5 Things I’m learning from life and travel


It is raining this morning, and I am sick.

It’s one of those mornings where I long for a bathtub and a big fluffy bed and endless documentary television to while away a day when I’m too icky to do anything else. Instead, I’m tucked up in my little cave bed with my second cup of tea, listening to raindrops and resting. It’s almost as good! 😉

Instead of hiking the coast of the Coromandel Peninsula and digging out big pools of thermal water on a hot water beach this afternoon, we’re tucked in under a solid rain, making the best of our camper life. I was awake most of the night (did I mention that I’m sick!?) thinking about the things that travel is teaching me. Care to take a midnight wander through my brain?

1. Flexibility

Travel is yoga for the soul. By nature I’m a planner and an organizer and a low-level control freak. The road is doing its best to bend that out of me, one country, one culture, one mini-catastrophe at a time. I no longer expect anything to run on schedule. If well made plans for a day crash and burn, well, there must be something else more important for the day. Mealtimes are flexible. Bedtimes are flexible. The definition of “food and lodging” are flexible. There really isn’t much in life that can’t be flexible, if I’m willing to bend with the wind and go with the flow… which, incidentally, is the key to reducing stress and increasing joy in the journey.

2. What I do not need

I have more than I need. I have always had more than I’ve needed, without exception. I do not “need” most of what I have, and knowing that has increased my gratefulness for the small things and the many comforts. I don’t have a bathtub, a big fluffy bed, or a TV this morning. But my little camper bed, my cup of tea and my cheese plate are still more than I need and I’m so glad for all three! Realizing what I don’t need has increased contentment and lowered my expectations and pretty much removed the anxiety that surrounds collecting “stuff” to pad our existence.

3. This is my life

A camper van cab top bed, my hubby’s knit hat on my sick noggin, a cheese plate and a cup of tea. This is my life. My life is no more than the moment I’m in. Where I’ve been doesn’t matter as much as where I’m going. Where I’m going doesn’t matter as much as where I am. There’s nothing to be gained from comparison to anyone or anything else. I am where I am because of the choices I’ve made. If I don’t like it, I can change it. All I have is today, this moment, sick in the rain. What will I make of it?

4. Who I am

I suppose all of life, from cradle to grave is an exercise in peeling back the layers of the onion, defining and redefining this, for all of us. The growing and changing and continual evolution of self is something interesting to me to watch, from somewhere outside of myself. Of course it’s a horrible cliche, that travel introduces you to yourself, but it’s true.  Getting outside of all of the preconceived constructs that define a person is educational indeed. When there are no walls, no fences, no comfy confines, what will I do? Who am I really? How do I meet the world? Where do I fit in it? What can I give? These are the questions that define us, and redefine us. The questions that have brought me to my knees in places, both geographically and internally.

5. To Make my own box

The idea that we can get “outside the box” in this life is just silly. Just about the time you climb out of the box you think you’re in, you climb into another one. We have people say to us, regularly, “Wow!! You guys live such an “outside the box” life…” And I get what they mean. Yes, we do in some ways: no house, nomadic, alternatively educated kids, careers outside of the cube wars. But we live a very “inside the box” life in the world we exist in: there are tons of other families what we call friends who live just like we do. We’re nothing special. They aren’t impressed. We’re in the box for them. So, at the end of the day, the thing I’m learning is that it isn’t about escaping from some mythical box, it’s about creating your own, according to your own passions, and your own definition of normal. My life is delightfully “in the box,” I’ve just created it myself and plastered the sides with travel posters!

What is life and travel teaching you?

Posted by | Comments (3)  | December 17, 2013
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

3 Responses to “5 Things I’m learning from life and travel”

  1. Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush? Says:

    The main lesson for me from six months of travel: I can do anything I set my mind to. From saving money to travel to selling 99% of my possessions to having the freedom of doing what I wish with my time, the realization has been both empowering and life-changing. Now that I know, the world is me and I am of it.

  2. Joseph Ratliff Says:

    Great post.

    To point #5, I would ask a simple question…

    Was there ever a box in the first place?

  3. Jennifer Miller Says:

    Peter… indeed. Joseph… the only boxes are in our own minds. 🙂