The Life Lessons I Learned from Travelling

One of my favorite life wisdoms comes from a Hadith or a saying of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Live in this world as a traveller or a stranger
— Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

For me, this statement elicits a philosophy of simplicity and ease not commonly found in the world today. The essence of this speaks to me of a life philosophy, a way of carrying oneself, that focuses on the present, "What could I be doing right now?" From my first few experiences travelling, I have drawn a few reflections that I thought of sharing (with a few of my photos sprinkled throughout).

1. Be Present

There are several times when you get wound up in everything that's on your plate. Deadlines, relationships, commitments, and balancing all that with your "me time". Often in that frenzy of priorities we ignore (or perhaps forget) the experience that puts us where we are: here. The photo here was one I took while walking down Fisherman's Wharf with a friend in San Francisco, we didn't have any particular plan, no specific idea of what we were doing in mind, we were experiencing the moment, we were present.

Thinking back at other parts in my life where I wasn't present, I feel I've missed a lot of things. Some that I know and reflect on today, others that are lost to me and I'll never have a chance to experience them again. Opportunities come and go throughout our time living, but we may be holding on too tightly to a few to miss the other small ones that pass us by. Don't let the past chain you, and don't let the future consume you.

2. Be Grateful

There are many times where I've forgotten to thank those who have helped me to where I am today, family members and friends, many of whom selflessly supported me when I needed help and who are the backbone of who I am today. Travelling gave me the chance to count my blessings and reflect on the people that matter to me. Throughout that reflection I realize I have a lot of favors to owe and people to thank.

Gratefulness isn't limited to people, however, it's experiences, it's sights, sounds, taste, touch, feeling. It's the full human experience and the appreciation of the dimensions you can experience within it, the good and the bad.

3. Embrace your mistakes

There will be times when you screw up, there will be times where you make the worst mistakes and the most ridiculous of decisions. Everything from "I paid how much for hotel laundry?" to "I should have treated them better when I had the chance." Mistakes make us human and there's no getting around that fact. Embracing them in the manner that helps you accept it is critical to improvement. It can be to laugh, to cry, to talk, or to brush off the error, the trip-ups are there to show you where you need to work on (or simply to remind you that you're not all that).

Last year I was flying back from a trip to Munich, Germany. Because of my own error, I didn't realize I booked my layover for 10am the next day not pm like I had thought originally. In a quick panic of frenzy I called the airline to see if there was any way I could adjust the flight but was faced with a stern no (unless I wanted to pay over $4000 extra for business class). I ended up finding a hotel and just living that moment caused by my own stupidity. You will mess up today if not tomorrow, but damn if that gets the best of you.

4. Don't take life too seriously

There's always room for fun, if not, make room. Some of my most enjoyable times were from spur of the moment actions or reactions. I found that my general enjoyment in life is much better when I take a second to remove the soft barriers from our lives. One of my most memorable ones come from when I was in college during the annual spring fest. During the school spring fest, they would bring out live music, have booths from the various clubs, and several other activities including a inflatable obstacle course.

Of course, since it's Seattle, it was raining fairly heavily that day and so nobody was on the obstacle course because it was soaking wet. That term, I happened to have one early morning class and one evening class (leaving me with a load of free time on my hands). I was hanging out with a few friends in one of the building lobbies right next to the festivities and I noticed the obstacle course. "Man, I'd be on that right now if it weren't raining," someone mentioned. I paused at this statement and thought "Why am I not on that right now?" Sure, I'd be soaking wet, but I could find a way to dry off by the time my class came around.

So, without explanation, I told them to watch my bag and jacket and proceeded to take off my shoes and run outside to the obstacle course and make a full pass through it. I then proceeded to walk back inside, thank those who were watching my stuff and resumed my day.

Obviously, this doesn't have to the be the average bit of fun you place in your day. It can be anything from a basic morning walk to going to a barcade to feel like a kid again.

5. Stay true to yourself

This might be one of the hardest ones to really embrace. Really capturing your essence to know who you yourself are at your core being. It's very easy to lie to yourself and, by extension, to overwhelm yourself. By being genuine and really doing things that you want, versus what you hear from others, can dramatically affect how you view life.

When I go places, I personally like to do my best to not go to the touristy places in town. Of course, you can do that if you want to but there's nobody forcing you to do one or the other. If it's something that makes you happy, seize it, otherwise let it go. Life is too short to fake your own happiness for the good of others.

Those are a few of my thoughts from travelling around and experiencing life. Of course this is all subject to change and your mileage may vary. This is just a guide to some things to consider from your next weekend getaway to your next step of life.