Lifestyle · Mindfulness

Learning From Our Travelbug-Selves

We all know the term travelbug. Either we’ve got the travelbug or know someone who has it. Perhaps all we can think about is the next trip abroad. We get excited by the thought of seeing a new place, experiencing new things and having time to relax.

I will return to the UK tomorrow after a beautiful trip to Sri Lanka. I was in awe of the many fresh green fields and coconut palms that clothed the whole of the country. I found myself saying, ‘It’s so beautiful!’ so many times over that my comments began to sound monotonous. The nature, the culture and the food were all really spectacular.

Baker's Falls, Sri Lanka
Baker’s Falls, Sri Lanka

I was brought into a moment of contemplation when our tour driver said to me, “I guess Sri Lanka must seem very beautiful to you. I think it’s beautiful, but you who’ve never seen it before must enjoy it even more”. To many, his words may have been a throwaway comment. To me, it got me thinking again of how much we take for granted on a daily basis and how after a while we may get so used to our surroundings that they can become normal and less spectacular to us.

Maybe we find travel so intoxicatingly amazing because we’re actively out to experience each present moment. As we’re away from our everyday environment, we stop to take note of what is around us. Yes we appreciate the new experience and the free time, but could it be that travel is all the more liberating purely because we have stopped long enough to appreciate what is in our life at that moment of time?

I wrote a previous post on The Mindful Art Of Making Tea. Here, I was highlighting how we can miss the treasures of our everyday life purely through lack of being aware of our surroundings and lack of appreciation for what we have. Could we not apply our more mindful travelbug-selves and behaviours to everyday life and feel happier and more satisfied?

Travel writer and TEDTalks contributor, Pico Iyer, argues this same point. In his TEDTalk, The Art Of Stillness, Iyer discusses that by going nowhere, we can fall more in love with the world: “It’s not our experiences that form us, but the ways in which we respond to them” [Iyer, 2014].

What is our natural travelbug state so that we can learn from it and apply it to our daily lives? Here are what I believe to be some key common features:

  • Paying attention to surroundings
  • Actively looking for things to enjoy or appreciate
  • Actively attempting to learn (e.g. culture or new experiences)
  • Switching off and relaxing

With those four points listed, would you not already agree that applying these to daily life would make it much more fruitful?

By paying attention to our surroundings, we open up the opportunity to appreciate what our environment contains rather than taking it for granted. On the flip side, we can also avoid potential pitfalls; a silly example of this would be my ‘talent’ for accidentally walking into a doorframe or the corner of a table on a weekly basis. I could avoid this if I paid more attention to my surroundings.

Actively looking for things to enjoy or appreciate: we seem to be more proactive at looking for things to appreciate whilst travelling. For example, you may say, “Wow! That view is stunning!” and yet perhaps nearby to your home you have a beautiful public garden (or maybe you’re even lucky enough to have your own garden) that you walk past everyday. Because you’re used to it, you stop appreciating it. You turn a blind eye. Open your eyes again. Sure the initial lust with your surroundings might be over, but maybe you can now still appreciate the beauty around you and build it from lust into love.

Actively attempting to learn: whether it’s about the history and culture of a country, their food (for you foodies out there), or a new experience (e.g. hiking, zipwiring, cooking, visiting a beach you’ve never been to before, etc.), we tend to create actions that will result in learning. A lot of travellers will talk to less frequent travellers about the growth that they’ve gained as a person since journeying across the globe. And yes, travelling does help us to learn and grow. But the personal growth is not so wholly unique to travel. Granted, it’s easier to do because we have more time to dedicate to our new learning. But we should be actively applying our desire to learn and our curiosity about the world to our daily lives. We don’t need lots of money to travel for extended weeks or months in order to grow. We can learn and experience new things every single day. Talk to someone at work you don’t usually talk to; read a book based on a subject you’re curious about; take up a hobby and meet new people. The possibilities are endless.

Finally, switching off and relaxing. We go on holiday to rest and unwind. However, again this should not be reserved for only times of travel or holidaying. No matter how long your hours of work, set aside a time to relax. It may even be as simple as your shower time being your daily dose of relaxation. Whatever it may be, it is important to have time to sit back. Make a mini event of it – it’s your special time.

I will always love travelling and from a cultural standpoint it is an eye-opening experience that extends our understanding of the world we live in. But as a travelbug, you shouldn’t keep planning for your next trip to gain your life’s next thrill or personal growth. Take a look at your travelbug self. Isn’t he/she inspirational? Take a leaf out of your own book and apply those travelbug learnings to your daily life.


For your additional interest:

Pico Iyer, The Art Of Stillness, TedTalk via YouTube (2014)

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