Travelling is awesome. People are awesome. The world is awesome.
These are my main thoughts after five years of regular wanderings through this world’s closest and most remote places. It’s impossible to describe in mere words the amount of teachings and experiences that have enriched my life. And yet, I never fail to try.Like right now, when I’m trying to choose, name and define some of the lessons I’ve learnt on the road. I feel they might be interesting*, helpful*, valuable* (cross out the irrelevant) whether you’re planning on setting out into the world, or not. However, I do quietly hope that they will inspire you to travel – with your backpack through this planet’s amazing landscapes, or through your life, with more openness, spontaneity and acceptance.
I’ve chosen twenty eight of them to celebrate my twenty eight birthday1.
- BLOGS AND TRAVEL BOOKS *DON’T* LIE Travelling doesn’t have to be expensive and a small budget is oftentimes synonymous with great adventures. The world is not dangerous, though dangerous situations do occur. All around us there are tons of amazing people, who are extremely welcoming, kind and generous. Travel entrepreneurship gives you bonus points in both personal and professional life – the lessons I’ve learnt roaming around the world help me out big time in my business endeavours. What’s more, more often than not they’re at the core of my entrepreneurial successes.
- MEDIA OFTEN DOES The version of history we learn is the one written by winners and conquerors, which in modern world is tantamount with whites from the West. A filter of financial, intellectual, religious, moral and aesthetic interests of white people from the so-called developed countries2 is put on any piece of news that reaches us through the mass media outlets. That’s why world views, cultures, religions and customs that do not align with the above mentioned interests are often distorted, dismissed or totally ignored.When you turn off the TV and start learning about people through their daily lives, you suddenly realise that the world we live in is very different form the one portrayed on the news.
- CAREFULLY CHOOSE WHO YOU LISTEN TO There are over seven billion people alive on Earth right now, nearly thirty eight million in my country alone. Each and every one of them will have an opinion about everything – even, if they have no direct experience in the matter at hand. How are we to live? Whom to trust?I choose the doers. For every ten people you find who claim that something is impossible/not for you/not feasible, there’ll be someone who contradicts it with his or her own example. Find that someone, listen to them and then follow what your heart tells you.
- WE’RE ALL THE SAME
Yes, there are cultural differences between us – sometimes the size of the gap is so big that we feel it’ll be impossible to bridge. Nonetheless, deep down, we’re all the same.
We want to be safe, loved, and happy. We like to be helpful, we want to trust one another, we dream of a better world for our children and grandchildren. Being in nature soothes us, the noise and pollution we live with in cities tire us. We like to eat well and have a laugh with our friends. At times, we fear those who are different from us, at times we are reluctant to welcome change. We have insecurities and doubts. We’re all together in how we feel pain, suffering and loneliness.
We’re unified by our dreams, desires and the experience of being human. What separate us are only different conditionings that teach us to satisfy the same needs in various ways.
- EVERYONE HAS A STORY It’s easy to judge someone by the way they look, act or the circumstances in which we meet. By doing it, however, we loose the opportunity to listen, discover and understand the world through the eyes of another. Even if we don’t agree with someone or we don’t support what it is they’re doing, by getting to know the story behind the story (aka their motivation) we will be able to look at the human being behind the action that is being taken.My experience has shown me that every –EVERY – person carries within them stories and experiences that will not only enable us to connect, but also make me laugh, cry and leave me inspired.
- NOTHING’S ONLY BLACK OR WHITE We’re being brought up to think: this is good, that is bad. This is pretty, that is not. You have to do it this way, not the other. That’s how a good girl acts, that’s how a good boy acts. This is a real woman; that is a real man. This is civilisation; that is barbarism. This is development; that is backwardness.The moment we position, ascribe value or compare, we judge. It’s easiest seen when we meet with cultures completely different to our own – not knowing other religious, historical, social and economical context, it’s easy to pass judgment and proclaim our way of life as the only right one. Too often we evaluate and criticise things we don’t understand and know nothing about.
- TRAVELLING UN-SHAPES US
What shapes us – gives the shape of our thoughts, emotions and world views – is living in one place and in one country, socialising with people coming from the same community, with the same cultural and religious background, having relationships with people who have similar past-times and come from the same economical strata.Traveling has the opposite effect, because it exposes us to influences of people completely different to ourselves and all that we know from back home. It un-shapes the frames we’ve been moulded into and within which we were used to operate. It shows us that our way of thinking is not the only „right” one and that there’s nothing absolute about what we’d been taught as „the absolute truth” about life.
