the physical effort. It’s about the motion.

Motion is the secret. Motion is the secret. Motion is the secret.

After I learned the secret, I could easily see where anxiety comes from.  Anxiety creeps its ugly little head up during planning.  Anxiety comes from trying to map and comprehend all the options before me.

As I add and contemplate more and more choices to weigh, my anxiety grows with it. The instant I move forward with a decision…

BOOM

That mountain of anxiety collapses.

Anxiety exists only while standing still and weighing the options. It doesn’t diminish, it doesn’t lessen, it ceases to exist once in motion.

Life requires planning and thus life requires anxiety, but now I realize anxiety has a start and an end.  I don’t fear it like I once did. I know when anxiety will come, I know when I’m feeling it, and I know when it will end.

3. TIME IS NOT A COMMODITY

I said it before. I’ll say it again.

Time is not a commodity.

I don’t spend my time.

The present and now is the only place I have control. I can guess the future but not predict it. I can learn from the past but I can not change it.

To get from where I am to where I want to be in the future I have to focus on what I am doing this very second.

I said in my 2018 Manifesto, I want to become a master storyteller.

Looking back at my past work I can see I was ok at telling stories. I can guess what it will take to be a master storyteller in the future.  I can only create the life of a master storyteller for myself in this very moment.

I’m not trading my time for mastery, I’m trading what I’m doing now. That is the only thing I have power over.

I either giving my present self towards my art, or I am giving it to something else.

I can control my future only though the actions I take in the present. Once I learned this, I realized my future can’t be planned. I can only move towards it through the limited number of actions I can take in any given present moment.

4. WE’RE ALL ANTS IN AN ANT FARM

I had an ant farm for a short while when I was a kid. I’m sure it quickly made it to the trash. I was more interested in video games at the time than watching ants.

Those ants seemed so insignificant at the time. My ants built a complex ecosystem inside that tiny glass home of theirs.  At the same time, they were completely unawhere of the massive world outside of those glass walls.

I almost felt sad for my ants confined between thin glass walls.

It’s hard for me to imagine what my ants would even do outside those walls.

The answer was obvious.

They would quickly dissapear from my thoughts.  My ants would become indistinguishable from the rest of the ants in the world.  Were my ants ever farm ants, or were their glass walls the only thing confining them to such a definition?

People are no different.

Especially in a big overcrowded city like Bangkok, I was forced to look at my own insignificance. I was moving though crowded narrow streets in a city filled with 9 million other people. I flet like one tiny ant in this giant city.

The world is big.

My entire view of the world was once from the confines of my own glass walls. The way I viewed life before travel was like my ants in their two dimensional world.

It was limited and obscured.

Sure I could see outside life, but being able to see beyond my glass walls and actually going beyond them is entirely different.

There are so many people in this world (7.6 billion at the time of this post). I’ve come to realize how insignificant I am.

That seems harsh, but it is actually empowering.

I used to obsess over what other people thought of me. Now, I realize how conceited it was to think the world carred what I did or thought.

Even if 1,000 people cared about what I did, literally 99.9999% of the world doesn’t give a F— about me.

I could burn my bridges, start over, and make 1,000 new friends 7.6 million times before the entire world hated me.

The more I realize how little any one person’s role in the world is, the more I realize how much more space I have to work with.  I am not required to constrict my life between a narrow pair of glass walls.  Nore is it my responsibilty to do so.

I can choose to live beyond them.

5. THE GREATEST GIFT IN LIFE IS TO OBSERVE IT

It’s mind melting to think about the complexity of life around me. Combined with the realization of how little my role is in it, I realize the real opportunity in life is to observe it.

It’s like getting to be part of a movie production. I might just be playing extra #3, but since I am on the set I get to see the entire production.

I get to eat the food, watch the big acts, mess around on the stage, etc. .  My role will be short lived, but I am rewarded with getting to observe the rest of it.

I will never learn, without a doubt, how life as we know it started, and what lies beyond life. The only thing I can do is enjoy it while I can.

THE MEANING OF LIFE IS TO ENJOY THE PASSING OF TIME.

That is the only definitition for life that has worked for me. In light of all the contradictions in life, this definition has made the most sense to me.

If there is one thing that all these life lessons boil down to, it is a new sense of control and ownership of my life.

There were previous psychological chains in my life.

I am free of those now.

JF

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