I was 28 years old when I finally found the courage to leave the country of my birth and see the wide world. My plan was essentially to go and never look back, to leave the corporate yoke behind me a fling myself off the cliff – into whatever was waiting to catch me.
I knew I would be heading to a retreat in Italy, and then had a hospitality job in London some weeks later. Apart from that, there was no plan.
That year, I lived in constant money stress and panic about supporting myself but also lost in the wonder of all the new things I was experiencing every day. In a new place, simply walking down the street can be a total joy.
I understand that not everyone is in a position to fling all sense and reason to the wind and leap into that abyss (if this is you, some of my other articles may help!). But if you do, even if for a mini break or long weekend, I heartily encourage you to get as far from home and your comfort zone as possible. The benfits can be completely endless.
1. YOU LEARN TO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
The body is a magical, marvellous piece of engineering that not only adapts to keep maximum health, but is also a highly evolved warning system that is better than any artificial gadget or piece of advice. I learned every day to eat different foods – some places have more food choices and some have less. I also learned to never, ever question my body’s warning system (which for me is increased heart rate, faint nausea and a stressed feeling). More than a mere vehicle for life, it becomes clear that our bodies are a complete asset, regardless of how they are dressed.
2. YOU LEARN WHO YOU ARE WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING
Being alone in another country where you don’t know a single soul is different to being alone at home. Sure, Skype is always there, but it is different. I remembered exactly who I was before I took anyone’s advice, or learned to consult several people before making the decision that was right for me. Learning to be really alone, and loving it, can only happen when we are far from home.
3. THE PEOPLE YOU BEFRIEND ARE LIFERS
There is some kind of magical portal that opens when we travel, like we are shot into an expanded parallel world that is exactly the same except the focus is sharper, the colours brighter, the relationships deeper. Because of this, shared experiences get burned into our memories. Unlike the grey humdrum of the “same old, same old” routine we can easily get used to, our travel friends open new worlds to us. Be prepared for the people you meet to instantly land on your “love-for-life” list.
4. YOU REALISE HOW SIMPLE HAPPINESS REALLY IS
The truth is, we need almost nothing to be happy. Once survival is taken care of, which is also relatively simple (shelter, food, drink), anything beyond that takes us either into happiness or away from it. Travelling is a commitment to happiness that we have made to ourselves, and so we tend to choose our activities accordingly. For example, you are much less likely to go and do something that makes you cringe when you are on vacation, right? But you’d probably do it more often than you’d like at home. Travel makes happiness a no brainer, and home really is wherever you lay your hat.
5. THE EXPECTATIONS OF SOCIETY MELT AWAY
How we are viewed by others can be a driving force in our routine lives. Maybe it’s the media, maybe it’s the boredom. Whatever the cause, I find myself much more swayed by others’ opinions when I am at home, than when I travel. In another country, where no one has a preconceived idea of me, and I can “try on” new lifestyles and new decisions, I feel freed from the chains of expectation. I become more me, more real. Have you ever noticed that people look different in their travel photos than their selfies in the office? This is why. If you ever daydream about not conforming to anyone else’s ideas, travel is the key.
6. YOU BEGIN TO REALLY LIVE FOR YOURSELF
You’re a compassionate human. You like to help, and give and receive love. For this reason, we all tend to overcommit ourselves, and it can take a toll. When you are far from everything you have ever known, you reconsider everything you think and know. Relationships, passions, the way things look and smell… all of these take on a new perspective and things become clear. The difference between selfish and self-love are sharper, and your priority becomes you. You realise you can love people just as hard from afar. And it’s a wonderful, blessed relief.