In so doing, travelling helps us become more flexible and adaptable. The old contours of who we are and how we function start to dissolve, which allows us to see farther and deeper than ever before.
- FRIENDSHIPS ARE MULTIDIMENTIONAL People play many different roles in our lives. They appear with different frequencies and regardless of how long they stay, they’re all tremendously valuable.When you meet a soul mate – regardless of how far away you live or if you think you’ll ever get to meet again – cultivate that relationship. Even if you never see each other again, the simple knowledge of them being somewhere out there doing their thing warms the heart and gives one courage to keep on walking one’s own path.
- DON’T STAY IN SITUATIONS THAT DON’T SERVE YOU
A thing might look and sound beautiful in your head or on paper but if the reality turns out to be different, give yourself the permission to change whatever it is you’d planned.Oftentimes we have certain notions regarding life (school, work, relationships) that have nothing to do with the reality of things. However, we keep on pushing forward because, after all, that was the plan; we’d spent so much time getting ready for it; it was supposed to be so beautiful. It’s hard to let go and understand that, apparently, it was just not meant to be.
Being stuck in situations that make us feel bad just because at some point in the past we though they’d be grant is pointless. It eats away our energy, takes away our joy of life and keeps on hurting us.
- YOU CAN ENJOY AND SAVOUR BEING ALONE
There used to be a time when I considered eating a meal alone as sad and travelling solo as boring. I felt the need to constantly be around people, to be busy at all times – I simply did not like being by and with myself. Without the noise, distractions and conversation with other, I had no choice but to meet with my own thoughts and feelings. And those were and are not always pleasant and supportive. Sometimes they’d show me how many things I didn’t like about my life.
Travelling by myself was the ideal opportunity to get to know myself better and to befriend myself. I started appreciating the silence, joy and serenity that swept over me, as I’d be getting lost in the side streets of some unknown towns. I discovered a deeply rooted feeling of total independence and spontaneity when I didn’t have to subjugate my next steps to anybody else’s agenda. Every moment was a good moment to change plans and head off into a new adventure.
- YOUR HAPPINESS WILL CHANGE THE WORLD
Remember an instant when you were filled with happiness and satisfaction: making a dream come true, seeing your newborn baby, getting a promotion of meeting the love of your life. Catch that moment or period of time, when you felt as if the whole world was at your feet.Did you feel the need to lie? Steal? Hurt somebody? Did you refuse to help a person in need? Did you go behind someone’s back and see how you can take advantage of them, squeeze the most for yourself? Or, just maybe, was it the other way around – you wanted to share your happiness and assist others in reaching the same positive state?
The happier we are with the life we lead, the more care, help and love we can contribute to others.
- ALOHA AINA
According to the Hawaiian mythology, all the species of plants and animals that evolved before we did are our ancestors, our older siblings. It’s a no-brainer why they got here before us – without them, the human race could not develop the way we did. That’s precisely why they deserve respect and care on our part.
In Hawaiian, Aloha aina literally means the love of land. The word kuleana means a responsibility and a privilege at once. From their point of view, we’re the land’s stewards and caretakers, not its owners. Our responsibility is to take care of land and manage its resources in a way that helps and enables it to give shelter, food and medicine to our next seven generations. To live close to nature and protect its natural cycles is a huge privilege to every human being.
- AS A CONSUMER, YOU RULE THE WORLD
What really creates the world we live in and how we pass it on to our kids are our consumer choices. Whether you’re paying attention to what and how you buy or not, supporting some companies and not supporting others has a direct correlation with what’s happening to our planet and our societies.Corporations aren’t evil – they just want to earn as fast and as much as they can. We are the ones who keep on enabling them to make money by ruining our health and environment. If we stop financially supporting companies, products and services that poison us and operate in unethical ways, they will have to change their practices – there is no other way in the open market. When their sales go down, their motivation to change their mode of operation will go up.
It’s only our conscious and responsible consumer decisions that can change the direction of our economical and social development. The most powerful tool we have to change the world lives in our wallet.
