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One of the things I realized during my 5 months of traipsing around Eastern Europe is that travel is a metaphor.

It’s not about taking a 10 hour plane ride to get somewhere, picking the right luggage, or eating weird foods in exotic countries.

 

Long-term travel is, without a doubt, one of the greatest forms of education available.

Travel wakes you up; pulls you out of your routine, stretches your comfort zone. It opens your eyes to new ideas and shifts your perspective. This mindset doesn’t have to end when you return home. There are so many things you learn from globe-trotting that apply to life in general.

Here are 5 key ways the lessons you learn from travel can be used to enrich your everyday life:

 

1. Live in the moment

Travel has a way of making us breathtakingly aware of the exact moment that we’re in. When you’re watching the sun sink behind the stony peaks of a Greek island, getting pelted with tomatoes in Buñol, or fending off squirrel monkeys while trekking in Costa Rica, you’re actively engaged in the present.

You’re not thinking about that email that you need to send, or what your friends are posting on Facebook. In a world where we are constantly connected – yet isolated – by technology, there is something so unbelievably heady about simply being where you are, with life happening right there around you.

Travel heightens your awareness of the preciousness of each moment – this experience, with this person, in this location can never be duplicated. It will never happen again – not exactly like this – so you savor it. You feel the privilege of getting to experience it. You understand the true value of today; of now.

“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne

This attitude doesn’t have to exist only on the road. It takes practice, but you can learn to be in the moment during your daily life. Next time you log into Facebook or check your email for the 87th time that day, ask yourself if you’re doing it for a reason or just distraction?

Does browsing your Instagram feed really make you feel more connected to the world? All the pleasures and entertainment of the virtual world are no substitute for a real-life conversation with someone who matters.

Dandelion-fieldPeace is Every Breath by Thich Nhat Hahn, the world-renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk, is one of my favorite resources for learning how to feel joy and happiness exactly where you are. For a monk, he’s remarkably relatable and down to earth.

I take 30 minutes in the morning now to do some yoga stretches, meditate a little, and just sit and enjoy my coffee. This time is sacred to me, and it sets the tone for my day. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed now, I close my eyes for 2-3 minutes and just bring myself back into the now.

There are endless rewards to be gained, even at home, by simply unplugging from distractions and embracing the moment.

 

2. Simplify your life

Travel forces you to simplify; to reduce your everyday possessions to what you can fit into a backpack or suitcase. It makes you evaluate what you actually need.

It also limits the amount of stuff you can acquire on the road. (I know there are some shopping addicts out there – like my sister – but most long-term travelers tend to keep it minimal.)

What you accumulate while traveling is new experiences, new paradigms, and new friendships which inevitably enrich your life in a way that new “things” never could.

“The more you travel, the more you realize that your most extravagant possessions can’t match the satisfaction you get from finding new experiences, meeting new people, and learning new things about yourself.” – Rolf Potts (Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel)

Abiding by the principles of simplicity at home doesn’t mean living like a pauper. It means living with a deliberate effort to be time-rich instead of just surrounded by stuff.

How much of what you own genuinely improves the quality of your life? Do the things around you enable you to live more vibrantly or just add clutter? Do you buy things out of necessity or a compulsion to fill a different need? Are you shopping to avoid dealing with an underlying issue?

Research has shown that happiness is maximized by spending our money on life experiences that fit our personality instead of possessions.

Treating a friend to dinner or drinks is more fulfilling than buying a new pair of jeans. Taking your son to a football game will lead to longer-lasting satisfaction than buying a new jersey.

This less materialistic state of mind will also make it easier to save money without feeling deprived.

 

3. Slow down

Anyone who has traveled long-term understands the beauty of being free from a strict itinerary. When you’re not rushing to check attractions off your list, you’re able to slow down and simply observe life happening around you.

Paddle boarding to Alonissos

You meet interesting people, you start to notice things you normally wouldn’t. During my 5 weeks on Skopelos island I was lucky enough to be invited into the lives of some amazing people.

