Travel can teach us many things: acceptance, flexibility, awareness. And if we allow it, it teaches us deep gratitude. Gratitude for one another, gratitude for what we have, gratitude for what we don’t need, gratitude for new experiences, gratitude for life. Today, in our Gratitude Through Travel Series, Aaron from Amble Unbound tells us how finding gratitude through travel has made all the difference. (Check out his travel tip!)
After visiting 35 countries around the world and spending years out on the road, I can safely say that I have been through a lot. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve met along the way as well but life hasn’t always been easy however, and my being stubborn and fiercely independent, has made many lessons take a while before they sink in. But amidst the back drop of busy airport terminals and baggage claims everywhere, I’ve managed to tease out a few gems of inspiration that have changed my life. Here are five lessons about gratitude I’ve learned while traveling.
#5 Find the strength to take a leap of faith.
Any trip I take always starts out the same way; filled with anticipation, anxiety and worry. My head spins with the stress over budgeting money properly or flight details – this, that or the other. But despite my fears of uncertainty, I end up having an incredible experience, like when I hiked 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago last year. Without that initial leap of faith, out of my comfort zone, I would have no story to tell. That’s why I’m so grateful for the strength to take that leap of faith, into the unknown. No matter what happens, I always end up on my feet.
#4 Learn from your mistakes
Mistakes, especially when abroad, are inevitable… and indispensable. Any missteps in my life have helped make me the person I am today. I am smarter, more experienced and confident as a result. Without the mistakes I’ve made while traveling – like getting dehydrated in Kenya or lost in Helsinki – I wouldn’t know how important it is to bring water and a map when exploring the next time. You can only learn so much about the world from inside a classroom. The real lessons are out on adventures.
#3 Be thankful for what you have
I live out of a suitcase and on a good day I can choose between 3 different shirts. My most prized possession is my iPod. Something happens when you strip down to your most basic of belongings. The concerns of the “real world” fade away as your life is enriched with experiences, not possessions. Living this way has taught me to be grateful for what I have in life. I have a roof over my head, a warm place to sleep and plenty to eat. When finishing an all-day hike in the Grand Canyon, a cold drink of water could change my mood instantly. It’s the little things in life I try to appreciate.
#2 When in doubt, laughter is universal
When I don’t speak the same language as someone, I rely on humor. Laughter and smiles are universal and some of the best, most uncontrollable laughing fits I’ve ever had (You know the kind where you laugh so hard and so long your ribs and face hurt?), have been with people I could barely talk to. I’ve found that, more often than not, the most common ground between people is humor. It’s understood globally. It’s a great realization. A shared funny moment feels so genuine and somehow helps bring us closer together as humans. Defenses drop down and apprehension melts away as laughter breaks all barriers.
#1 live for what truly matters most
A life of travel has made me realize what truly matters most to me; my health and happiness. My trips to Africa or Europe or across the U.S have helped me understand that what I’m looking for, money can’t buy. My favorite TV shows or pubs suddenly have less appeal whereas the thought of trekking across the Australian outback makes my heart sing. Due to my travel experiences thus far and knowing now what my true happiness feels like (overjoyed, uplifted and alive), I will spend forever chasing my passions… no compromises.
Travel has had such an incredible impact on my life and I’m stunned by how much happier I am now as a result. I show gratitude every day for the things I’ve accomplished and give thanks for the places I’m going. My greatest wish is that everyone has the opportunity to travel somewhere and discover inspiring lessons of their own.
How to use gratitude to change YOUR thoughts
Let’s face it, travel can be stressful. Many of us like to tell ourselves that a permanent vacation is the ideal lifestyle. But doing anything for an extended period of time without a break can be harmful to the body and soul, travel included. Not properly looked after stress and negative thinking can spiral your upbeat enthusiasm into a jetlag, fueled rage when you find your hotel doesn’t have your reservation!
Over the years, I’ve dealt with stressful travel experiences in different ways, but my favorite is Giving Thanks. I have taught myself the power of Gratitude and use this technique every day to battle exhausting travel days and increase awareness.
Make a list of all the things you’re thankful for; it will force your attention on the positive things in life. Over time your subconscious mind will do this automatically and it will become habit. Soon, a delayed flight or feeling “Hangry” won’t phase you in the slightest. Knowing how to focus your thoughts can be a total game changer if you practice.
Aaron K is a blogger from Midwest America and writes about travel, truth and well-being. His adventures have taken him from the Great Plains of Africa to eating squid in Rome. Follow his journey at Amble Unbound as he discovers a deeper understanding of life’s meaning and purpose.