Thursday, 3 January 2013

Travel - One of Life's Great Teachers...

Something I learnt travelling...Slovenia is beautiful!  The sun setting over the gorgeous Lake Bohinj.

Travelling as an activity is a hugely satisfying leisure pursuit that can result in you seeing, tasting and experiencing much of what the World has to offer.  What has surprised me the most about travel, is how much I have got out of the act of travelling.

There is a danger this is going to sound like a CV or job application, but the things I have been lucky enough to learn on my travels have proved very useful in interviews for academic courses and in the hunt for jobs.  Presenting yourself at an interview to strangers, is no different to presenting yourself to the strangers you meet when you travel.  The only difference is you are probably wearing flip flops and a massive grin on your face during the latter scenario!  Travel, and especially solo travel, requires you to be confident enough to talk to complete strangers about yourself in an interesting way without being overbearing or intensely annoying.  Closely linked to this is the ability to listen to other people.  The number of times I have been involved in conversations where people are happy to talk about themselves for hours on end without taking much (if any) interest in your thoughts or background infuriates me.  And, to be honest, travel has taught me that these are the kind of people to avoid in all aspects of life.  However, do not let this stop you from reaching out...striking up a conversation with a random person can be a useful tool, in the right circumstances.  In work situations, I have successfully applied this principle, and have found myself talking to people who some of my colleagues were too afraid to engage with for fear of their status in the organisation, for example.  The trick is to listen.  I may make the mistake of assuming that life and work is like the rather flat/equal structure that exists amongst travellers, but I enjoy it and feel like I have gained a lot from it.

Travel has helped me realise I can enjoy my own company and get a lot done.  The time I get to be alone to think (often in a beautiful location) is a real luxury these days.  Without the distraction of other people, travelling solo (in particular) can allow you to really appreciate your destination; watching the people come and go, take in other cultures and also take pleasure in the scenery that lay before you as you look across the horizon.

Trust that intuition!  It is usually right.  Having put myself and having been put into a number of exciting and hair-raising situations, always go with your intuition.  Travel has acted as a useful training ground for my intuition, allowing me to make some great friends, avoid some not so great people, get involved in some great activities and stay away from some not so great travel diversions.  Judging the quality of a hostel at 20 paces or the best place to eat in the backstreets of Vilnius has proved so useful in everyday life.  The idea that I can use my experiences to forge a positive future, based on my judgement was a fantastic revelation.  I know...obvious for most people, but for me, knowing that I could decide what I wanted to do based on a number of factors was an eye-opener. 

Big deal!  So what!  Who cares?!  Having seen many different places, cultures and experiencing a fair few things during my travels, my sense of perspective has improved massively.  When things get stressful at work, I sometimes have to remind myself that I do have a sense of perspective, but it is the things that I have seen on my travels that helps me remember that in the grand scheme of things nothing really matters.  That deadline...yes, it is important, but so what?!  If it is a day late, it is inconvenient, but ultimately no-one died and there are far more important things to worry about in life.  Having seen the way that people live, work and what they have experienced, I am always mindful to count my blessings.  My first trip turned me into a right hippy.  I backpacked without any desire for all the possessions I owned back in the UK.  After about two weeks of travelling, I could have easily given them up for my backpack full of clothes and a couple of good paperbacks.  Stupidly idealistic and probably quite impractical, but what I took from that was the realisation that the 'stuff' we work so stupidly hard to accumulate to fill our homes is pretty worthless - 'mo money, mo problems' and all that!  What I did miss were my family and friends.  So, travel changed my perspective regarding where my priorities lie.  Before that first big trip, the accumulation of financial wealth and belongings was my main objective in life.  And, after that trip, I know that the only things that really matter are not fulfilling someone else's targets at work or generating cash for me to spend on a huge state-of-the-art flat screen TV or on the repayments for a new BMW, but family and the people around you.  Success, for me, is not measured in material wealth, but by the relationships you cultivate and maintain with the people around you.  Maybe this came to the fore during my trips, as travelling is a very people-centric activity that really helps you understand your fellow man.  Ultimately though, this aspect of discovery I have made on my travels is of greatest importance to me.

So, travel...the great educator!  You don't believe me?!  Well, all I can say is go find out for yourself, you may be surprised what you learn.

Please feel free to comment below on any things that travel has taught you.  I would love to hear your views on this!

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