There is no “right” way to travel. Every traveler has their own circumstances, motivations, and goals. But the way we frame our trips–how we approach them and take them–can thwart those goals if we are not careful. Although no single style or ideology of traveling applies to everyone, certain negative attitudes can doom any traveler before a trip even starts. To maximize your enjoyment of your next adventure and travel more mindfully from now on, be sure to avoid these pitfalls.
You Have Expectations
Expectations are the root of all disappointment. It’s fine to desire or wish for positive outcomes, but expecting you’re going to get them is a recipe for bitterness and frustration. Stop expecting everything to be flawless and smooth. Stop expecting your bus/train/plane will arrive on time. Focus not on what you expect to occur, but on the underlying purpose of your trip. What’s the “mission statement”? What are you striving for? If you have a clear purpose, you won’t need expectations.
You Think the Trip Starts When You Get There
The trip starts when you book your flight, not when you board it or when you land. Planning for a trip is a huge component of its overall success that should be considered the true beginning of your adventure. Plus, if you can learn to enjoy airports, boarding, and long-haul flights, and appreciate them as facilitators of your dreams, they’ll stop being painful or burdens. Getting there will become just as fun as being there. Eventually, you might not even be able to tell the difference!
You Travel to Escape Your “Real” Life
This rationale reminds me of a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance: “My giant goes with me wherever I go.” In other words, there’s no escape from your real life. If you’re running from problems, stress or tough decisions, they’ll follow you all the way to Timbuktu with no remorse. As romantic as it may initially seem to “run away from it all,” it’s so much more empowering to run toward your goals than away from your fears. Traveling to escape fill-in-the-blank is a trap. Avoid it!
You Travel to Find Yourself
Travel is a brilliant way to “find yourself”…unless you’ve made that abstract concept the only way to redeem the effort and energy you’ve expended to get away. What does “finding yourself” even mean? It means getting a greater clarity about one’s true self and true purpose, but that awareness cannot be found under a beach chair in Bermuda. Don’t mistake your soul-search for an Easter-egg hunt. Instead of traveling with the goal of finding, travel instead with the goal of looking, carefully and closely, at yourself and at your environment. The looking is the finding. Listen. Observe. “Yourself” will find you.
You Travel to Say You Were There
Recipe for disaster! This reason reeks of self-absorption. It falsely ranks looking good above feeling good, and ultimately exposes the traveler as vacuous and phony. It feels amazing to have been somewhere magical and to share that magic with others. However, if being able to say you went somewhere is your primary reason for going in the first place, you’ve stifled the magic with your transparent motives. Instead, travel to get somewhere—to be somewhere. Anything else is a disservice to yourself.
You Make Travel a Competition
The beauty of experiences is that, unlike material possessions, they do not lend themselves to comparison. So, if you try to compare your experiences to someone else’s, well…have fun with that! Feeling jealous about other people’s adventures is another unhealthy form of comparison resulting from competitive urges. The world is not a pizza. If I eat eight slices of the world, it won’t disappear; there will still be at least eight slices of the world for you! Focus on how grateful you are for it, and it will be yours.
You Search for Differences
Want something different in your life? Shop at a different grocery store than usual. Walk a different way home from work. Try a new restaurant in a new neighborhood. Different is nice, but it’s easy. Instead, search for sameness where it seems not to belong. What connects all human beings? Look for that. Look for bridges between people and cultures.
You Think the Trip Ends When You Get Home
Not exactly. What are you going to do with all of you pictures and video now that you’re home? How are you going to use your experience to entertain, enlighten, or inspire others? What about the memories you’ve created? Will you hoard them or record them? Will you reflect and learn from your reflections? Adventures evolve in our minds and serve us in new and unexpected ways for the rest of our lives. You owe it to yourself to consider how trips have served you and helped you grow.