No decision has had a greater impact on our lives than the decision to sell everything, leave home, and travel together as a family. We’ve never been happier, felt closer together, and enjoyed our experiences and relationships so thoroughly as we do right now. This month, as part of a group writing project with other traveling families, I’m going to attempt to share some of the life lessons I’ve learned “on the road.”
I hesitated in joining this writing project because if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that I don’t know anything. My views are constantly challenged, and the moment I become sure of something is the moment I close my mind to more learning and growth. I feel younger than a baby in my understanding of life, people, and the universe. But without travel, I don’t know if I would have realized this to the same degree, and for that I am grateful.
We’ve been traveling as a family for over 1,000 days now. I have certainly changed during that time, but many of the changes have been gradual, and many of my former beliefs and habits now feel foreign to me. So it’s difficult to put the lessons I’ve learned into words. Also, I don’t necessarily embody all of these lessons completely, but they’re ideas I have found helpful so far in my life, and have learned since we began traveling. I hope you enjoy them.
1. My way isn’t the best way.
It’s just one way. I no longer believe there is a “best” way for everybody. Each person has their own preferences, beliefs, and dreams. Differences are what make life interesting and give it flavor. I’m happier when I appreciate those differences, rather than try to change them to be more like mine. Wade Davis said, “Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you.” And this applies to more than just culture.
2. Change is inevitable.
Change can be resisted, but it cannot be stopped. People grow, age, and die. Small towns turn into cities. Cultures, trends, and businesses gain and lose their influence. Countries form and divide. Relationships begin and end. Emotions rise and fall. I’ve learned that as I “go with the flow,” accept things as they are, and become comfortable with change rather than resist it, life goes more smoothly for me.
3. Life is for enjoying.
That may be the only thing it’s for. It’s important to spend time planning for the future and learning from the past and from others. But the memories that stand out as the most meaningful to me are those when I am mindful and completely present in the moment, grateful for whatever I have and whatever I’m experiencing. Even the simplest and most ordinary moments can be marvelous when I slow down, let my thoughts, labels, and judgments go, and experience life with my other senses. Alternatively, otherwise perfect moments can become miserable if not appreciated. Each breath is precious.
4. It’s okay to say no.
I don’t like to disappoint people, or to miss out on opportunities, but I’ve learned how important it is to respect my needs and limits, and to say “no” when necessary. From being hounded on the streets by overly persistent sales people, to getting vibes about certain people I meet, to recognizing when I’m too tired or overstimulated to go out, I’m getting better at setting my own boundaries and trusting my feelings. This has helped keep me balanced and in a healthier frame of mind.
5. Life is education.
Everything I experience teaches me something, whether it’s a book I read, a person I meet, or a realization that comes when my mind is quiet. This happens on its own, often without me knowing it. Traveling has broadened this education by presenting me with new ideas, situations, and experiences. Learning is much more than a mental exercise or study in a classroom. It’s life.
To read about what other families have learned since they began traveling, check out the links below, and please feel free to share what you’ve learned in the comments.
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