Travel leads to epiphanies. Whether it’s during the quiet moments of reflection when you’re gazing up at the glistening jewels of the night sky or the euphoric evenings of dancing until the blazing sun ignites the heavens at dawn, different situations allow us to make sense of our own existence. The moments we step away and travel are the moments that make us wiser. As well as the fun, frivolity and freedom, we’re challenged. Our eyes our opened to diversity and this is what encourages us to build on our own life philosophies.
I decided to sit down and reflect on my travels. I looked through old photos and thought about the way each place made me feel. Here are my photos from past adventures and ten life lessons I learnt from visiting these places…
Sometimes you need to eliminate luxuries and simplify your life to discover its true meaning. There was no laptop, no phone service, no television – just the sound of the ocean waves and the warmth of the sun’s rays kissing my skin. In 2005, I sat on the beach of Manta Ray Island in Fiji carving a coconut shell bracelet and it was at this moment that I realised that eliminating the things we rely on to facilitate communication actually makes life a lot more straightforward. It’s only when you escape your so-called ‘daily essentials’ that you realise they are in-fact the ‘non-essentials’. Technology is both a joy and a hindrance. We often assume that people in other countries who don’t have modern technology are somehow lacking, but in reality, they are reaping many benefits. An absence of material goods made me realise that life’s all about embracing and enjoying the moments rather than the possessions at the centre of them.
I’ve made some lovely friends when I’ve been on my travels, and New York in particular seems to be a place that connects me with a lot of great pals. Genuine people who, no matter the distance, will remain my friends for life. The best friendships are the ones where you may not see each other very often, but it’s always good to catch up where you left off and share exciting news. My friend John is a prime example of this.
The power of food is phenomenal. I was in China for my cousin Alex’s wedding and not many of the guests spoke English. I thought making conversation would be difficult, but I soon realised that it doesn’t matter where you are or what languages you speak, if you communicate through the enjoyment of food, all language barriers will be broken down. Food unites us; it brings a group of people round a table, to smile, laugh and share moments of happiness. Our body language and facial expressions say the words for us.There’s a joy that people radiate when welcoming you into their world by giving you a sample of their local cuisine and it’s also a great way to learn about the history and culture of a place through taste.
A trip to Budapest opened my eyes and left me wanting more. It’s weird, wacky and wonderful, especially the street art and the ruin bars. These crazy bars are in abandoned buildings and courtyards, with a mishmash of colourful furniture, random objects hanging from the ceiling (such as trumpets, vases and plastic jellyfish) and the soundtrack of folk music. It fed my hunger for the unusual and seeking out a city’s eccentricities. There really is beauty in creativity, thinking outside the box and not sticking to the norm.
India doesn’t shake your hand and politely greet you, instead it slaps you in the face and says: ‘let’s go!’ It’s crazy, chaotic and tests your patience, but at the same time, it’s colourful, unique and full of life. I went to India for my friend Sahil’s wedding and wow, it’s a place that hits you as soon as you step out of the airport. Loud noises, so many people, colours, more people, noise, creatures, exotic smells, car horns beeping, ‘where are you from?’, temperatures rising, heat, noise, spice, no space. At first you have to acclimatise yourself to the ‘in your face’ nature of the city, but you soon learn that within all that chaos, culture shock and confusion, lies the true beauty and energy of life. I really had this ‘wow’ moment the first time I saw the Taj Mahal - words cannot describe it, but this picture can.
Oh Barcelona – you big tease. I soon learnt that if it’s 6am and you’re in bed already, you’re not doing it right. A trip to visit my cousin Natasha taught me that Spain is for night owls who are fond of a good mid-afternoon nap. We ate late, we drank cocktails, we danced and we partied until the sun declared it was a new day…and then it was finally time to sleep, before doing it all over again!
7) COOK ISLANDS
I saw a bright blue starfish washed up on the beach in Rarotonga, so hopped along to the hot sand to go and investigate. When I placed my hand underneath it, it gripped it’s tentacles around my fingers as I gently carried from the hot sand to the shallow water. Many people dismiss these beautiful creatures as objects with no feelings, but this tiny encounter taught me to always respect and be kind to all creatures great and small.
Explore, enjoy life and go with the adventure! A trip to Thailand filled me with so much delight. I lived for the moment and embraced every opportunity, from jungle treks to island hopping to scuba diving, to a full moon party to bartering at the night markets in Bangkok. Sometimes the best trips are the ones where you turn up with no plans and just let the adventure carry you to the right place…
9) NEW ZEALAND
Forget what’s named, framed and enshrined as the ‘must see’ tourist attraction. All you need to do is observe the gifts from Mother Nature and appreciate the spectacular world we live in. Rotorua in New Zealand was a place that truly amazed me, with it’s bubbling pools of mud, geysers and hot thermal waters, it felt like being on another planet.
Most people wouldn’t expect a main road to be at the top of their list when it comes to beautiful places. Loud noise, traffic woes and a place you pass through rather than stop off at. One particular summer evening gave me this travel epiphany. The sky was a rainbow of spectacular pastel colours; it took my breath away and we had to stop the car in a lay-by to take a photo. It’s true that you just need to open your eyes and you’ll find beauty in the most unexpected places.
Wherever you go, be present and remain fully engaged in what you do. Make an effort to find the message and learn the lessons that each place is waiting to teach you and it wil make you wiser.
What lessons have you learnt from travel?
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