“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller
This is my third and final summer holidays in the university as an undergraduate and I am thankful to spend ~4 weeks abroad every summer. I love travelling and I feel that it has taught me a lot about life which I would never have learnt in the classrooms. Sometimes I feel we have to be taken out of our comfort zones to see what life is actually about. Here are some of my takeaways:
1. Travelling is not a competition. Neither is life.
I feel it’s part of the culture now to sensationalize things an to make your life seem more than what it actually is. So people devise bucket lists (littered with UNESCO sites) and see the places and do the things on the bucket lists and compare what they have done with other people. Now with the advent of social media, such comparison can be made easily. However, I don’t think that’s the right way to do things because travelling is a personal experience which cannot be replicated. To compare dissimilar things only makes one miserable and unsatisfied. I feel it is a good attitude to hold in life too and it makes people more contented with what they have.
2. How you travel is as important as, maybe more important than, where you travel to. Same goes for life, the “hows” are sometimes more important than the “wheres” and “whats”.
I am quite thankful to have experienced several different travelling styles in the span of three summer holidays. I was once a poetic traveller in Beijing who recited poems and lyrics when I came across certain objects; I was once a photography buff in France who, together with my group of friends, find beautiful backdrop to model against and take photographs (I did many different poses: jump shots, emo shots, thinking shots, even planking). This summer, I am headed for Europe to visit some friends I made from the exchange program (yay finally!) and I am travelling differently again. I feel that the exchange program has made me a more mature traveller who tries to understand the local culture and history as much as I can. I wonder how local people in different places live their lives – something I would not have thought of in my previous travels. I feel that my own attitude towards travelling affects the experience to a great extent. It is rather impossible to decouple the “how” factor from the “where” unless I revisit the places soon. That probably would not happen because I still have so much to see in this world.
I like to think that the attitude in life is as important as the paper accomplishments.
3. Don’t expect things too much. Have an open mind.
I feel some pre-trip planning is good but I don’t believe in a rigid schedule. Sometimes something that you didn’t include in the itinerary catches your eye and you want to explore but you can’t because you have to follow your schedule. I find this terribly frustrating.
Sometimes things don’t work out your way, e.g. delay or weather change, and I feel it’s important to have an open mind to embrace the next best alternative. I used to hate it when things don’t work out my way but now I accept it and move on.
4. Be comfortable living with uncertainty.
In Singapore, we are not used to uncertainty. People here are used to making plans and sticking to them and people without plans are so often marginalized so much so that they feel bad for not having plans. I feel that it is quite unhealthy to live with so much certainty that life is reduced to a series of “follow-throughs”. With a certain degree of uncertainty, people become very stressed over it and lost. What travelling taught me is to live with uncertainty and trust that tomorrow will be a great day even though you don’t know anything about it. It’s a great mentality to have and it certainly helped me through difficult times.
5. Treasure your company.
Enough said. People made things memorable.