When going on travel vacations, you’re never able to anticipate how it will affect you and your life. When you board the plane you only think about the itinerary and see yourself having fun in the weeks to come. Your imagination fills the air with possibilities!
Over the last year, I traveled to 14 different countries for a total of nine months; staying in three of them for more than one month. These were the most rewarding experiences of my life. You change along the way, yet you never truly realize how much you’ve changed until you get back home. Most of the changes I’ve experienced are internal, nonetheless it feels good as a person to experience these internal shifts. These changes indeed changed my perception, allowed me to see more clearly what is important in life and altered how I perceive life as well.
There was this one night in Chennai, India that marked me as a human and my way of enjoying life before. I was with friends on Elliot’s Beach for our first night in the city. We were enjoying the beach, walking around and having fun. We decided to go find a restaurant to eat;on the way we were stopped by a group of children that were amazed to see Caucasians on their beach. Their English was basic, but they were very proud to show us they knew how to speak our language.
They started presenting themselves to us saying, “Hi, my name is?” with their hand pointing toward us. I soon realized they were asking for our names. We started to play the game, shaking every single little hand and asking for their names in return. They were the happiest kids on earth.
After a couple of minutes, my friend took her phone out and asked them if they wanted to take pictures. I copied her and did the same thing. It is incredible to see how kids can be very happy just taking part in a photo. We continued interacting with them for another 20 minutes or so, joking around and teaching them some new words. I can say without hesitation, these were the best 20 minutes of my entire trip!
Yes, I had really good pictures on my phone to immortalize the time with them, but more important,I walked away with both a cherished memory and an indelible lesson. Upon reflection, I realized how amazing it is some people can be so happy with few possessions in their lives. These children were very poor, yet they were enjoying the little things, such as meeting strangers. It made me realize that we are attached to material goods, money and things – all of which are not worth the price we pay quite often.
Upon my arrival back home, I went into my room and rediscovered all the things I own. “My gosh, I own a lot!” Quickly, I realized it is way too much ‘stuff’, and “I don’t need all those things to be happy!” I thought about those kids and how they can be so happy and grateful to live and yet they have nothing. Immediately, I decided to change my way of thinking regarding what is important to me in terms of stuff I own, as well as my shopping habits going forward.
It also changed my shopping habits by forcing me to ask myself, “Do I really need it?” Now, every time I buy something, I have to give something away and I have to truly need the item I am considering.
My new way of thinking did not stop there. Money does not necessarily make me happy anymore – at least, not in the same way it used to. At that time, I had a job that I did not like and I was complaining whenever I did extra hours. Yes, I have more money when I work more, but then I can’t spend time with the people I cherish. I never realized that until I got back.
Possessions and my relationship to them, this is the biggest change that I experienced throughout my travels. From now on, I collect people and places, not things!
My best advice is to look out on the web, find your next destination, pack your bag and go discover the world. Hopefully, it will change your life’s perspective ;).