In January 2015, I made the journey from Ottawa, Canada, to Sydney, Australia. What was initially supposed to be a five month adventure, ended up lasting a lot longer. As a solo traveler, I worked and lived in this country for one year and two months. A total of 432 days were spent exploring Australia, a beautiful place known for it’s crystal blue waters and endless sunshine, a place I’d always dreamed of experiencing.

Here is what I learned.

Rottnest Island, Western Australia. Photo Cred: http://nicolamichelle.space/

1) The most important relationship you have is the one you create with yourself.

Seriously, though.

I am my own worst critic. I still am. But spending a year traveling solo, I was forced to spend a lot of time in solitude. I learned how to better handle my emotions, how to understand my thought processes, and generally how to be a lot nicer to myself.

I learned a lot about self-compassion.

It’s a work in progress. But man, life is so much easier when you decide to support your own team.

2) Follow your own star.

Without the influence or perceived pressure from others, how would you live your life?

I went to Australia because I had been dreaming to go for years. My intuition was guiding me to this far away land. And so I went!

Even if it doesn’t make sense to others…what do you truly want to do with your life?

3) Prioritize your life in a way that makes sense, for you.

A lot of people my age are buying houses, getting married and talking about having kids. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting these things, if that’s what will make you happy.

When I returned home from Australia I had to have an honest conversation with myself. I made the decision to support my friends, no matter how different our lives were. I also realized that I needed to be ok with carving my own path, no matter how different it may seem.

For me, having a house or getting married or having kids are not things that I want right now. And that’s ok too. Maybe I will want them someday. But not right now.

It’s ok to want different things.

It’s ok for peoples lives to progress along different paths and timelines.

Prioritize the things you want, in a way that’s most authentic to you.

4) Material items are not that important.

Australia is damn expensive. Rent in “share house”, with a small room and tiny single bed cost me over $1000 a month (and that was “cheap”). When I arrived to Sydney I was between jobs and pay checks. I had secured a full-time job as a yoga instructor but wasn’t getting paid for two weeks.

I had $17 in my bank account. Yep.

I had to fit all of my possessions into one large backpack. For a whole year, one backpack. The combination of running out of money, and forcing all of my clothes into one bag, taught me a crucial life lesson.

It taught me how unimportant material items truly are. In no way was my sense of happiness tied to the things that I owned.

I learned to not spend money on stupid, unnecessary stuff.

My relationship with material possessions has changed. I feel less attachment to things.

I still go shopping and buy things. But when I do, it’s with more conscious thought.

Do I really need this? Is this going to make me happier?

5) Failure is an event not a person.

I met a lot of people traveling. I was traveling alone, and I said yes to as many adventures as I could. This also meant that I met people I wouldn’t have met had I stayed in my comfort zone.

Maybe I was more open to relationships because everything was new and exciting. Maybe I was naive. It could be both. Long story short, I got my heartbroken. And I don’t regret it.

Failure is a perceived event. I’ve learned to understand failure as measure of growth. If I’m not failing at anything, I’m not trying.

Date people. Get to know what you like and don’t like. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and also what kind of relationship you want and deserve.

Sometimes people are only meant to be in your life for a short period of time. And that’s ok.

Insert cheesy quote:

“Be strong enough to let go, and wise enough to wait for what you deserve.”

6) Spend time alone.

I spent a lot of time alone in Australia. Sometimes by choice, other times because I was traveling by myself. I began to understand the value in spending time alone. I learned to enjoy my own company.

Spending time alone is my backbone of confidence. It has taught me to be less concerned with the approval of others. Spending time alone also allowed me to reflect on the kinds of people I want to surround myself with. Time alone, away from family and friends, made me appreciate the people I care about even more.

The time I spent by myself taught me a lot about who I am as a person.

Time spent alone is time well spent.

7) Less social media, more happiness.

Ok, I admit, I’m learning to take my own advice on this subject. Social media can be a useful tool of connecting with inspiring people, and as way of marketing a business. It’s fun. Social media is also addictive.

I spent three weeks in this little coastal town in Australia called Agnes Water & the Town of 1770 (yes, it exists). There was very limited wi-fi and cell phone reception. At one point, my phone battery died and I had no contact with the outside world for four days. Instead I went camping, went to the beach, went surfing, sat at the local cafe and read my book, and played outside on the longboard. I didn’t have Snapchat for my entire year-long adventure. It was awesome.

The less I was attached to my phone, the more I became aware of my attachment to it.

Now that I’m back home in Canada with an upgraded phone, I’m forced to re-learn this again. Instagram is creative and fun but sometimes it makes us feel like crap because inherently we compare ourselves to others.

So, I say to myself, use social media with care. Perhaps spend a day (or two, or three, or seven) in “digital detox”. Make an effort to use it less, and to use it wisely.

Note to self: for increased happiness, limit use of social media.

Less time looking at screens, more time spent…experiencing life.

8) Less attachment to outcomes.

In other words, go with the flow.

So many things went “wrong” on my travels.

My travel partner and I parted ways, and I ended up with sole ownership of a car (a thrifty 2001 Holden Commodore station wagon), which was not what I had planned. I spent time living in 1770, Byron Bay and Melbourne, also what I’d never planned to do. Living in Australia cost way more than I’d ever imagined it would. The opening date for the yoga studio I had planned to work at got delayed by several months. I dated someone, moved to another city, and things didn’t work out. Twice.

Whenever I failed to accept my circumstances — how things happened versus how I imagined them happening — I suffered.

Moral of the story: acceptance. Don’t fight what is.

The sooner I work on making changes and finding solutions, the better.

Car broke down? Feel bad? Ok. Feel it. Now, what’s the best solution to this problem?

Less effort, more ease.

Less force, more flow.