Monday, January 12, 2015

Zen and the Art of the Black Water Tank Dump: Ten Life Lessons Gleaned from Full-Time Life on the Road, Part Two:

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina, USA (photo by Simone Cannon)

6.  Home is Where You Park It: there is no single place that will make you happy or unhappy.  Wherever you travel, you will be there along with the same problems that you have always had. Instead of traveling to escape, travel to liberate yourself by learning how to become more resilient and how to navigate through the obstacles of life. Take advantage of your current location by learning something new and challenging yourself. Experiment with local foods and culinary techniques, get to know local people, learn new languages and customs, hike different trails, try new activities, make new friends. Even if you've lived in the same place for 30 years, there is always something knew to discover. Make the best of every situation, expand your horizons and you will amaze yourself with your new-found courage, joy and knowledge.  

Luis traversing the Amazon jungle, outside of Manaus, Brazil (photo by Simone Cannon)

7.  Don’t Be Afraid to Move On (or Stay):  whenever I have made a huge error in judgment in my life, it has been when I didn't pay attention to my antennae a-quivering. I rationalized away my perfectly sound instincts and was inevitably sorry. If you feel happy, comfortable and gratified in a place, job or relationship, stay. If you don’t, it’s perfectly acceptable to move on. Trust yourself to know if something doesn't feel right. You don’t have to explain, rationalize or justify your decision to anyone, including yourself. Life is shockingly short; it’s best not to waste time hanging around a campsite that's not right for you.  

The Mountains of Montana (photo by Simone Cannon)

8.  Plan Well, Prepare, But Don't be Afraid to Get Off the Beaten Path: anyone can follow the tourist trail, but it takes a brave soul to branch out. Some of the best experiences we've had have been the result of spontaneous decisions or last-minute suggestions from others, partly because there are no expectations, that is, no opportunity to be disappointed, but also because to be unexpectedly delighted and surprised by something is a rare experience indeed. Start out with a basic plan, prepare as best you can, but always remain flexible. There is nothing to be gained by "staying the course" if a wonderful opportunity comes along or if inclement weather is imminent and will ruin your best laid plans. Remain agile and open to new experiences in travel and in life and you will seldom go wrong.  

Luis zip-lining in Bariloche, Argentina (photo by Simone Cannon)

9.     Challenge Your Fears: everyone has a fear of something. That’s fine, natural and perfectly normal; it’s how all living things protect themselves from harm. But don’t let fear run your life. Many of our fears are exaggerated and not helped by the barrage of terrifying stories on popular so-called “news” networks. Challenge your own fears and clearly analyze them. The world is not black and white, there are many, many shades of grey. Open your mind by having an open and respectful conversation with someone who is politically opposed to you, has different spiritual beliefs, comes from a different socioeconomic, ethnic or age group than yourself.  The vast majority of people that you encounter in traveling and in life are helpful, kind, trustworthy and friendly. People all over the world are just like you: they work hard, raise their families, worry about paying bills, and are just trying to live a peaceful and successful life. I've been lucky enough to travel alone to 47 countries and have had overwhelmingly positive experiences everywhere I've been. The generosity of others to a complete stranger continues to amaze and humble me. Don’t let suspicion and paranoia ruin the future friendships and wonderful interactions that you may have. Just once, try something new that you have always been afraid of doing: bungy-jumping, public speaking, sky-diving, traveling alone in a foreign city. If you don’t like it, you never have to do it again. But I promise that you will get at least one thing out of the experience: you will feel stronger and freer than ever before.   

Simone snow-shoeing, Crystal Mountain, Washington State, USA (photo by Luis Bastardo)

10. Don’t set False Barriers to Success:  Just because you've never heard of someone doing something, doesn't mean that it can't be done. Every day we hear people say "we'd love to do what you are doing, but...". The reasons range from money, time, fear, lack of knowledge, etc; all valid but surmountable obstacles. If you really want to do something, you must research, save money, prepare as best as possible and muster the courage to take the leap. The most distressing sentence is "People tell me that I can't do it because "I am a woman/too old/never traveled, am not multi-lingual, etc." things that are a bit more of a challenge to change, to say the least. Don't let other people talk you out of your dreams by letting them project their fears onto you. We constantly meet people who break the mold and you can too. World records are broken regularly by people who didn't believe that they couldn't do it. To paraphrase Henry Ford, "If you think you can or you can't, you're right."  

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