- EPIC ADVENTURES START WITH ONE SMALL DECISION It may seem that to see the world, make cool projects, make a living off your passion, be healthy and full of energy, be in a great relationship or make your dreams come true you need a ton of resources. That it’s all about the preparation, skills, plans, savings and contacts you have.However, most of the time they way we live and what we achieve is all based on a small and inconspicuous: I will do; I will ask; I will connect; I will go; I will apply; I will write; I will try…
- RISK OR ADVENTURE – THE CHOICE IS YOURS
Every new situation and opportunity that arises in front of us can be viewed in two categories: risk or adventure.
All the variables and unknowns influencing how things turn out can be welcomed with excitation and open arms, all the while not attaching too much importance to the outcome of things. If everything works out according to plan – awesome. If it doesn’t, at least we’ll have learnt something and gained new experience. And what a story it’ll make one day!
At the same time, those same elements can fill us with doubt and fear that overwhelm us and tie our hands behind our back. The mind will race off writing black scenarios and we – not having any warranty of success – will prefer not to stand out, following other people’s footsteps instead.
- „REAL LIFE” IS WHATEVER YOU WANT IT TO BE
I could not account for all the times I’d been asked when I’d start a „real life”. I used to laugh and ask: so what am I doing now, if not living? And what is my current life, if it isn’t „real”?They way I see it, enjoying the freedom I’ve been given by being lucky enough to be born in a particular part of the world at a particular point in time, is what real life is. Getting to know myself, that’s what real life is. Travelling and discovering the world, that’s what real life is. Following my dreams and experiencing crazy adventures, that’s what real life is. Being filled with joy just because I exist, breath and satiate my senses, that’s what real life is.
„Real life” has nothing to do with owning a flat, having an organised CV or sitting your butt down on the same couch every day.
- IT’S NOT ONLY CATS WHO HAVE NINE LIVES
Our profession, as well as the location and nature of the job we do, has a direct impact on how we discover the world. Constantly being in the same place and doing the same thing results in our experiencing the world only from one perspective, f.e. a translator’s living in a big city in England. Taking on new challenges, moving away, changing our profession, travelling, doing volunteer work – all of it makes us change our standpoint, which in turn enables us to broaden our viewpoint and our human experience.I can lead the life of an English teacher, to later become a dance instructor. I can experience how life looks like for expats living in India and a couple of months later, how it is to run a retreat centre in Hawaii. Find out for myself, if working a full time is my jam, or if I fair better building my own brand. Feel what it means to breed horses in Scotland and how it is to teach snowboarding in the Alps…
Giving ourselves permission to take on different life styles and try various ways of earning, travelling and living enables us to live as many distinct lives as we wish.
- NOT HAVING PLANS CAN BE A PLAN
I don’t really like planning because experience has taught me that I could never plan the best and most exciting things that happen to me. That’s why I don’t really focus on what, where and when I’m to do in life, but how to live it.
I don’t have a to do list, nor any deadlines; I don’t know where I’ll be in five months’ time. I know what I want to experience and what my dreams are, how I want to treat others and what values to support with my work. Whether I do it as an author, a traveller or an English tutor does not really matter much.
In the end all the puzzles naturally come together to create a beautiful, surprising and intriguing mosaic that is my life.
- LESS IS MORE
The fewer things we have, the more we are.The less energy we spend on what’s inconsequential.
The more rare it is for us to subjugate our life to things and their: payoff, repair, upkeep, improvement, gathering or cleaning.
The more often we notice and appreciate people.
The more consciously and responsibly we choose.
The less we base our happiness on the artificial.
The more value we put into who we are and how we feel.
- LIVE WITHOUT THE FEAR OF OTHER PEOPLE’S FEARS If someone doesn’t believe they can achieve something; or they don’t know someone who has; or they know people who’ve tried and failed – they’ll assume that the thing’s impossible. So when you say you want to do it, they’ll try to convince you that you won’t make it either. And in that person’s reality, you really won’t.However, you don’t have to live in a reality ruled by other people’s fears and doubts. Just because something outgrows others and is “impossible” for them, doesn’t mean it has to be the same way with you.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK
For advice, help, tips.For explanation, clarification, specification.
For cooperation, mentoring or support.
For spending time together, crashing someone’s couch, sharing their favourite recipe.
