I hear people saying so often that the key to happiness, intelligence and success is travel. We all know that traveling is fun and relaxing, it allows you to step outside of your comfort zone and experience new people, cultures and landscapes. But how can that make you more successful or more intelligent? Well, I haven't got all the answers, but now that I'm struggling through the biggest change in my life (moving from California to New York and beginning a new career) I find that I am grateful that I took the opportunity to travel for a good chunk of time beforehand. Some of those crazy experiences that Jeremia and I had in Southeast Asia keep coming back to me now, and they are helping me deal with this new adventure.
Here are 3 life lessons that I learned while on the road!
1. Just trust
It’s 9pm and we just got off a 4 hour ferry ride. It’s dark and there are no taxis around because we chose to venture off the tourists path and seek the unknown. But we don’t know how to get to our bungalows, and we don’t have any wifi so we can’t contact them. Then, a loud Subaru WRX pulls up and the Thai man in the drivers seat asks if we need a ride, which we do. He’s obviously not a real taxi and he has no idea where the bungalow is either. Oh god. I hope this goes well.
Guess what? We found our bungalow, the fake taxi didn’t crash or abduct us and it didn’t even cost that much. It was going to work out all along.
Multiple seemingly crazy and impossible situations in Southeast Asia somehow managed to work themselves out. We were never stuck somewhere weird at dark nor did we ever run into any real trouble, even when I dropped my motorcycle multiple times in the middle of nowhere! Learning how to just trust - whether that's trusting my instincts, my planning, someone else's planning, or what some random person said - is a major skill that is helping my frazzled mind now.
It's tough to know that I'm making the right decision to say "fuck that" to the traditional fashion industry, just as it's tough to know that the steps that I'm taking right now to build my personal blog and brand are the right steps. I'm just going to trust that if I continue to do what feels right, if I continue to take one baby step at a time, if I continue to network and meet the people that I want to meet, that everything is going to turn out OK! Shit, I could be so off the mark and heading for crash and burn; but I'm going to trust, and just keep going.
2. Sometimes, it needs to be quiet time.
I’m tired and cranky. Yesterday was a long day and tomorrow is going to be worse. Jeremia is giving no more than 1 word responses. Looks like it’s time to shut up...it’s time for quiet time.
Sometimes it’s all just too much, and travel and life overwhelm. When traveling in Southeast Asia, at least, there is a lot of sensory information swirling around you like a vortex at every minute of the day. Inevitably it's going to become too stressful and someone is going to crack. About a month and a half into the trip, I learned to recognize this breaking point, and that turned out to make all the difference. That’s the point that I pull out a book and shut out the world. I retreat to the dark, quiet corners of my mind and let my thoughts wander on their own. When I let my brain breathe, my body can breathe. Then, and only then, will all of my crankiness melt away and I can start fresh the next day.
3. Just because everyone else raves about something, doesn't mean you'll be into it.
Have you ever gone to that hot new brunch spot that everyone is so in love with and then you end up hating it? Southeast Asia is particularly full of these types of situations; every blogger and other traveler that you meet will tell you how much they just loved Koh Samui or Koh Phi Phi, or the Fairy Stream in Mui Ne. My opinion? Skip ‘em. Koh Samui is expensive, Koh Phi Phi is overrun with tourists, and the Fairy Stream isn't much more than a strip of mud running through town. Of course, you can still find a way to have fun in those places, but there are a lot of other cool things to do that nobody bothered to tell you about.
The lesson here? Go your own way! You aren't here in the world to do all the same shit that everyone else is doing, you're here to make your mark, to explore the unexplored. Sure, do some research and if something sounds particularly awesome, give it a try. But don't shy away from doing something just because nobody else has done it or someone else said that they didn't like it. This applies to places to see, brunch places to eat at, books to read, events to go to...and so much more.
Right now I’m going fully against the grain. While everyone else is moving to San Francisco, I’ve just moved to New York. While everyone else is slaving away as a designer or an assistant in a corporate Manhattan office, I’m having lunch and tea with small designers and writers. And you know what? I’m having a blast. Yes, I know that it snows here and yes, I know that I need to start making some sort of income. But forging my own path is thrilling business, and I’m not everyone else.