I have sat here with a blank screen for quite some time as I started writing this post. One of our readers asked us what we are planning for 2017 and hoping to achieve in travel. The question caused me to pause because I really don’t know for sure what we are doing yet. This had me to laugh a little bit because I realized as I type this I brought in the New Year in Nang Trang, Vietnam and we are eight months into our year long trip. So I guess it’s accurate to say we’re starting the New Year off with travel!
With our current style of travel, we literally often do not know where we will go tomorrow. We will arrive to a town usually have booked two nights and then if we like it we will extend our stay. Prior in this trip I was so sure we’d be in Cambodia by December as we had only applied for a 30 day visa to Thailand. Chris getting bit by a dog changed all that so we paid to extend our visa and stay in Thailand a month longer.
That said, we do have a rough sketch of what we are thinking for 2017:
Vietnam >>> Myanmar >>> Nepal >>> India >>> probably home >>> probably VT State Parks for summer season >>> probably early Christmas with families >>> unknown next travel adventure. That is what we got so far!
I realize not everyone is able to be as fluid with their travel plans. If you are limited to a few weeks or a month you might need some more concrete plans. But no matter your travel style, I thought I could still share our mental process of how we think about and decide on our travels. I believe that how we think about balancing our life and travel makes a huge difference on both how much we travel and how satisfied we feel with what we will achieve.
For me, there are some main themes I need to have in order to fill fulfilled with both travel and life. I think they can apply to all of us no matter if you are a weekend warrior or a yearlong backpacker.
They are the ability to have: freedom, passion, goals, community and impact.
Even if I had endless money, the way I think about then act with these areas in mind directly affects my happiness and well-being.
Here is how I think about each of these:
Freedom: what do you need to feel free?
I think freedom first stems from our attitude. If you can form the habit of consistently having a positive attitude, your life will be leaps and bounds easier than those struggling around you. One of the best books I have ever read on this is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s search for Meaning. Frankl is a Holocaust survivor and the father of logotheraphy. There are many things in this life that will happen to us, both in and out of our control, but the one thing no one can ever take away from us is the power to choose our own attitude. Read this book and talk about it. It’s good.
Passion: what makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
Passion is a word that gets thrown around a lot and people are like, ‘What does it mean to have passion?’ Well for me, passion is directly related to having a light at the end of my tunnel. I love so many things: travel, art, writing, coffee, eating, hiking, wildlife, oceans, pens (yes, I really like having a favorite pen!) and a lot of other things. So in order for me to go and pursue my passions, i.e., take a year off and travel around Southeast Asia or have the funds to spend almost a week on a small island in the Great Barrier Reef reachable only by small plane or just have the money to buy my next favorite pen, I need to take ownership of all my actions that will either allow or disallow me to pursue those quests. Over years I have created (along with Chris) the habit of having almost all our actions to be positively contributing and aiding in the ability for us to follow our likes, ambitions, goals or passions. So when some people feel drudgery having to get up for a job, I’m like bring it on! I’ll do that and I will happily do whatever it takes to complete that job because I know that choice is directly going to help me be able to follow through on pursuing my passions.
Goals: What are your goals? Both big and small?
Setting goals is something that can still send me into a roller coaster of emotions if I am not careful. It’s so easy to pick up a magazine and think my IRA savings is not big enough or to look at someone else who is traveling around the world with no money and writing some really cool book about it. My goal is to use this time I have been given. One only needs to look at key major influencers like Steve Jobs or Carrie Fisher. For all intents and purposes, they had the ability to have access to best possible health care available, yet no amount of money could keep them from death. There is nothing we can do to safe guard nor guarantee our time. I plan for the future and act accordingly, but I don’t put all my eggs in one basket. I live for now, not a future that I hope to make it to with good health.
Community: what do you need for a community?
I have come to really appreciate having community in my life. This was something I really understood and felt after I went to Vermont. I also feel a very strong connection to the people I have met while traveling and have a large network of travel community friends and bonds. Our families are always our back bones of support as well. Here’s the amazing thing when you meet someone while traveling: we get to see each other for who we are and want to be. It’s not what you were when you were in high school or how everyone thinks of you in relation to your job. When you meet someone on the road, sure you might ask what you do, where you’re from, but there is this unspoken and shared bond created just by the joy of each of you being out of your home country and traveling somewhere new. For almost every person doing this has made sacrifices and choices to make this happen. Ask any traveler, young or old, full time job or part time job, retired or still working, they consciously make sacrifices and choices to enable themselves to travel. There is a million other things they could have spent their money on (better cars, clothes, more money into a retirement account “for later.”) Each of us have clearly said, by our actions, that travel is what is important to us. And when you do that, the experiences and people that travel brings into your life can be very powerful.
