I don’t know about you but I’m more than happy to be done with the dumpster fire of 2017. It was a trying year personally, one ripe with opportunity for personal growth but also challenges that tested my fortitude. Couple that with the societal challenges we face as a country and 2017 was uniquely perplexing. It’s now 2018 which means a new year and new goals. As I think about what I hope for in 2018 I first think of the necessities for joy in life: health, peace, love of family, friends and the world around me.
Then I return to travel and how important it is for us as human beings. I return to the conviction that for our world to ever begin to heal and for humanity to transcend the limitations we have placed on ourselves we must engage, learn, and live with each other. Travel is the great teacher. It strips us of our preconceptions while surrounding us in our own humanity and our connection with others. It destroys fear and births love and compassion. Truly, travel is the catalyst for healing. Personally, I have some travel goals for 2018. I hope they will inspire you to begin thinking about how travel can be a bigger part of your life in the new year.
1. Rediscover my sense of wonder:
I remember the first trip I took to Kenya around 2007. I left home eyes open with wonder and excitement. I can still feel the warm air hitting me like a left hook as I stepped off the plane in Nairobi. The unfamiliar smells, sounds and sights coupled with that invaluable feeling of being completely overwhelmed, utterly devoid of familiarity, and excited for a new adventure seeping into my character. As time has passed and as I have rooted myself in my work and in the places I travel I have missed that sense of discovery, that sense of newness that comes with experiencing completely new things. I hope to bring this with me in my travels in 2018, bring back that sense of astonishment, to notice the trees, to appreciate the street art, the hustle and bustle going around me and to feel completely and utterly lost in the moment.
2. Go somewhere out of my comfort zone:
In that same search for wonder I will seek out a place that jerks me out of my comfort zone in as many ways as possible. The last few years I have spent most of my travel time visiting the same few places. This comes with establishing relationships and business partnerships and also comes with loving a place and people deeply. This year I have added a few places that will push me out of my comfort zone again and I’m excited for this. I am excited to hear unfamiliar languages, to meet new cultures and groups of people to learn from them, and explore new mountains and natural wonders I have only dreamed of. I believe that I can never become the best version of myself without the challenge of new things and that applies even more to travel than almost anything else.
3. Immerse myself in my surroundings and shun familiarity:
One of my favorite things about traveling is immersing myself in the culture around me. I think it is important to make a conscious effort to leave behind the familiar things about home and challenge myself to become familiar with a new place. So I plan on doing that even more this year wherever I go. I will seek to not bring my preconceived notions of what is “normal” or “comfortable” and find understanding in new ways of seeing comfort and existence. If you are looking to do this too here are some helpful tips from one of our last blog post.
4. Use up my vacation days:
According to CNN, “Only 23% of workers surveyed said they used all of their paid time off in the last 12 months. The average U.S. worker leaves almost half of his or her vacation days on the table.” Yep, you read that right. That equates to roughly 658 million days in 2016 alone! I feel that is a tragedy. Americans already travel less than many other countries (0.2 international trips per year per person, only 46% of American have a passport), so that fact that so many vacation days are left unused is really sad. They have been earned and there is no point in letting them waste away. Even if you can’t go on a long trip, be a weekend warrior or take a trip in country. The point is to get out and explore this amazing place around you. I have committed to not wasting a single vacation day this year and know that not only will I be happier but my understanding of the world will broaden. I don’t want my worldview about people, cultures or places to be decided for me by what I hear in the media.
5. Seek out new experiences:
When traveling I like to seek out new things that helps me learn and understand the place I’m visiting. For example, instead of staying in a hotel maybe I will pursue a homestay experience. Instead of relaxing on the beach I will climb a peak. Instead of taking a taxi or hired car I will walk or take the local bus everywhere. To me it is not enough to just exist in a new space, but to really gain all the amazing benefits from travel you must practice intentionality and make conscious choices to re-calibrate your sense of understanding and what is possible.
6. View the world with Compassion:
This has always been important to me when traveling and in my daily life. It is not always an easy task and I frequently fail at practicing it. Sometimes people get on my nerves or things go wrong on a trip that makes me want to pull my hair out. But when I can stop and be grateful for the gift of travel and the choice I made to take that trip, those small things seem to melt away. When traveling anywhere this next year I will strive to keep practicing compassion, understand the opportunities I have been given to see this world and share in the world with others. We all will get something different out of traveling, but one thing I hope we can agree on is that practicing compassion and understanding when stepping into a different country is never wasted.