24 life lessons from 24 months on the road

I wrote this blog post at the end of 2013, before diabetes, but that doesn’t invalidate it in any way. If anything, it makes it even more valid…

Today celebrates a whole two years on the road. I’m sat in Sydney’s International Departures, an airport which has more airplanes on the runway at one time than the airport I work in in New Zealand has flying in and out in an entire day. I’m feeling somewhat overwhelmed, and equally pensive. At some point over the last 24 months, I stopped being on holiday, and I realised that this is my life. I also realised a lot of other things along the way:

#1 Travelling the world is one of the greatest gifts you could give yourself.

‘I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”’ – Bill Bryson

If you love travelling, then I couldn’t have explained any more precisely as to why travelling is such a great gift to love than in this post. Giving yourself the gift of travel is like Alice choosing to chase the rabbit down the rabbit hole. She had a whole lot of fun, and she learned a lot about herself along the way!

#2 Our struggles make us.

‘The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.’ – Nelson Mandela

Shit happens. 2013 has been a bad year back home, to the extent where my family would’ve been less out of pocket if the hospital offered season tickets. But life is like photography – you use the negatives to develop. And the negatives that are just too ruined to develop? You could grieve over them and be bitter that they didn’t turn out well, or you could use the experience to become a better and stronger person.

#3 Live for the little things.

‘It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.’ – Arthur Conan Doyle

The bad jokes, the sunrises and the sunsets, the good coffee, the live music, the howling wind, the gushing rain, the smell of freshly cut grass. These are the things that life is all about. These are the things that remind you what it means to be alive.

#4 Worrying is futile.

‘Worry is the interest you pay on a debt you may not owe.’ – Keith Caserta

Whatever happens, happens. If a problem is solvable, it’s needless to worry. If a problem isn’t solvable, worrying isn’t going to help. Benefits of worrying are zilch.

Back when I did my first backpacking trip around Europe, my friend and I found ourselves stuck in Rome when there were no spaces left to Milan. Instead of freaking out that a spanner was thrown into our previously unhitched plans, we talked through our options and decided to stay on an extra few days before heading straight to Paris. We had to skip out Milan, but it all worked out and we were probably better off for it by having more time to explore the magical city of Rome. So worry not, because it’s not going to change anything.

#5 Always pack snacks…and toilet roll.

Whether you’re on a 27 hour bus ride across borders in South East Asia, or just in a bar in Australia, toilet roll always comes in handy. Similar goes for snacks – You never know when you’ll face delays and have no way of purchasing food (que delayed flight in Sydney…)

#6 Dream with the dreamers.

‘Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.’ – Shel Silverstein

Stay wildly ambitious and ditch the cynics. People too weak to follow their own dreams will find ways to discourage yours.

#7 Leave behind the remains of who you were.

Sure, life is about creating yourself, not finding yourself. But that’s not all. Think about art – to create a masterpiece, you’ve gotta wipe out the mistakes and improve it. You as a person are basically the same thing: You’ve gotta shred the negativity like a tree loses its leaves and you’ll feel the sunlight easier without them. Quite simply; you’ll blossom.

#8 Let yourself move to the next chapter in your life when the times comes.

‘You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy.’ – C. JoyBell C.

Don’t remain stuck on the same page and let your past make you better, not bitter.

#9 Happiness is a state of mind

‘Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.’ – Dalai Lama

It’s a way of life, achievable through a number of steps which pin happiness as a lifelong journey, not staked on something that can be lost.

#10 You are powerful beyond measure.

‘If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.’ –  Masaru Emoto

You are capable of doing so much more than you would ever believe, just by pushing your barriers of comfort.

#11 Material possessions hold you back.

‘It is the preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else that prevents us from living freely and nobly.’ Bertrand Russel

You need far fewer material things than you’d initially think, and packing light becomes a way of life when airport scales stand between you and your new home.

I’ve bought so much crap on my travels, and have been known to wear most of my clothes on a flight because of luggage being overweight. It wasn’t fun.

#12 Spend all your cash on experiences.

‘What you have learned from experience is worth much more than gold. If you have a house it may burn down. Any kind of possession can be lost, but your experience is yours forever. Keep it and find a way to use it’ Somalay Mam

Fact: we all adapt to commodities. New things are always great at first, right? But after a while we get use to every one of them, and in the end they get discarded. But experiences? Experiences involve anticipation…they provide the basis to valuable memories which will last a lifetime.

#13 Regret nothing.

‘Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Regardless of whatever you’ve done, you wouldn’t be where you are now had you not done whatever it is that you think you regret.

#14 Embrace fear.

‘I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.’ – Frank Herbert

Here’s more on why you should live despite being scared to death.

#15 You’re in control of your own destiny.

‘Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.’ – C.G.Jung

Your problems are yours to solve, your destiny is yours to make, your life is yours to live, you decide who you want to be.

#16 It’s never too late to change.

‘For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.’  – Eric Roth

#17 Say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’

‘Probably some of the best things that have ever happened to you in life, happened because you said yes to something. Otherwise things just sort of stay the same.’ – Danny Wallace, Yes Man

Saying ‘no’ to things instantly slams the door in the face of the person who is asking. It holds us back. It closes us off to many potentially great life experiences. We’re effectively fighting against what is happening to us in our lives. We’re resisting so much.

Saying yes, however, can be much more enjoyable.

If not, why not? What’s stopping you? Try anything once. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again. Either way, you’ll discover more about yourself.

#18 ‘Someday’ is a myth. 

‘We waste so many days waiting for the weekend. So many nights wanting morning. Our lust for future comfort is the biggest thief of life.’ – Joshua Glenn Clark

There are seven days of the week and ‘Someday’ isn’t one of them.

So you say you wanna do something? GO DO IT!

#19 Never let other people, or society determine how you should live your life. 

People have asked me when I’m coming home to ‘settle down and get a real job’. My response? Why? Having kids/starting a career/getting married are all good things that people my age and younger are doing, but it doesn’t mean I want to do all that yet. So why should I? You’re only as young as you are today for this day only. You’re only as free as you allow yourself to be. I’m having fun and I’m living my life the way I want.

Basically, only you know what is best for you.

#20 People are generally good. 

I haven’t the time or space to list the amount of times people have helped me out on my travels, but I’ve had a stranger give me a ride to the bus station at 5am in the morning on the border of Thailand, and new friends looking after me in the middle of the night in Laos when I had food poisoning.

#21 Travelling doesn’t get travelling out of your system.

‘Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.’ Judith Thurman

There are so many places to go, and so many things to see in this world. Travelling will only fuel your desire you keep on travelling.

#22 Life is unpredictable.

‘We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.’ – C. JoyBell C.

A lot will change, and so will you. Learn to accept it and go with the flow.

#23 Experience is the best teacher of all.

‘The only mistake in life is the lesson not learned’ – Albert Einstein

It doesn’t matter how many times someone call tell you something, but sometimes you just won’t believe it until you see or do it for yourself. Even then, you may have to make the same mistakes twice before the reality of the experience sinks in.

#24 There is only one thing certain in life.

‘What you have to decide… is how you want your life to be. If your forever was ending tomorrow, would this be how you’d want to have spent it? Listen, the truth is, nothing is guaranteed. You know that more than anybody. So dont be afraid. Be alive.’ ― Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

And that’s death. So live!

2 thoughts on “24 life lessons from 24 months on the road

  1. Frank says:

    Wow, such an inspirational post. You’ve had a lot of adventures and experiences in life, and the fact that you are doing it with diabetes makes it even more inspirational. Are these all your photos? (sorry, its a bit hard for me to tell)


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