I recently went across this TED Talk about how a woman went on a journey of self discovery through TED talks, and I realized how much of her activities are what I've been doing through travelling.
Fun fact: she started her activities on November 1st 2011, mine on the same date in 2012.
She exposes 5 big categories, with several activities in each categories.
She exposes 5 big categories, with several activities in each categories.
The first set of activities were:
- Better listening: when you travel, you have to open your ears, and your mind, to other people's stories, either from fellow travellers or from locals, and try to listen carefully so that you can actually learn from them.
- Asian Diet: well, I did the Asian diet in March when I did the Asia in a nutshell tour, and that's true, you eat so much better, with less fat and a variety of veggies. What I appreciated the most was to try every local specialty, and this too helps you open your mind, because if you're adventurous enough to taste something new, your mindset is right to experience something new.
- Less Meat: well, I'm not really proud of this one, but I had to go through it because I was poor. It was when I was working in winter in Ultima, and it turned out to be the moment of my year of travelling when I was the thinnest, but I don't know if it's because I didn't have money for meat or because I ate only twice a day. But eating less meat, or eating twice a day, is also a manner of adjusting your diet to your amount of daily activities. Since I wasn't doing any physical activities at that time, I ate much less, but didn't feel weak. Of course, when I came back in Ultima during the holiday season, my dear locals kept feeding me and all my good resolutions melted in front of such delicious roasted meats...
- Remembering: When you travel a lot and meet a lot of different people, I think it's important to remember them, their stories and their names. Remembering comes with better listening, and helps you learn from other people's experience.
- Living the 3As of awesome (attitude, awareness, authenticity):
- For Neil Pasricha, attitude is to choose to move on instead of grieving after some low in your life. That's what I did when I decided to travel for a year, but it's not just a decision you take when you're sad, it's a decision you take every day of your life, when you decide to look at the good things that are in your life. Just walking down a street, looking up and smiling because you are exactly where you want to be, where you chose to be, among people who appreciate you for who you are. For me, that's the right attitude.
- Awareness is for Neil Pasricha to embrace the 3-year-old inside of you that sees the world for the first time. For me, it's the counterpart of better listening, it's better seeing. Seeing all the beauty of the world, the beauty of the open horizon from huge paddocks, of strangers that will look after you for no other reason than the fact that they're scared you'd get stranded, the beauty of something unique as much as the beauty of something common, the beauty of a place you discover for the first time as much as the beauty of a place you know so well.
- Authenticity is "being you and being cool with that". I couldn't agree more. I used to look acceptance in the eyes of others when really, what I needed was to find acceptance in my own eyes. I recently talked about it with one of my best friends, telling her that when I was with her and my closest friends, I was always thinking "wow, my friends are so cool to love the screwed-up I am", and she said that it was because I didn't love myself, and was admiring them instead of loving them too, and realizing how screwed up they also were (and probably why we love each other so much). Travelling a year put me out of my comfort zone, and made me realize that I may be screwed-up, but I'm wrong in all the right ways, and I should love myself for that. Of course, the eyes of the friends I made on the journey helped, because why would such extraordinary people love me if I wasn't extraordinary either? You just have to realize how special and uncommon you are.
- Slowing down: when you travel for a year, you can either choose to see everything you can in the little amount of time you have (which, again, I did in the Asia in a nutshell tour), or you can decide to slow down and enjoy the place you are right now. That's what I did in Western Australia, especially in Exmouth, and that's why I have such a fond memory of this place. I didn't have anything to do, except feed myself and enjoy the beautiful weather. I kept myself busy at a very slow pace, reading all the books I wanted to read, volunteering at a local festival, and taking in the extraordinary surroundings. I also took time to connect with people that were only staying for a night or two, and met a lot of different people, with one common thing: an awesome, fully lived life.
- Simplicity: When you live out of a suitcase for a year, you have to have simpler needs. I used to live comfortably, buying stuff and not minding if I had to throw them away or leave them somewhere. Now I realize that I don't need stuff to live comfortably, and that actually puts more value in the things that I own. First, because I had to think twice before spending my money on them, and second, because they've been with me all along on my travels.
- More Happiness: for me, more happiness is so close to having a positive attitude that I'm not going to tell you again, but basically, the 3 As lead you to an awesome life, and thus to more happiness.