I was able to distance-swim with a dive instructor and hear his fascinating stories about discovering unexplored shipwrecks. I became friends with the vivacious Marina, a taverna owner who threw a Greek hip-hop party for my birthday. I went on a day-long island-hopping expedition via paddleboard, which was one of the most challenging, terrifying, and rewarding experiences of my life.

Today we have multi-million dollar businesses trying to replicate the concept of leisure, both at home and on the road. We are bombarded by advertisements from companies who try to sell us on the idea that their products or services will allow us to relax and enjoy life.

The problem with this form of leisure is that it’s often as hurried and rigidly confined as our work life. What is truly a better representation of leisure? A 60-minute massage at The Four Seasons, or having the freedom to wander around and explore Bali for a month?

Most of the time our home life is spent in a frantic rush to get from one thing to the next. How often do you feel like you’re constantly playing catch-up? Rushing to work, to pick the kids up from school, to get all our errands run. When’s the last time you simply sat and ate dinner without watching TV or checking your phone?

Your boss might appreciate your ability to do 7 things at once, but it won’t make you feel any happier or more fulfilled. In a world where multitasking is glorified, practice pulling back and focusing on exactly what you’re doing.

It seems counter-intuitive at first, but taking small breaks during the busiest point in your day will actually improve your quality of life and productivity in the long run.

Step away from your computer for 20 minutes at lunch time. If you can, take a brief walk outside. Listen to some mood-boosting music or your favorite podcast when you’re stuck in traffic instead of stressing out over how slow you’re going. Put the phone away during dinner time or date night. If you’re with someone, be with that person.

Until you’re able to slow down and savor your everyday experiences (yes, even your daily commute) you’ll be cheating yourself out of small moments of discovery and joy.

 

4. Spend your time wisely

Travel makes you realize that your time is the only thing you really own in life; the only thing you have a finite amount of, and can never get back once it’s gone.

Do you ever feel like you’re too busy to spend time doing the things you love? If you’re spending 10+ hours a day working at a job that doesn’t fulfill you in order to buy a bigger house, a newer car, or more stuff, your happiness ROI is going to be pretty low.

“The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of not spending your life doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar

Warren Buffet has a brilliant 5-step process for prioritizing success. The key, he says, is once you have identified the top 5 things most important to you, you have to be committed to spending your time and energy on those things alone. Everything else becomes part of a not-to-do list until you have accomplished your top 5.

People-bikingWhen you find yourself overwhelmed with business, take a hard, honest look at your day. Are the things that you’re spending the most time on directly contributing to what really matters to you? If not, eliminate them.

Spend less time working on things you don’t really enjoy or buying things you don’t really need. Spend more time learning new skills and connecting with friends and family.

Your time is the single most valuable currency that you have to spend. Spend it on things that make you feel alive and part of this world.

 

5. Push your limits

Nothing opens our eyes to the misconceptions people have about the rest of the world like travel. As a traveler, you get a lot of “just be careful” or “are you sure it’s safe there?” from well-meaning friends and family.

You hear about the ‘poverty-stricken’ Philippines or ‘dangerous’ Lebanon, only to go there and be blown away by the beauty and friendliness of the people. You read cautionary tales against Couchsurfing and then experience more kindness and generosity from a virtual stranger than you ever thought possible.

You also learn exactly how much you are capable of when you’re forced out of your comfort zone. You suddenly find yourself doing things every day that you never thought were possible. There is no better opportunity than travel to face your fears, break old habits, and discover unexpressed facets of your personality.

The same limiting, fear-based beliefs that keep people from traveling also discourage you from getting out and trying new things or meeting new people at home. We stay trapped in our daily routines or keep conducting our business the way it’s always been done.

Try striking up a conversation with a stranger in a coffee shop, volunteering at a community center, or spend a day walking around viewing your city through the eyes of a tourist. Think of something that makes you nervous and then go do it.

