How Traveling to 17 Countries in 6 Months Made Me Learn to Slow Down
I was always in a rush. I was in a rush to get started on my career after university. I rushed myself to buy a condo and subsequently a house with my then boyfriend. I was in a rush to get married. Although with that being on
someone else’s timeline I never did find a guy who was in as much of a rush as me. I was in a rush to break up when I felt I wasn’t in control of my future anymore. And I rushed to sell my house, pack my bag and get on a one-way flight to Sydney. I was going to see the world in a rushed fashion, and my house hadn’t event closed yet.
The beginning of my trip was exactly that — rushed. Or as I would have called it, focused. I knew what I wanted to see, and I made a schedule and daily itinerary of everything I needed to check out, as per the many different travel blog and books that I cross-referenced. I finished visiting more of Australia than most Australians have ever seen within 3 weeks. I could have chosen to stay and enjoy it more, but I was determined to carry on and see more of the world.
Eventually, life started giving me subtle hints to enjoy my time. I am such an organized and pre-planned person that it would have been completely unheard of that I would find myself with a day with nothing planned. This happened twice. I would think I was supposed to be somewhere before my time. I would think I was catching a plane or leaving a country and realize I wasn’t due until the following day. I had a day of nothing. How could I possibly handle that? I had already seen what I needed to see, do what I needed to do. What do people do with a day completely dedicated to nothing?
Enjoying the Moment
When I would wander into a park or a cafe and allow myself to just be there since I had nowhere else to go, I started to realize what my anxiousness was doing to me. I thought I was a high-functioning person, turns out that was my positive spin for high-strung. I would sit and people watch, without judgment, getting lost in staring. My days became longer, but I found I had so much more to be grateful for. I actually enjoyed the moment. I realized all the things I was missing: sounds of birds, leaves blowing, local music and chatter, the smell of flowers or bakeries, watching children play, the feeling of a cold breeze on my hand.
I continued to travel and see the countries that I did, and in some opinions, record time, but I never felt like I was rushing the process anymore. I stopped spending the time researching the many different sites to see. I would make a note of the top 4 or 5 and if I saw them, great, if not, great. I felt immersing myself in local culture was far more important. I said yes to everything that came my way, because I didn’t know if I would ever have the opportunity to go for dinner with a Turkish carpet dealer or enjoy an authentic African BBQ again.
Bringing My Lessons Home
The hardest part about traveling for so long is the idea that I now want to be this different person. I want to approach my life differently: no TV, no more celebrity gossip, more nature, more volunteering and giving to causes. However, as the first few days of living by this new righteousness gave way to an actual life, I found myself starting to watch TV again, although this time around I refused to watch the gossip shows. I had to really challenge myself by asking what do I really want my life to be like and if I had to make conscious decisions, instead of being carried along by my previous way of life, how would I change that? It wasn’t easy to break home-built habits. I decided that every dog walk I was no longer going to bring my cell phone. I was cutting my cable. I was no longer going to compare and judge myself to what others think and do, which meant saying no to daily Facebook log-ins (which since then has turned into maybe once a month, when I need to go online for an address to a party request or some other necessary reason). After coming home, it was about applying all the lessons I learned about slowing down and enjoying the moment into my real life. This was the largest learning, but so far the most valuable. I now treat every day like a gift and am no longer worried about trying to get somewhere before I am supposed to be there. Everything comes in its own time.
Kim Orlesky is an Executive Life Coach inspiring daily joy. She is a world traveller, author, one-time marathoner, adventurer, poor golfer, inconsistent yogi and puppy parent to her Weimaraner.