Updated: Feb 21
Travelling has changed the way I think about my life. I feel deeply connected and more in love with my wife than I ever have. The time I spend with my son is fun and I feel fully present with him. I contribute to my local community through meaningful volunteering. I love my work and feel pulled and driven to make a positive difference in the world. I feel more fulfilled in my life than I ever have.
I didn’t always feel this way. I noticed that something wasn’t quite right about 4 years ago when my son asked me to go outside to kick around the soccer ball - I just had no energy and instead of being with him I chose to sit on the couch watching bad TV. I realised then that despite my life looking great from the outside, on the inside I was stressed and stuck in the grind - I was just going through the motions. I noticed feelings of dissatisfaction and disconnection to my community and to the people I love most. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a catastrophic rock bottom - I just realised that I wasn’t as fulfilled as I wanted to be.
My solution to level-up my fulfilment was an extended holiday - time away to reflect on myself and my life. I travelled to Fiji with the aim of recapturing harmony and greater personal well-being.
Here are the eight things I learnt from that experience:
1. Be Intentional. Add personal well-being into your travel planning. Think about the type of person you want to be, how you want to feel, how you want others to perceive you. And then set yourself some pop-up rules - these are rules that just apply to your holiday (many people find that they continue these rules even after their holiday). These rules will be different for most people. For me it was my intention to slow down, to really be present with people, to notice how I was feeling in different situations, to appreciate myself, and to accept invitations. I would pause before an activity or situation - take a couple of breaths and decide how I wanted to be and feel. This intentionality resulted in me having deeper and more fun connections and more fulfilling experiences,
2. Be Present. Sometimes I have noticed myself focusing on what was next on my itinerary, or worrying about missing out on something. But I found that when I was thinking about what’s next, I wasn’t really noticing what was happening in the present moment. All we really have is right now and I feel more fulfilled when I’m in the moment.
3. Don’t Try To Do Everything. We went through a stage with our travel style that was driven by FOMO. We would run ourselves exhausted visiting places that we weren’t really interested in (I’m just not into museums and art galleries). We now schedule more time just to sit, watch, absorb and intentionally ‘feel the vibe’ of a place. This has led to meeting more interesting people and even though I might not have seen the big museum I feel like I have experienced a place in a way that I wouldn’t in the past because I was focused on ‘seeing the sights’.
4. Take time to connect. I don’t mean having an intense deep conversation about the mystical forces in the universe - although this would be pretty cool. The connection that has made such a difference to my experience of travelling comes through the small conversations in a cafe or a bar. Language differences often prevent lots of understanding but so much is conveyed through gestures, a warm smile and Google translate. Sometimes it can feel awkward but don’t be in a rush to get to the next thing, sit with any discomfort, and you’ll often be rewarded with a little more affinity with the people and the place you are visiting.
5. Accept invitations. We really listen to our intuition. Sometimes people approaching you on the street are genuinely trying to practice English - sometimes they have motives that aren’t so genuine. Don’t put yourself in danger but try to lean into your discomfort and say yes more often. We think we are getting better at identifying the difference. A recent example was after a meal in a small local restaurant in a residential area of Hanoi. The restaurant owner had set up a small TV in the street for people to watch the Vietnamese national team play a soccer game. We were on our way out (after a fantastic meal!!) when the owner invited us to sit and watch the game. We were pretty tired and ready to go home for the night but one of our pop-up rules was to accept more invitations. We sat down on the small plastic stools and within seconds we had a beer in our hands and we were joining in the cheers. It was a wonderful night and despite not sharing much information we felt that we really connected with our hosts.
6. Spend time in nature. Being in nature makes me happy. I don’t have to be in a remote jungle to appreciate nature - many cities have awesome botanical gardens that feel a world away from the bustle. I like the Japanese idea of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. In Japanese, shinrin means forest, and yoku means bath; shinrin-yoku, then, is the idea of immersing oneself in the forest’s atmosphere. The idea is to use more of our senses - smell the flowers, taste the fresh air, look at the changing colours of the trees, hear the birds singing, and feel the breeze on our skin. When I open up my senses in nature I feel restored and refreshed and more connected to the place I’m visiting.
7. Be grateful. When I practice gratitude I feel much more fulfilled, when I travel and in my life overall. I try to spend a couple of minutes every morning being grateful for three small things from the day before and three things about myself. Not just making a list but noticing and re-feeling the feelings from those moments.
8. Forgive. It’s inevitable, something happens, or someone doesn’t act in line with my expectations (e.g. a dodgy taxi driver or being overcharged) and I feel an upset. At times I have let those upsets spoil my experience or colour my overall feeling of a location. I have found that a deliberate process of forgiveness actually increases my happiness and feelings of fulfilment. After my couple of minutes of gratitude in the mornings I spend a minute undertaking a process of conscious forgiveness. This involves thinking about why the person might have acted in the way that caused me to be upset. The old saying “hurt people, hurt people” often works to help me with forgiveness.
Mindvalley has created a short 15 minute guided meditation that helped me turn these practices into habits - I highly recommend it. Click here to check it out.
You don’t have to visit a yoga retreat or ashram to experience travel in a more fulfilling way. Visiting a wellness retreat as part of your travel can be an enjoyable experience and help you to achieve your goals but it’s not necessary for a more fulfilling life. I found that I benefited more, simply by being intentional in a more challenging independent travel environment. These practices didn’t just improve my experience of travel but have helped me to form habits that have resulted in me feeling a greater fulfilment with my whole life.
We’d love to talk to you more about how you can experience your own personal intentional transformational travel. Visit thecustompath.com to start your journey.
The Custom Path