This is the fifth part of a series of posts I am writing about the lessons we learned from taking a gap year.
Lots of flavors
Sometimes we see backpackers when we are traveling. Others are loaded up with designer luggage. Some people like to travel in large tour buses as a group while others prefer to hitchhike solo on their way to towns not visited by Lonely Planet. Everyone has opinions on the best places to go, the best way to get there, and the best things to do …and, that is OK.
There is no reason to drink cheap gin
When I think about Iceland I remember an impossibly beautiful place that felt like a filming location for the “The Lord of the Rings” movie. I forget about the biting wind and rain, the long stretches of lonely highway, and the impossible-to-figure-out gas pumps.
While traveling or having other experiences you are building memories. Researchers have figured out that those memories are not like static movies but rather movies that change each time you pull them out to look at them. Specifically, every time we play the movie we edit it to remove bits of the undesirable parts and exaggerate the good parts. We then put that memory back ready for the next time we want to take it off the shelf. You have a harder and harder time remembering how things truly unfolded as more time goes on. Frankly, I like it this way.
Unfortunately, you can’t change the reality of tangible things you buy. That new thing degrades over time like anything else. Every time you see it you are faced with the harsh reality of what it really is.
Always choose the experience.
Family and friends are the only thing that matters
(after you take care of your health)
If you take a moment to think about it, your family and friends are the only thing that matters. If you didn’t have anyone at all to share life with then life would not sparkle as much. OK, being a naturally introverted person I’ll admit that I am fine with spending long stretches of time observing and reflecting. However, my wife and I are always most excited about seeing our family and friends after being away for a while. We sometimes make friends while we are traveling but we still miss those folks who know us the best. We don’t take them for granted.
I accept that I am wrong and have a lot to learn
I have finally come to accept that I am generally wrong about many things, especially understanding different cultures. I am truly OK with this. In the past, the more I tried to make observations fit my previously solidified theories of the world, the more stress I had when evidence appeared that did not square with those theories. I have now shifted to actively searching out evidence that contradicts my theories and beliefs by asking, “What would make (this alternative) theory be true?”
More lessons to come
While we traveled I started writing in my notebooks quite a bit. I’m now in the process of going through these notebooks to figure out what might be helpful for someone else who wants to simplify, travel long-term, and/or just pick up useful bits.
Please comment below if you have learned any lessons from your own travels or have questions about some of the things I learned. Thanks!