For me, 2017 has been the year of learning. While many of my Facebook friends posted statuses such as “I can’t wait for 2017 to be over” and “bring on 2018” I am looking back on the past 12 months fondly.
2017 was the first year I lived entirely abroad in Canada. I burst into 2017 roaring drunk, watching fireworks from the highest mountain of the Okanagan Highland. It was the year I learnt to snowboard and play guitar, lived in a van in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and attended a huge country music festival. I completed a mindfulness triathlon, attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival and saw grizzly bears and elk in the wild. I made friends who will be in my life until the day I die.
Even the low moments of 2017 taught me valuable lessons. Getting fired (twice) encouraged me to start my career as a digital nomad freelancing and building websites. The moments where loneliness got a little too much gave me strength and resilience I didn’t think I possessed.
Here are the most valuable lessons from travelling I discovered this year.
If you practice something for 15 minutes every day, you will eventually become good at it
Learning a new skill, especially as an adult, is scary. On the flip side, learning something new is incredibly rewarding and a great confidence booster. I made it my goal in 2017 that I would teach myself a new skill during winter and summer. For winter, I would learn how to snowboard; in summer, I would become a student of yoga with my ultimate goal being to learn how to do a headstand.
Snowboarding brings the Japanese proverb “fall seven times, stand up eight” to life. I fell down over 40 times during my first run. The next day I fell down 20 times, and on the fourth day I managed to get down that run after falling down only twice. Fast forward four months and I was attempting double black runs! Each time I fell on my ass, I got back up and kept trying.
Before I could started my headstand practice, I needed to build my core and wrist strength, so I attempted bakasana (crows pose). I fell on my face many times, and I could barely hold the pose for more than a couple of seconds. Every day, I practiced, and one week later I could hold bakasana for 15 seconds! It was exactly the same when learning the headstand; I fell numerous times, but I kept practicing daily. Within a few days I was nailing it.
There are only three in life things worth stressing over- everything else is white noise
Looking back to my pre-travel days, I realised I stressed myself out over very trivial things: flatmates, work, and fuckboys are a few examples.
Travelling has given me a resilience I’d never known and a clear path to happiness. During summer, I surprised myself in a moment where I couldn’t recall the last time I felt stressed. It had actually been that long. I was living a very simple life in my van, earning $15 an hour and obtaining my meals from the food rescue.
I came to the realisation we stress ourselves out unnecessarily 90 per cent of the time. There are three things in my opinion, that are acceptable to feel stress over: sickness (either ourselves or a loved one), not having access to food, and not having somewhere safe to sleep. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, however, those were the only three things I could justify feeling stressed out over. If these three stressors are missing from your life, you should feel blessed.
Making yourself uncomfortable makes life more comfortable
I believe the secret to happiness is challenging yourself; if you put yourself through situations that test your strength and character, you will grow. You will become more resilient and exude gratitude and in my opinion, gratitude leads to happiness.
You know how all those self-help books bang on about gratitude? I actually purchased a gratitude book once, and honestly, it didn’t really do much. All I could think about was “I should feel grateful for x, y and z, but I take them for granted.”
You don’t feel grateful for the small things when you write them down. You learn gratitude when you go without.
Living in a van for several months was not easy. I didn’t have a bathroom or kitchen, I had very limited space and worst of all it was pretty lonely. After the first month I hated it so much I wanted to move into a house, but I couldn’t afford money for a bond. I persisted, and three months later when I could afford to move into a house I chose not to. What I was learning about myself was too important.
The every day, mundane things people take for granted were fantasies to me; having access to a toilet in the middle of the night, carpet, being able to bake cookies…
Living in the van taught me not to take things for granted. Happiness is a result of gratitude, and the path that leads you there is by doing things that challenge your perception of reality.
If you are unashamedly yourself, you will attract the right people
I used to hide my geekiness from others for fear of judgement. I’m a lover of history (Scottish history, in particular) and old books that smell like dust. I love Taylor Swift’s music because it resonates with me, and I can’t stand a lot of the hipster filth that plays at parties and on the radio today. I used to pretend I was interested in superficial things such as shopping and make-up. Small talk isn’t for me, and I love real conversations. I love crystals, meditation, yoga and I believe in chakras. This year I stopped hiding my “uncool” traits, and you know what? I have met some of the BEST people who I know will be in my life for the long slog.
If you find yourself acting like someone else in order to fit in, the friends you make will not be genuine. If you do you, and others don’t welcome you with open arms, guess what? You’ve saved yourself valuable time and energy by not investing in them. Which leaves you with more time to focus on those that matter.
Getting fired from your job could actually be the best thing for you
I got fired twice this year, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Yep seriously. My first job loss resulted in me finding an even better job and led me to meeting and working with two of my favourite humans on the planet. We are all planning to move to the United Kingdom next year, which I am really looking forward to.
The second time I got fired forced me to dig deep and start my own business specialising in freelance writing and website design. My new business allows me to work from anywhere (as long as I have an internet connection) and lets me take my work on the road while I continue to travel the world.
Always have a little money saved
The one regret I did have in 2017 was not having a little bit of money set aside so I could do fun, spontaneous things with my friends. Travelling opens you up to a spontaneous lifestyle. You often meet people who are going on trips and invite you along. There were a few trips I could have done with friends this year, but unfortunately I did not have the funds to do so.
Even if you just put aside $20 a week, this will very quickly build into something you can dip into for concert tickets, plane rides, or gas money for road trips.
What valuable lessons did travel teach you in 2017?