The beauty of travel is not just the places you get to see, but also the lessons you learn. I don’t know about you, but every trip I’ve taken (no matter how small) has taught me something. Something about the destination, about a culture or traditions, about the past. But most of the time, it’s taught me something about myself.
This latest trip was no different. In fact, I felt I took much more away after this travel experience than I have in the past. I learned a few new things, and was reminded of some lessons I had forgotten.
I tried to jam pack as much as possible into this last trip, and it left me exhausted. I had one of those moments where you worry you’re not taking full advantage of being in a place, worried that you’re not seeing everything you should see. In the first day, I pretty much dragged my husband, Steve, to every possible museum, church, attraction in site. By lunch, we were drained. The jet lag and lack of sleep may have played a factor, but when Steve said he was “museumed-out” after one day, I knew I had pushed it too much.
I was reminded that I need to take it slow, enjoy one thing at a time, instead of rushing off to the next place before really absorbing what I just experienced. There were numerous things I wanted to see and do, but I realized some spots can be saved for another time. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. I made a decision that very first day to cut out a few items from my list, for my sanity and Steve’s.
My list of activities included practically everything a guide book suggests. I circled it all, thinking everything was worth a look. And it really is, but not all at once. It’s important to do your research and pick a few things that you absolutely don’t want to miss. This will help with the whole “slowing down” lesson. If you have two to three big things on your list, you’ll have more time to appreciate each of them, really take them in. It also allows for more spontaneous adventures, because you’re not rushing to check off the next agenda item.
As a blogger and aspiring social media influencer, I’ve become more aware of the best photo opportunities, the best place for a selfie or a landscape shot. There are times where I’m behind my camera more than I’m actually looking at the scene in front of me, because I’m looking for that perfect photo. But there are times when the obsession must stop and the camera needs to be put away. It took a pretty abrupt encounter to drive this lesson home.
There is a spot on Toompea Hill in Tallinn that offers a beautiful city view and some “inspiring” words written on a wall. If you position yourself properly, you can get a great shot of the city in the background, and the phrase “The Times we had” on the wall, too. Needless to say, it’s a high-demand spot. And I wanted that shot. When we went, there was a girl there taking photos of herself and her boyfriend. She was taking picture after picture, and she didn’t appear to be moving. Steve asked politely if we could take a quick photo, and she wouldn’t move. She said she had waited an hour for that spot. Even when we insisted it would only take a minute, she refused to move. I had never experienced something like that before, and it hit me that I don’t ever want to be like that girl. One shot is not worth wasting an hour of my time, not worth taking hundreds of pictures to get the perfect one, and definitely not worth treating people that way.
…Just Go With It
Travel is never perfect, no matter how hard we try to make it that way. I’m not always going to get the perfect shot (I’m not a professional photographer) and things are not always going to go the way I want. On more than one occasion, the weather didn’t swing in our favor. We had a pretty rainy day in Riga, Latvia, and we succumbed to buying an umbrella so we could continue walking the city with some semblance of protection from the moisture. It dampened (pun intended) our spirits a little, and part of me felt defeated.
But we took a quick break inside a museum, and when we emerged, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. Sometimes I fixate so much on the things that don’t go right, that I miss out on the fun that can happen when they don’t. Just because it was raining, doesn’t mean the day was ruined. We stumbled upon the perfect shelter from the storm (a museum we may not have even considered), making the best of the situation, and it all turned out great in the end. By the time we made it to England, I had fully embraced my go-with-the-flow attitude and it made the experience that much better. Especially because we were with my family at that point, and sometimes you have to give up what you want to do in favor of their wants and needs. But I did my best not to let any of that phase me.
Take a Break…
On the last full day of our trip, we found ourselves walking the streets of London in a complete downpour. We were determined to get out of the hotel and see the sites. Steve has only ever visited the city for work, and hasn’t had the chance to play tourist. He wanted to go to The Tower of London, and so we did. Unfortunately, that meant we were outside pretty much the whole time, huddling under one cheap umbrella, barely staying dry. We toughed it out as long as possible, but finally we decided to grab some lunch and just head back to the hotel. There was a part of me that thought we should try to go somewhere else, see another museum. Lines were long everywhere, and neither one of us wanted to wait in the cold rain.
In the end, it felt so nice to lay in a warm bed and relax. After two weeks on the road, it was what we needed. Sometimes you need to let your body and your mind rest. This is not the last time we’ll go to London, there are many more trips here in our future, and plenty of chances to see everything we want.
…Appreciate the Moment
We did a lot in our two-week trip, and there were days where I thought we could have done more, seen one more thing. But as the first lesson instructs, it’s good to slow down. When I did that, I had the chance to stop and truly appreciate where we were. Some of the best moments came when we were just wandering the streets, not fully knowing what we’d do next. Exploring the small streets was enjoyable, discovering a beautiful doorway or building, ducking into a cute cafe for a cappuccino. Eating an ice cream in the middle of Old Town Riga was so simple, and yet so special.
At the end of the day, I’m lucky to have the opportunity to travel. It’s a privilege to visit different countries and experience a new place. But stressing about the little things, and exhausting yourself because you have to see everything, isn’t the way to travel. I’ve told myself that before, but somewhere along the line, I forgot it. This last trip alerted me to that behavior, cautioning me to avoid it in the future and do things a little differently.
What are some lessons you’ve learned about yourself while traveling?
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