- Vulnerability: wow that was for me one of the most important component of my life, for 2 main reasons:
- First, I am very vulnerable to other people's opinion. And as I revealed in Half a life ago, I was very focused on changing myself, but without focusing on the maybe too big importance I gave to other people's love of me, so I also had to work on that
- Second, while connecting with and loving new people along the way, I made myself more vulnerable, because loving someone almost always exposes you to vulnerability. You get out of your comfort zone to connect with them, and thus exposing your heart to rejection or indifference. And you also become so vulnerable when eventually you are the one who has to leave. But exposing yourself to vulnerability actually makes you stronger, as if it would build a crust of experience around your vulnerable heart, still passing through love and compassion, but making it easier to go out there and connect with the world
Dunn then talked about wearing nothing new for a month, which is basically what I did for a year, not with second hand clothes (even though I had to buy second hand polar vests during the hardest of winter), but with my own clothes, reusing them again and again, and that's when you realize how amazing good clothes are, that they can endure such treatment, 50+ laundries and tumble dry, without aging so much.
The next category was about her relationship with others
- Thanks, praise and mindfulness (by telling people how special they are): yes, sometimes, some of us don't think about expressing how we feel, failing to realize that if you don't express anything, people, who don't read minds, will never know about it. So that is something I forced myself to do, not forcing praise or thanks, but forcing myself to express them. That's why I would say how much I would miss a friend during a departure, why I would express my admiration over someone I hold dearly in my heart, and why I would ask them how they feel in return. You soon realize that actually also pushes you to live every moment to the fullest with the people you love.
- Preconceptions: for me, preconceptions are born from a lack of open mindedness, but also from generalization. You meet a person from place A, they have that kind of behavior, so you think everyone from A is like that. That's preconception, that's how hate, any kind of hate, is born.
- Letters: I am fundamentally an email and chat person. When I left, some of my friends told me that it wouldn't change that much because we mainly speak via gtalk. So when I decided to send postcards for my closest friends' birthdays, I nearly had a writer's blank. But then I soon found out that a handwritten personal touch was more powerful than emails, especially coming from the other side of the world. People were more touched by the gesture, but it didn't have just an impact on them, it also had an impact on myself. Writing email is easy, you don't really have to think about it, because you can erase it. Even though you still need to put yourself in the receiver's head to try to know how they would react with just the words and not the expression on your face or in your voice. Writing a letter is the same work, plus, what you write needs to be thought before you use your pen, which is an exercise that can lead you to actually think before you talk.
- Compassion (and being less judgemental): Being compassionate and less judgemental all comes down to the same open-mindedness you acquire with good listening. When you meet so many people, so different from you, you cannot keep on judging them, or comparing them to your own way of living. After a while you realize the context and their circumstances, and after a longer while, you don't judge people anymore. Even the ones that are judgemental. You can express your own opinion, and tell them that being judgemental is not the solution to their problems, and give constructed arguments why you think that way, but you yourself shouldn't try and make them think like you, because maybe they have circumstances, or lack of education or experience that make them think that way. And maybe even your way of thinking is lacking some things. For me, if you start judging people, that should forbid you to try and convince them, because who are you to do it? So never judge anyone, because anyone could judge you.
Dunn's last category had to do with her relationship with herself. For me, travelling on my own gave me a sense of drive, of motivation, of purpose, of goal to achieve. It also gives you an insight on your leadership style, because when you meet so many people, you compare yourself to others, and learn so much about yourself. I might never be the leader of the pack, but since I managed to take care of myself for a year, I led my own project, my own self through so many places and experiences, and that doesn't count for nothing. I also spent time analyzing my choices, and that helped me understand how I work and why sometimes I may be wrong. But it also helped me look at my regrets and worst decisions with a clear mind, all the decisions I let Life make for me. I now understand better the whys and left behind all the what-ifs. Learning from your own mistakes is quite empowering.
But comparing to Half a life ago, when I was so focused on changing that I didn't think enough about being myself, I now understand that the whole process takes time. Of course, I think I am aiming in the right direction, but a year is clearly too little to change who I am, and maybe changing myself is not the solution. Maybe the only thing I need is to fully accept who I am, and that, I know the year away changed it. Because it finally gave me a sense of balance. When you spend days having nothing to do, you need to make the efforts to actually do something, you need to think carefully about what you want to do. And it guides you to choose activities you really enjoy, because you're bound to spend a lot of time doing them. So it gave me balance in the sense that I got to decide what was a perfect day schedule, but it also helped me, once again, to learn more about myself.
So I'm probably not going to start a movement, nor going to present a TEDTalk, but if someone can relate, my job here is done. After all, the whole purpose of the blog is to make YOU want to begin this amazing adventure.
What is your insight?