There’s just something about travel. Every day feels like an adventure, an escape, a dream full of endless possibilities. You wake up every morning full of anticipation, never knowing exactly where you will go, what you will do or what crazy characters you might meet along the way. You live completely in the present moment. You happily try new foods; speak to strangers; get lost; take photos of absolutely everything; become awed by a flower or a rainstorm or a really cool door… You want to soak up every single second, seize every opportunity, every lesson, and every experience – good or bad – that reminds you how awesome life truly is.
Then return to reality. Suddenly everything is completely ordinary and predictable. There’s nothing to be excited about. You feel like an outsider, even though this is your true place, these are your true people. You long to disappear into the sunset once again and reclaim that sense of limitless adventure and freedom. How can you ever expect to find that same happiness here when nothing is ever different or surprising or new? And yet there are people right now in the exact same place, surrounded by the same people, looking at the same things, maybe even on the same bus as you, with the same grumpy bus driver, and for them it is an incredible adventure full of unknown. They are probably from someplace far away, where everything looks and feels and sounds and tastes completely different. They don’t really know where this bus might take them or what they might experience along the way. But actually, neither do you. In reality, anything can happen at any moment – and often it does.
So what is it exactly that enables one person to see a bus trip as a great adventure while the person next to them sees it as the most miserable and boring part of their day?
Well, the only difference is their state of mind. It is not simply the actual place we travel to that gives us incredible experiences – it is also the fact that when we travel our minds are more open, more optimistic, and more appreciative. How often have you woken up for work on a Monday morning with a huge smile on your face in ‘real life’ and thought: “This is going to be an amazing day”? And yet, it makes complete sense to wake up with a huge smile on our face in a hotel room in Rome, or a tent in Cuzco, because we absolutely expect it to be an amazing day simply because we are in Italy or Peru! And due to that optimism, it more than likely will be.
Even when we have a negative experience travelling, while it may be traumatic in the moment, we are far more likely to be able to see the lesson, and maybe even the humour, later on. Did you get mugged? Hassled? Stuck on a broke down bus full of chickens and screaming children for six hours when you had a plane to catch? We promptly tell ourselves and each other: “Oh well, these things happen when you travel”, “It can’t all be smooth sailing”, and “It will make a great story”. How much harder is it to remind ourselves of these things when we have such an experience back in ‘real’ life?
So, basically, it is possible to create adventure and happiness no matter where you are or what you are doing – just by thinking like traveller:
1. Be open. Just say yes.
2. Go out of your way to try something new every day.
3. Let go of disappointments more quickly. Find the lesson and the humour, and then focus on the new possibilities that have been created.
4. Appreciate the awesome moments more fully. Trust me, once you start looking there are a lot more than you might think.
5. Try this experiment and see what happens: wake up with a smile and expect the day to be nothing less than amazing.