Want to feel like a person again?
Go travel. Not a roasting on a beach chair with a cocktail in hand vacation but the back of a moped cruising through parts unknown travel, past cliffs and waterfalls, the wind rushing over your face. The kind of travel where you’re uncertain, uncomfortable, and the locals are offering you something to eat that might still be breathing. Go somewhere where you have to actually pay attention to get from point A to point B, not just the daily teleport, I mean commute. Go somewhere so far and foreign it fills your senses so completely it shoves every day life completely out of your mind.
Has your life become so monotonous that you just shuffle through your daily existence without looking up or noticing anything? Is there nothing upstairs but crickets?
Stand and gawk in front of the Taj Mahal. Watch the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Feed an elephant breakfast. Fill your eyes with such awe that your jaw drops and your mind bursts with creativity.
Make Conscious Decisions
Traveling forces you to make decisions about how you spend your time. From where you eat to where you stay to what you do all day. Our daily existence coaxes us into this comfortable world where one day fades into the next and we stop having to make decisions. Sometimes we end up in a (deep) rut and wonder how we got there. Get back out in the world and make many decisions. Actively decide how you want to spend your time.
In your hometown you’re Sally the history teacher, but abroad you’re fearless solo female traveler Sally. Friends, family, and colleagues have this idea of who you are. Without even realizing it they try to keep you in that labeled box, so that you’re understood and known, figured out. Maybe you are that person, maybe you used to be that person but take a moment and ask yourself, who do you want to be today? Tomorrow? 10 years from now? Give yourself the time and space to be you. Traveling gives you the opportunity to be unequivocally you.
Connect with Strangers
There’s a big beautiful world out there, filled with an amazing assortment of people. How many of them do you encounter on a regular basis? If your existence is filled with seeing the same few faces every week, or people from the same socioeconomic class, what are you missing?
Consider staying with a family. Imagine eating breakfast with a local family – sharing stories over a cup of tea, forging a relationship that just might last a lifetime.
Use your wits. Think on your feet.
Delayed flights, missed connections, lost luggage, communication failures. Travel is like getting a master’s degree in being agile and adaptable. Maybe life has become so certain that you’ve stopped having to think on your feet. Get that ability back. Learn how to handle snafus with grace, humility, and a smile, a trait that will pay dividends in all parts of your life. All it takes is practice and a willingness to fail.
Remember, if you’ve managed to find a street market in a small town in Peru to buy underwear and pants after your luggage didn’t show up, you are absolutely living.
Bogged down by all of the things? Work, family, house, the lawn you have to mow? Take a break, take a breather. Climb a mountain or roam the streets of a foreign city. Forget about everything. Incredibly, ideas will abound.
Learn to talk like a normal person again
Try it. Say ‘low-hanging fruit’ to a local. Note that blank stare. That look isn’t just the puzzled expression of a non-English speaker, it’s a reflection of you becoming a corporate-speak zombie. Take the time to clear out the everyday chatter and consciously think about the words you use. Think new thoughts, break those zombie patterns, generate new ideas, and talk like a human.
Though, if you’re lucky you might get a mango out of the encounter.
Be Present. Be Still.
Turn off your phone. Lock it in the hotel safe. Step slowly away. You’ll probably experience withdrawal. I know I have. It passes. Just wait. Remember those ‘your mind on drugs’ egg commercials from the 90’s? Your brain is hooked on the dopamine rush from the phone ding in the same manner. Every time it dings your brain lights up.
But wait, what’s this? Real life actually unfolding around you? Conversation with people in real life? In real time, unfettered by incessantly, obnoxiously present metal boxes? Re-learn how to focus, pay attention, make your companion feel significant, and verbally spar on your feet again.
When you walk away from a market stand and the vendor is grinning with such glee that you know, without question, you’ve failed that negotiation. But that’s OK! Failing is part of actually living, actually being present and living a life that’s more than a circular loop of the exact same events every day. Huzzah to the swindling merchant for showing you you’re alive!
Experience deep gratitude
It’s so easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel of everyday life, so much so that we stop appreciating the many wonderful things we take for granted. Air conditioning, chilled filtered water, ice (!), plentiful grocery stores, and reliable wi-fi, just to name a few. After a few hot sticky weeks in Thailand I nearly hugged the air conditioner when I got home.
Use every last one of those vacation days you have. The world is calling.
(‘Menu of your life’ comic credit Frits Ahlefeldt)