Life is full of surprises. This is especially true when it comes to traveling. Trains are late. Luggage gets lost. Hotels lose reservations. Some people can’t handle these uncertainties, but seasoned travelers have a way of overcoming these obstacles and challenges. Why?
“Excuse me, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
“Practice man, practice.”
It’s an old joke. But practice is the only way to do anything better in life. This is so obvious when speaking to musicians or artists, but it seems to be forgotten when it comes to the more mundane aspects of life. We, human beings, seem to have an uncanny ability to forget that our choices dictate our reality, not the other way around.
Practicing chords on the guitar makes sense. Can we practice happiness? How about peace or confidence? Of course!
The Power of Intention
In The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer, there is an exercise that has become common for me. When I wake up in a foul mood, or when things seem too dark, I stop and repeat to myself, “I want to be happy. I choose to be happy.” It sounds silly, but it works. As I repeat this to myself over and over, I can feel a smile creep up from inside me. Often, I find myself chuckling at the ridiculousness of being miserable in my circumstances. After all, most of them, I cannot change. What I can change, is how I react to them. Choosing and practicing happiness is the best way I’ve found to do that.
When I travel, it’s easy for me to get too “focused.” That’s my word for it. My travel partners call it “stressed out.” I get zoned in so much on what’s next or where I have to be, or…
In those moments, I lose out on some of the best experiences, because I’m not aware of anything else. So, I have started to practice relaxing and living in the uncertainty. It’s amazing how much more I notice now. When it comes to wandering (i.e. travel) awareness and curiosity are the rule.
Let’s Get Practical
Okay, so what does this really look like? Well, for instance, I have started booking flights with purposefully longer layovers. Before, that would have made me spin: “What do you mean I have to wait an extra hour? I want to get there!” Longer layovers, mean less stress. I don’t have to watch the clock as I sit on the tarmac or run like a cheetah through crowded terminals to make my connection. In fact, it has relieved so much stress that I’m considering layovers of no less than a day in future travel.
Another area of “focus” (read, stress) was the constant nagging of, “Did I forget the…” I have lessened this one by being more present in the packing process and by carrying less and less stuff. Now, I travel everywhere with 25L or less. Look for a post on this soon.
The Future Doesn’t Exist
By practicing peace and patience, I am far more available to experience life as it happens; in the moment. In my next life, I hope to meet Alan Watts, so I can thank him for showing me this truth: the future doesn’t exist. Any of a million possible futures exist and I have no way of knowing which I will experience, so why worry about it? Instead, by living in the present moment and knowing that I have everything I need to deal with the future, when it comes, is liberating.
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
Travel IS uncertainty. That is both its cost and its beauty. So, learning to live with and thrive in that uncertainty is the best way to travel well and experience the most.
An Accidental Trip in Cambodia
Several years back, I was offered a free ticket to Cambodia. How amazing is that? Did I take the trip…of course I did. Did I have any idea what to expect? Nope. But I went anyway.
While there, we decided to take a day trip up to the Laotian border. If I had known more about that area, I might not of taken the side trip, but I didn’t. So, I got into a small Toyota pickup truck with fifteen locals and headed up a very rough road. We broke down twice. We got stuck in a river once. We got deserted in a village for a night. However, during that day and a half, I got to experience a country and people that I never would have had the chance to meet if I hadn’t embraced uncertainty. One of my all time favorite travel photos came out of that side trip as well.
Waking up in a trucker’s hostel to machine gun fire and screaming was just a part of the experience. Being carsick with eight people crammed into the cab of a pickup truck when it was over one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit and probably one-hundred-fifty percent humidity, was also part of the experience. Meeting local people with interesting stories and massive smiles, was also part of the experience. While there were challenges, I still look back on those days with glee. That’s how it goes. The bad things, that we spend so much time worrying about, often don’t materialize. Yet, even when they do, they usually fade into the story and give it depth. I honestly cannot remember a single challenge on that trip that I would go back and undo, if given the chance.
On your next trip—to Asia or the corner grocery—embrace uncertainty and see if something amazing happens. I bet that you’ll notice things you’ve never noticed before. But, if you don’t, give it another shot. Remember that practice makes perfect. Practice embracing uncertainty and you will master the present. The future will take care of itself.