I can promise you that the smoothie bowls in Bali are so instagram-worthy. And spending winter amongst the ancient Mongolian culture is just as phenomenal and out of your comfort zone as you can imagine – I mean, going outside to use the totally unglamorous long-drop loo at MINUS 25 deg?! Not sure about you, but that’s pretty out of my comfort zone!
Travel is a mix of fleeting friendships and beautiful connections, budgeting practise and the continuous exercise of counting your bags. Or when you’re a ditz like me, leaving on a ferry to realise that you laundry is patiently waiting for you at the laundromat in Canggu, the surfing town in Indonesia, which I did plan to return to… but only on my next trip.
So yes, traveling is just as rewarding, exciting and valuable as you can imagine (or if you’ve done your own traveling, I think you’ll agree.) But there is something else I wish I knew before I went to Thailand last year:
Traveling is not an escape. It’s still YOU getting off the plane.
Last year, I had the ridiculously exciting opportunity to go traveling in Thailand. I had just finished my midyear exams for my final year of university. I had barely made it out alive. My anxiety was at an all-time high and honestly, I was a mess. But, Thailand is paradise and I couldn’t wait to relax on white beaches, play cards with other backpackers and sip on authentic coconut water.
Yes, there were certainly white beaches, but definitely no relaxing. I met amazing people from all around the world, but had to force myself off of my bunkbed to go socialise. Even the coconut water wasn’t what I was looking for.
I was irritable, struggling and having to deal with my constant why-aren’t-you-enjoying-this guilt trip. I was out of my comfort zone with minimal coping mechanisms and what felt like zero inner strength. And the “Omg, your holiday looks amazing” and “I’m so jealous” responses I was getting on my social media posts really weren’t helping. I did, however return home with amazing memories and beautiful photos. But I was unsatisfied and disappointed with myself.
This year, I made a second attempt at Thailand and this time, included Bali. My destination was the same, but everything else was different. It was a trip, which I will never forget and I actually get emotional thinking about all the amazing things I witnessed and the beautiful people, which I had the privilege of meeting. Yes, we played cards, drank coconut water and lay on the beaches. But we also:
- Spent nights on balconies, sipping beer and singing Ed Sheeran songs and playing guitar
- Took part in the Bali’s Ogoh-Ogoh festival and Day of Silence (Nyepi) in March
- Shared the itch of mosquito (and bed bug) bites
- Danced through the night before watching the sunrise over the beach and
- Shared our lives, perspectives and beliefs with other travellers.
The important thing, which this trip thought be was that life is about where you are mentally, not physically.
Changing places can certainly mean leaving behind bad influences, toxic people or hard situations, but if your struggles are within you, they’re going to be with you wherever you run to.
I learned this the hard way and am now consciously choosing to invest in myself. You emotional and mental spaces are the rosy (or not-so-rosy) glasses through which you see your world. If they’re clouded, you are more likely to find nerve-racking expectations, anxiety and assholes. If they’re clear, you are more likely to find more love, smiles and paths to adventure down.
I’m not talking about ‘The Secret’ when I say that what you believe, you create. I mean that we use life to justify and confirm our beliefs and expectations. When you change how you see yourself and the world, things start shifting. I know this for sure.
Where to begin: Tune in.
Life happens around us, but we often forget that it’s also happening within us.
Make a habit of noticing your thoughts and internal voice. For years, I believed everything I heard in my mind, but recently I have realised something pretty profound: not all of your thoughts are true. The act of thinking only shows that you’re alive. It doesn’t have to dictate what your life is created into. When you catch yourself thinking, “Ah, I’m just so disorganised!”, you have the power and authority to say, “No, Mind, I’m not disorganised, I just haven’t made planning a priority”. You can then choose to work towards making a change if you feel that it will take you closer to how you want to live your life.
Be firm with yourself. You’re literally sculpting your inner world with you thoughts, so use them wisely. And with a calm, stable and optimistic inner world, your external world will begin to look the same.
“The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of the state of your mind” – Wayne Dyer