- EVERY NEXT STEP GETS EASIER The more we undertake something that scares us, the more often we realise that – in the end – most of our fears are completely unfounded. The hardest thing in allowing yourself to go outside of what you’ve known thus far is taking that first step.The second time you’re faced with an opportunity to do something new, you’ll remember that it all worked out fine the first time around – and you were scared then as well. The third time you’ll be a bit less apprehensive. The forth time around you won’t think about it twice. And that’s how it goes, with everything, for the rest of your life.
- THANK PEOPLE FOR THEIR ‘GOOD ADVICE’
We’re constantly given ‘good advice’ by both our dear ones and people we barely know. It’s usually dished out with concern, love and the willingness to help and yet more often than not it’s limiting and fearful. Once we start listening to others, instead of doing what we really feel our hearts guide us towards, we end up sad, frustrated and depressed. Our life is no longer ours, it belongs to other people’s voices and opinions.
At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to live with the consequences of your decisions and the choices you make. That’s why it’s so important they are aligned with who YOU are and what YOU care for. They’re to make YOU feel joyful and fulfilled. They’re there to help YOU get to where you want to be in life.
- GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT Whether we do it consciously or not, we all choose what we let guide our steps through life. For some it might be financial security for when they retire („I can’t quit/change/temporarily put my job on hold, because I need to keep on working my way up”), for some their CVs („I’ll do it/I won’t do it, because it will/it won’t look good on my CV”), for some it will be the opinions of others („I’d love to do that but what will people say/think!”) or the amount of material possessions they’ll be able to afford.How different would their (your) life look like, if you were to consciously decide to make your passions your priority? Being independent and free to choose what you will? Taking care of our planet? Spending time with your loved ones and your family?
- EVERYTHING’S THE WAY IT SHOULD BE In life, there’s time and place for: love & sadness, being in love & having a broken heart. Stability and the chaos of a life unplanned. Being among people and in solitude. Joy and anger. Action and reflection. Family life and being single. Reading books and partying it up in a club. Work and rest.Everything comes when it’s supposed to and what we’re going through right now is needed for us to prepare for the next phase of our lives. Therefore, we can’t skip it, erase i tor pretend that things are different than they truly are. Allow yourself to fully embrace the place you’re in and rejoice knowing that – whatever and wherever it is – it shall pass as well.
- YOU CAN MAKE MONEY IN HUNDREDS OF WAYS I personally know people who make a living: professionally playing poker, updating travel guides, teaching survival techniques, painting, surfing, running musical projects IN SPACE, preparing individualised meals in-house, pottering, playing music on cruises, giving dance classes, doing food photography, writing about theatre, teaching visual thinking, self-publishing…If someone ever told you it was impossible to sustain yourself through doing love you work and have a successful niche business – they were wrong.
- WE PRAISE WHAT’S FAR AWAY, NOT APPRECIATING WHAT’S UNDER OUR VERY NOSES
I love my home country, Poland.
The more I travel and relocate abroad, the more I come to appreciate this place and its people. I also keep on learning that there are no perfect places on earth, societies without problems or countries not facing all sorts of internal and external challenges.
I love how many parks there are in our cities. I love that we have four seasons. That there are small farmer’s markets in every neighbourhood where I can buy fresh and delicious fruits and veggies, without the fear of them being totally ruined with chemicals, like in the US. I love the fact that we’re not regularly faced with any major natural disasters or tropical diseases. I love that we constantly develop and reinvent ourselves. I love how sincere and valuable are the conversations I keep on having with the people I meet here. I love how down to earth we are. I love that, even though we’re plagued with all things American, we still manage to be skeptical and ask the hard questions about how the world looks like and where it’s going. I love how passionate and entrepreneurial Polish people are.
What do you love about where you come from?
- STOP WAITING FOR THE PERFECT MOMENT When you feel you want to do something in your life, stop using the conditional form of verbs. More often than not, straight after: „I would like to”, „I would do it”, „I could do it”, there’s a big fat „BUT”. Change it into: „I want to”, „I will”, „I can”.If you’re always waiting for the perfect: weather, amount of money in your bank account, weight, partner or job – you’ll end up living your life in a waiting room, instead of in the big, beautiful playroom it really is. Perfect moments and opportunities rarely just fall from the sky – usually we’re the ones to create them.