Traveling is the best medicine. It fills the lungs, opens the mind, and oftentimes breaks the heart (in a good way), teaching you more about yourself, your purpose, and how you can impact the world around you.
Traveling is inherently unpredictable. It has ups and downs, presents both dangers and opportunities, and is oftentimes uncomfortable – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Kara Latta, professional explorer, who just returned from Columbia offers us these tried and true travel tips for how to make the most – and get the most – out of your next adventure:
- Don’t Read Too Much Before You Go
- It’s All About Perspective
- Don’t Worry
- Be Here Now
- Be Patient
- Have An Open Mind
- Keep A Positive Attitude
Sure, you’ll want to do some research on your destination, know the popular and sketchy areas, the big cities and landmarks, but I’d recommend not over investigating every top spot and “must see” destination. Go with fresh eyes and experience these places first hand.
Plus, locals know best! Once you’re onsite, you’ll hear about places that not even the all mighty Google god has heard of. Keeping a flexible schedule, and mindset, means you’re free to take detours to local favourites instead of modelling your trip after the ones you’ve seen online.
At home, and on the road, we often get swallowed up in our selves. We stress and get annoyed about small things – our clothes not fitting, someone being late for an appointment, traffic, a big presentation. These small things seem huge and swollen with importance. We can lose site of our larger experience and the world around us. But when you’re travelling it’s easy to see how small these things are.
You see poverty and injustice, sunsets, and pure hearts. You witness the simplicity of how some people live (and are happy) and the mind-bending complexities of the natural world. You can more clearly see and feel your place on Earth, your connectedness and sameness to the larger global community. You see how we’re all part of the same universe. And hopefully you feel grateful.
It never helps.
We’re conditioned to always be thinking, planning, reflecting, rehashing, and that means we’re rarely present. Physically you may be here, on the beach or in the jungle, but mentally you’re in the past at your brother’s wedding, in a heated argument, or in the future at your own wedding, or tomorrow’s destination.
Traveling is the perfect opportunity to try to re-condition yourself. The vistas are so incredibly beautiful; it takes your breath away and forces you to be here. Your schedule isn’t as important, it doesn’t dictate the pattern and pace of your life. You spend a lot of time waiting, the hotbed for distracted thoughts and mind traps. And you have time alone to be quiet, mindful, and honest with yourself.
Experiencing different cultures, different people, different languages can be so frustrating! I mean rewarding and the reason we travel in the first place, but jeeze if you’re not careful, a missed train, a condescending man, or a communication breakdown can ruin your day – or even your trip. Travel invites us to be patient. To be compassionate and understanding. To go with the flow and be tied to the experience, not the expectation or destination.
It can be tempting to describe a hundred year old egg as “disgusting”, or a transit system “backwards”. But keeping an open mind, reserving judgment, freely listening and observing is how you grow.
Everyday I am humbled and enlightened hearing stories of how people live, how they overcome, what they do for work, how their relationships operate. This lack of judgment, helps me connect and feel like I’m truly in a different place. It helps me think creatively and freely, knowing there are many ways to live a good life. And it also helps me see just how similar we all are – in Thailand, Canada and Columbia, people seem to want the same things. Having an open mind helps me see that everyone doesn’t (and shouldn’t!) choose the same path. I’m not right, they’re not wrong, we’re all on our own journeys.
This should really be #1 on the list, but I’m saying it last so you’ll remember it. If there’s one thing you need, above all things, to travel well, and safe, and to grow whilst doing so, is to stay positive.
If you’re prone to negative thinking and let negative energy build up in you – “I can’t believe that! This queue is so stupid! These people are batshit crazy!” – you’re missing everything. Traveling is not the same as vacationing. It’s not meant to be 100% smooth sailing with personal butlers and on-call concierge. The road blocks and challenges and missteps almost always end in new friendships, amazing discoveries, and the best stories. Or they can ruin your trip. Your attitude at any given time, in any given situation is the difference between joy and suffering.
Traveling has been the answer to my prayers, the key to my happiness, and the biggest opportunity for growth and self-discovery imaginable. These 7 things help me stay strong and true and honest with myself. They remind me why I’m here and ensure that even wasted time is not time wasted.