The “anything is possibly” mentality that comes with travel can help you escape daily drudgery, rejuvenate your relationships with friends and family, and open yourself up to experiences you never imagined.

 

These are just a few ways that travel can improve your life back home.

Tell me about your experience. How has travel enriched your day-to-day life?

 

Author

Mandie

Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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Comments

  1. kelli    

    Hey Mandie
    I loved this post so much and I totally resonated with each point you made. I totally saw my own experience here. Like you said, one of the best things about traveling is what we learn, and pretty much all of it is able to be transferred to our everyday experience, and make it better in infinite ways. The part about simplicity particularly struck me because Ryan and I were talking a lot about that recently. Having been traveling for over 3.5 years now, with the exception of some clothes and a few odds and ends at my mom’s house, everything I own fits into my suitcase. And, there is something very liberating about that. My desire to buy things has diminished greatly, and even if I wanted to, I would be limited anyway by the fact I have nowhere to really put it! Not feeling like I need a bunch of stuff to be happy is a great place to be. I think most people know this on some level, but that constant exposure to ideas that tell us otherwise can be hard to fight off.

    Loved this so much!

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Kelli!

      I think people get freaked out at the idea of not having something they think they might need, and I get that. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to have some nice things; it’s just a matter of whether those things are really improving the quality of your life or just tying you down. I’m like you – I don’t have much desire to shop anymore and I honestly prefer having less stuff to worry about and take care of. My theory is, if you move enough times, you’ll start seeing your stuff as a just a giant hassle and you won’t have a desire to get more of it unless you really need it. Lol

  2. Linda Bibb    

    This article is incredibly insightful. Love it and agree with everything you said, especially the part about simplicity. My husband and I have a travel agreement: If you buy it, you carry it. Each of us has one suitcase, one carry-on, and one backpack. When we moved overseas in 2010 we sold or gave away everything we owned that didn’t fit in our suitcases. Had I known the consequence of having so little, I would have done it years ago. Nothing has made me feel more free.

    1. Mandie    

      I love that, Linda! You buy it, you carry it. It’s such a liberating feeling to realize that you can go anywhere and do anything because you don’t have to haul all your junk with you! 🙂

  3. Anna    

    Yes yes yes!! I agree with every single one of these points!
    I’m learning more and more to be in the moment. When I first started traveling, I was so preoccupied with trying to gain an audience for my blog that if I was at a new place, I’d be thinking about how to write about it. Or I’d spend all my meal times social-mediaing. Which totally negated the concept of travel and experiencing. I don’t do any of that anymore, and just enjoy now, because like you said, the moment will never be duplicated.
    And I love life so much more now that I don’t have any more “stuff” (okay, I have some stuff I stored back home, but I honestly don’t miss 90% of them). My old shopaholic tendencies are gone too, because it feels better to spend money on experiences. Or to save that money so we can travel longer or go somewhere more expensive.
    Love this post, Mandie! Sharing 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Anna I relate to that so much – even though I did feel like I got so much out of my travels, part of me regrets being too focused on what I was going to write about and not enough on what I was experiencing. I think you and I learned this the same way – I would never recommend starting a travel blog at the same time that you start traveling. I do feel like it takes some of the magic away, because you’re always viewing it through “work-colored glasses.”

      Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Alexa Nota    

    Wonderful post, perfectly said! These travel lessons resonate deeply with us and are some of the things we value most in life, and we completely agree they’re principles we can and should all apply at home. It’s so unfortunate when people equate holing up in a hotel to truly experiencing a place, or when they believe the horrible (and untrue) things they hear about foreign places they’ve never experienced in person. We just had one of those “Don’t go there! It’s too unsafe!” conversations at dinner just a few hours ago, so it’s refreshing and encouraging to read this tonight. It reinforces why we’re working to travel full-time and create a life rich in time and experiences 🙂 Thanks for writing this!