Impact: having what you do feel like it ‘counts’
Ok, talking about or defining impact can be kinda tricky. Simon Sinek touches on this in some of his leadership speeches if you want to check them out. I think the majority of people want to feel like they have a “positive impact” in the world. I think we get hung up on this or misconstrue what it means to ‘have impact’ or what ‘that should look like.’ We tend to get focused on believing it means we must possess these super altruistic characteristics and that we have to work at non-profits or volunteer extensively or just do *something* that clearly signifies or shows we will ‘have impact.’ My thoughts have changed on this over the course of my life. I think that to actively pursue, scrape and claw your way through this life, to fall flat on your face and get up again and to do whatever it takes to figure out what will get you to be excited to get out of bed in the morning is the best possible way to use your time and give this world impact. If you can figure out what will drive you to keep going on your personal development goals no matter how difficult the obstacles, the positive ambition will spill outwards. Even if you are not sure what it is you want to go after, if you don’t put all your effort into finding what you like, even if you have to try a million things you realize what you don’t like, it will probably be impossible for you to achieve the feeling you are seeking. (And I think that feeling is different for everyone. It may not be travel for you, but it is your job to find out what drives you.) When we are driven to act in a way that allows us to feel fulfilled, that feeling will spill outwards. Sacrifices don’t feel like such big sacrifices anymore. They become conscious choices we make so we can achieve our goals and work towards the life of our dreams. When our internal processing works like this, feelings of satisfaction and motivation will raise exponentially more.
So, if the question is asked of me, “How are you going to achieve more travel in your life and what are you going to do?” The first thing I am going to do is keeping working on all the things above. I realize I could have written a list post or had five more ways to save money for travel type of deal. But the thing is, if your attitude is off track, you can read all the goals lists you want – it’s quite unlikely you will succeed in taking sustained action on them. It’s easy at first to cut back on Starbucks to every other day or to ride your bike to work two days a week, but if you can’t figure out the why, why you want to make a certain sacrifice or change a thinking habit, there’s no way you’ll keep it up. Why would you? It’s like, ‘Give me the instant gratification now. Please.’
Just so you know too, I constantly struggle with all of this. I go through ups and downs, internal battles and having the keep myself in check from thinking the grass is greener for other people. Sometimes I do a really terrible job at this, other times I do better. But the one constant is, no matter if I feel like I am flying or trying to drag a hundred pound ball and chain behind me, I do the work.
If you are at feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, uncertain or self defeating like ‘I could never achieve my true dreams,’ one piece of practical help I can offer is to actively have inspirational books and audio in your life or some sort of positive way to get the message ‘yes you can’ over and over to your brain.
For my personality whenever I let this habit fall to the wayside, the difference is night and day. I will feel so down and discouraged about everything. I need the help of others around me to keep my spirits high and help propel on my journey. Whenever I am doing more passive work online that doesn’t require intense thinking, I will have a youtube channel on with something that is uplifting and inspiring. I will listen to it over and over and over again. It’s just on in the back ground, not ever that loud, but just enough to bring in the energy that “yes I can do this” over and over again into my brain. I also put active work into building connections and community with other people who have similar goals, such as Brandy and Paolo from Art of Living on the Road or my amazing artist friend Jess whose art you can see here. We encourage each other to be positive, create and share both our successes and misses with each other.
Some of my recent favorite influencers that I find very uplifting on youtube are: Jim Rohn, Marie Forleo, these motivational compilations, Ted Talks and just so many others that pop up on the side bar. For books, I still love SARK, The Power of Now and The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.
So if you want to travel more, achieve more or feel more satisfied with the direction you are going, put effort in being kind to yourself and figuring out the best way to create healthy habits of the mind. If you can figure out your why, you can figure out a way around any obstacle that may fall into your path. Very best wishes to us all as we figure out *why* we want to get out of bed every day for this year and beyond.
What do you think? Can working on your mindset really help you travel more?