When I first started to travel in my 20’s I subscribed to an approach that is pretty common. I call it the “clipboard of fun” method of travelling. Basically it’s an attempt to cram as much as possible into your trip. It spawns itineraries that look like eight countries in a week or a different city every day or one destination that includes five activities each day. You can tell clipboard of fun people by the look of fatigue and lack of enthusiasm they wear.
This way of travelling probably comes from a desire to not miss out on anything. You’ve spent the money and taken the time and who knows when you will be back to this place, if ever. You better try to see and do as much as is humanly possible just in case.
Think about your last vacation. Was it a clipboard of fun? Did you run from one thing to the next checking activities off your list?
Here’s the problem with this approach: In trying to do it all, you miss pretty much everything.
An overfull itinerary means we are time pressured. We do the activity but we don’t actually experience it. We’re either too tired or thinking ahead about the next thing to do to actually be fully present to what we are doing. We get home and can’t actually remember the trip in great detail.
There is a difference between being a traveler and being a tourist. Travelers are looking for an experience and to create lasting memories. Tourists are looking to complete an itinerary.
It’s no wonder people travel in this way. It’s how many of us try to go through our days. We can’t say no even when we have little time or energy to commit to a task. We think we can add one more thing on to the list and it won’t negatively impact all the other things on the list. We make choices based on “should” and “have to”.
How you travel says a lot about how you navigate life .The truth is, in travel or life, we are not going to do it all. The world is a pretty big place and even if you travelled nonstop, you won’t see it all. In your daily life there will always be another thing you to which you can say yes to. The quality of your trip and your life is dependent on being selective and enjoying the journey.
It’s not only the pace of travel that reflects what happens in our regular life. Travel also gives a peek into how we handle the inevitable challenges that being out of our own backyard brings – flight delays, unexpected weather, and changes in routine. How we navigate these situations is a reflection of how we likely handle similar things back home. If you are impatient, disappointed, frustrated or annoyed when you travel, chances are good that, in the face of challenges or minor annoyances, you are those things at home too.
A lot of years ago something occurred which my family still refer to as the “Detroit airport incident”. Essentially it was my personal meltdown in the security area after a very long and challenging travel day.
Rude and inefficient behavior by the staff was the final straw that pushed me into the red zone. It was not one of my finer moments.
Looking back I am sure that I over-reacted to lots of things back then. I didn’t have as consistent a mindfulness practice that now allows me let go of things a little easier.
I travel a lot and I see many people who can get pretty bent out of shape over seemingly unimportant things – the coffee is different, the trains don’t run on time, the wifi is bad, it’s too cold or too hot. I’m guessing they are often that way at home too.
Ultimately travel is a personal growth experience. It’s an opportunity to practice patience or tolerance or taming your inner control freak. It’s a chance to for to observe you and learn.
Actor and comedian Danny Kaye once said: To travel is to take a journey into yourself.
Next time you set out for a vacation or to explore another part of the world, be sure to pay attention to how you are travelling not just where you are going and what you are doing. That makes every trip a trip of a lifetime.
What have you learned about yourself on your travels?