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Alexa!
      I’ve found that many of the places my friends or family back home have been worried about me traveling to have turned out to be some of the best experiences. When I got back I knew that I didn’t just want to settle back into the same rut, so I really try to live like I’m still on the road, even when I’m not. 🙂

  5. Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom    

    Oh wow Mandie! This is EPIC and AMAZING and INSPIRING!

    Your points here are so true.

    I especially love the “simplifying” one. Life is so much more enjoyable with less stuff cluttering it! I swear the state of my home reflects the state of my mind.

    Slowing down?! Absolutely! I homeschool my children exactly for that reason… we’re not in a rush to learn, we experience, explore, and learn together.

    Brilliant post!

    Wishing you a lovely week.
    xoxo

    1. Mandie    

      Awww, thanks Jennifer!

      Simplifying seems to be everyone’s favorite point here. I’m glad I’m not the only minimalist! 🙂 And wow, you homeschool…I’m always impressed with people who do that. You wear a lot of hats!

      Also, you’re kicking my butt in NaNoWriMo…but I’m really happy that you’re accomplishing something you’ve always wanted to! 🙂

  6. Alex    

    You really hit this right on the money. Love your take on a lack of possessions. I whole heartedly agree with everything you said and have tried to explain these same principles to people in the past with little resolve. It makes me smile to read someone else that “gets it”. Good job

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Alex!

      It’s funny, because ever since I’ve been back home, I haven’t even unpacked 80% of the clothes I had put in storage. It’s amazing how simple and un-stressful life can be when you get used to living with less. 🙂

  7. Carol Amato    

    Hey, Mandie,

    Oh my word, I love this post– and love your statement that long-term travel is one of the greatest forms of education available. I couldn’t agree more! 🙂 Although I don’t consider myself to have traveled long term, I have learned SO very much in the trips that I have taken.

    You are absolutely right, travel changes you in a great way and I love your number one tip. Live in the moment!

    With in the last couple of years I have really learned how to live in the moment. Being 100% present while working, and 100% present while at play. This past summer I did a few videos on this topic as I wanted to share how life-changing this is when you actually apply it to your daily life.

    I have also been simplifying my life in the last few years. We gave all of our earthly possessions away to our children, moved into a furnished apartment, and have the freedom of space and time to do as we please, and absolutely Love it. 🙂

    I have definitely pushed my limits in the last year as I have enjoyed zip lining, hot air ballooning, scuba diving, as well as visiteding five state parks/gorges… I still have skydiving and hang gliding to enjoy, and they’re on my bucket list.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome article, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

    – Carol

    1. Mandie    

      Hey Carol,

      Thanks!! Even short term travel can teach you so much, especially if you’re open to new things. 🙂

      Living in the moment is deceptively hard to master. I’ll admit, it’s still something I’m working on myself, although I’m getting better at it. 🙂

      That’s awesome that you’ve simplified your life like that!! My mom has been talking about doing that recently. I think there comes a time when you realize that all your stuff is just something you have to take care of, and it doesn’t really give much back to you. Personally, I love having the freedom that comes from being able to fit everything I own into my car.

      Thanks for stopping by, Carol!

  8. Sylviane Nuccio    

    Hi Mandie,

    Everything you’re saying about travel here is so, so true.

    I’m going to leave to Italy for a year in May 2015, and while I’m excited I’m also a bit nervous about leaving my “comfort zone” if you know what I mean. Yet, which comfort zone I can’t stand anymore and I’ve got to go see new horizons.

    The funny thing is that I’ve done it before. Back in 1993 I left my studio in Paris, France, and moved to New York. I’ll never forget I flew to New York the same day Clinton entered the white house. Quite extend trip considering that I’m still in the US, right?

    Now, I’m going to do it all over again the other way around. I want to learn Italian, I want the adventure “close to old home” and I want to say hello to France again. I’m not getting any younger, and I know it’s time for me to do this 🙂 I’m also sure that’s only the beginning of some great travels in my life.

