Over the past few years I’ve been learning to live a more mindful life. A friend recently asked what sparked this change for me, and as I reflected, I realized it was travelling.
The first time I travelled was to Italy in high school – I took a summer course and went abroad with a group of students during the summer. It was an amazing experience that left me wanting more, so in university I did the same thing – went to Siena in Italy for 5 weeks and took another Italian course. My background is Italian and I just loved immersing myself in the culture and understanding a bit more about how life worked in that part of the world.
Europe also fascinated me – the history and laid back lifestyle. So, once I graduated university I took off for another two months and backpacked all around Europe with two girlfriends. Our route looked something like this: London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Barcelona, Ibiza, Paris, Athens, Mykonos, Ios, Santorini – we really packed it a ton and the experience was like no other.
Then in 2012, I was feeling quite unsatisfied with my bank desk job, I wanted something new and I felt the urge to explore more of the world… again.
So this time I took off to live in South Korea for one year teaching ESL English. After living with my parents my entire life, I was excited to be fully independent. Living in Seoul – the city that never sleeps – was an experience of a lifetime.
After my one year, I decided to use up the money I had saved working in South Korea to travel for three months in South East Asia – alone. Up until now, I hold that travel experience close to my heart. It taught me sooo much about the world.
I remember leaving South Korea and getting off the plane in Cambodia and it was an intense culture shock; something I hadn’t experienced before. Many of the countries I visited such as Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia encompassed a lot of the same religions and values, and I was able to notice that generally speaking, people were so kind and seemed happy with extremely LITTLE – which really affected the way I perceived and valued “stuff”.
So with solid travel experience now firmly under my belt, here are my top tips on how travelling made me (and can make you) a more conscious individual:
1. Travelling instills a mindset of gratitude.
I truly believe that the shift in me happened when I was able to see how different my life was from those in less developed countries. How could I complain about small things when I have so much to be grateful for? The people I encountered had so little, yet they were so happy with all they had. It truly opened my eyes to our culture in the West of constantly wanting more, more, more, yet still not completely satisfied. Learning to be grateful for what you have is the first step in feeling good.
2. Travelling gives you space to live in the moment.
What I absolutely adored about travelling was the freedom I felt. I am an incredible planner and live each day with an organizer that fills every hour of my day. I absolutely loved the freedom of ditching the planner, and plans! It meant that I could live in the moment and appreciate the now. No time – more freedom, less restriction, more NOW.
3. Travelling opens you up to opportunity and out of your comfort zone.
This was HUGE for me as a solo-traveller. I got to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted – but it also meant that I was put in situations that were at first uncomfortable (I felt fear, or felt shy), but then I learned to build confidence and now I feel self-assured knowing that I can handle similar situations with much more ease.
4. Travelling helps you to slow down.
In many parts of South East Asia I visited, I could see life was simple, and slow. Mindfulness seemed an essential part of culture in these areas, and I learnt that slowing down is needed in order to reconnect with ourselves, reflect on situations and stay true to you.
5. Travelling helps you to have a broader perspective.
Seeing the world opens your eyes to new perspectives and challenges what you thought you knew. I found it helped me to understand situations from a different mindset too, and not always be stuck with MY way of thinking. Knowing that there is so much more to the world then what you are used to seeing helps you loosen up the small things that can easily aggravate you. It helps you also understand that we all have a story – we come from different places with different mentalities – so it’s best not to jump to conclusions or judge someone.
6. Travelling teaches you the universe has got your back.
I learnt to trust that it always, always does. It’s funny how a certain sequence of events seems so hard to believe when you look back – the fact that I would meet people in one country and randomly see them again in another. Or how I lost all my credit cards and there was person after person there to just help me along the way even when I felt frantic. When you allow the flow of life to happen organically, you start to see how synchronistic events unfold and how some how, in some way, you are always taken care of.
7. Travelling encourages you to live with less (and I don’t just mean travelling lightly either!)
It makes you realize that having more doesn’t necessarily equate to more happiness. That experiencing life has more value and meaning than things and that when you are able to see the world with new eyes, you will bring this new perspective to all that you do. You will understand that less is more and (hopefully) will be encouraged to shift the way you consume to one that is more encompassing of the big picture – one that helps people all around the globe and our lovely planet.
Now over to you: Do you love travelling? What have you learned on your travels? Share any fascinations you’ve had with this incredible world in the comment section below.