For those who know me well, you won't be surprised that I'm opening this post with a quote from John Lennon, for "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Life gets especially exciting during a year's worth of travel: cycling through rice paddies, hiking over the tallest glacial mountain passes, peering into the burning soul of a volcano, and sharing a meal and the kindness of strangers at the Lao-Vietnam border. Life happens, in the many interpretations of the human experience, and it can teach us a lot!
One of my biggest lessons this year was in presence. I found myself extra aware of the world around me, engaged in the beauty and didactic nature of the most ephemeral moments, and making time for reflection. So, here's a wildly high-level summary of the most formative, profound, and sometimes simple lessons I learned while honeymooning throughout the American West, Southeast Asia and New Zealand:
1. The importance of community. I have a profound appreciation for my family and friends, new and old. My heart truly rests with many people and I would not be the woman I am without them. I hope to be more engaged in my community and never "too busy" to make time for my people.
2. Let it go. Whatever "it" is, let it go. Obviously this is easier said than done, but it is a powerful one. Let go of the past, toxic memories, relationships - all of it, as best as you can. Negativity is heavy and drags us down. Let it go. Let in light and positivity; move forward and remember that we all deserve to be loved and happy.
3. Make time for nature. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Earth is a magical place and we get to live here! Let's take better care of it, and of each other. Glaciers are melting, seas are rising, forests are burning and we are all too keen to get wrapped up in man-made experiences. Nature is wise and we could learn a lot from the tallest trees and the tiniest critters if we make the time.
4. Self care: Remember how good it feels to feel good! This one mostly relates to dietary choices - I felt AMAZING in Asia in the absence of dairy, gluten and processed foods. This also relates to remembering to relax - imagine a whole year of not clenching your jaw in your sleep! I forgot that was possible. I hope I can remember to strike the balance of self-care with reentry into the "real world" - feeling good feels good!
5. Empathy, grace and compassion. This relates specifically to the way I treat others, and stems from being completely out of my element at times. It also relates to deep, philosophical questions I asked myself about reconciling first-world privilege when visiting developing countries, and obligation to potential. People the world over showed us empathy, grace and compassion unlike ever before! I want to repay that kindness to the universe and remember that no act is too small because all things are connected.
6. Be confident. Be authentic. I am enough. With social media and popular culture power washing us with unrealistic ideals and selfies, sometimes it's easy to get sucked in and doubt yourself. On this trip, I unplugged, and threw myself into the new and unknown, only to truly understand that I am perfectly and totally comfortable being me - crunchier and more eccentric than I realized, thanks to our extended camping and WWOOFing experiences - and that that is enough!
7. It's OK to struggle, really. As a seasoned world traveler, I was exceptionally caught off guard by the culture shock I experienced in Southeast Asia. It threw me into a proverbial tornado of self-doubt short of a full-on identity crisis, questioning my academic and professional path. But, I rose out of that more confident, mature and self-aware. (Or so I hope :-)
8. Speaking of maturity: New experiences are just that, new. Honor them. In doing so, be proactive and participate in said experience! To do this requires accepting that nothing is personal, confidence in using your voice, and comfort asserting your boundaries. It's easier said than done, trust me, but the results are worth the effort.
9. Be Bold! Try new things! Here, I see two things that outwardly express values of curiosity and love of life, while capturing the energy of youth and youthfulness! Stay curious, love life, keep adventuring and trying new things - our bodies may age, but our spirit doesn't have to!
10. Live simply. Love purely. Laugh! Ok, this isn't a new one. I cultivated this philosophy in Durban, South Africa in 2010 after spending hours watching the Indian Ocean churn and berate the shore. But, it holds true today more than ever. Live simply. Love purely. Laugh.
Keeping these lessons alive now that we're back will be a balancing act requiring strength and tenacity as we work towards a new normal. Part of the beauty of travel is opening our eyes to newness, and shifting our perspective to see old things from a new angle! I'm full of gratitude for having had this wild opportunity, and am indescribably excited to carry this energy into my new job working with international students in San Francisco!
I'd also like to give a heartfelt shout-out to Ryan for coming up with this crazy pants idea! And, more importantly, for his unconditional love, support and devotion to us. I'm a lucky, lucky gal!
So yes, life happens to us while we're busy making other plans.