    Thank you for your very inspiring article.

    1. Mandie    

      Sylviane,

      Wow…a year in Italy sounds AMAZING. I completely understand about wanting to leave your comfort zone but also being nervous about it. I think that’s pretty much human nature.

      Now is the perfect time to travel! I’m a little jealous about all the pasta and gelato you’re going to get to have. Haha. 🙂 I can’t wait to hear about your trip!

  9. Jaime Buckley    

    Mandie, you simply don’t know how to do small or simple, do you?

    I think you could write about walnuts and I’d be impressed (and I stinkin’ HATE those things)…

    Taking this one step further, I don’t just apply these things at home–I apply them in my mind. Yes, you said travel is a mindset–but since I’m not able to physically perform long-term travel…I do it through the stories I read and write.

    (It’s also what you do to me and so many OTHER readers on the blog, Mandie. You doubt yourself at times, but we experience it time and time again…you are that good!)

    Live in the moment? This is a hard one for me. I’m a planner, a goal maker and an obsessive driver, always trying to take that next step. Only through stories am I able to let go and lose myself, because aspects of ‘real life’ seem to be linked and I can’t let go =(

    I do have to say that YOU inspired me to try Yoga.

    Didn’t tell you that, did I! Yep, you did. I was looking at it and thinking, “I’m Mr. Fluffy! There’s no WAY I’m gonna do pretzel-stuff on a map, I’ll POP!!” But here I am, doing a little bit each day, adding a few more stretches, bends and breaths with each new session. So you ROCK. I’m really enjoying it =)

    Good thing–my life can’t get much simpler than it is. I’m all about experiences and I’ve learned, after being homeless with my whole family…twice…that the wealth and joy in life isn’t in what you haven but in who you’re with. Just like I look forward to interacting with you.

    Yesssss, you Mandie.

    >Insert “AWWWWWWW” Here<

    Slow Down is another struggle…but let me tell you, holding Roman in my arms and having baby #12 smiling back at me, well…I'll do whatever I was thinking about later. He's too cute to put down =).

    You'd be proud of me, after years of sitting for 15-18 hours a day, I AM taking small breaks to–HEY HEY–do a little more Yoga. Lol. I really wanna get back to that crazy fighter that my wife fell for. Sure she loves and adores me now, but I'd love to be her male trophy when we go out.

    Huh. Did that sound weird?
    Meh.
    I love being adored by my wife.

    Spend Your Time Wisely. YES, YES, YES!! Fortunately, as you well know, I'm doing what I love most all day, every day. Just like now. You were on my specific list of "To Do" and guess what, Mandie…

    You were #1 on the list!

    >Insert girly squeal…with a manly undertone here<

    Last but never least….Push Your Limits.

    *ahem*

    Signin' to the choir here. Nuff said.

    I'm about to attack the world of family and parenting blogs…and they'll never see me coming! Strike up conversations with strangers??

    Isn't that how we met?
    On a scale of 1 to 10, my (mental) travel has enriched my life by a 12.

    Hey, I'm fat…so I leaned on the scale.

  10. Jaime Buckley    

    See, if we just cut and paste these comments into the NaNoWriMo word counter, we could win 4-5 times each!

    1. Mandie    

      Ummm, we would win in less than a week. Is that allowed? No one said this book had to be READABLE, right?? 😉

  11. Patricia Anderson    

    Hi Mandie,

    This list is so true! Thanks for sharing this as most of the time I need to be reminded that vacation is a vacation. I have to tell myself to Live in the Moment. Even if I’m travelling for pleasure, I still think of the emails, work and even house chores. I agree with what you said “Travel heightens your awareness of the preciousness of each moment”. Being wholly present in that moment makes me experience life enthusiasm the most!

  12. Christopher James    

    Great advice. I especially like the “simplify your life” part. You sure don’t have to make your life complicated.

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