Do you ever feel the urge to move? Go on an adventure? Be somewhere new?
Thankfully we have the wonderful word ‘wanderlust’ to describe this human need to explore the world around us. The dictionary describes it as ‘a strong desire to travel’, and ‘the wish to travel far away – and to many different places.’
Well, at six weeks old (wanderlust or not), I was in my Mother’s arms and on a flight from London Heathrow to Guyana, South America.
And that’s where it all began for me.
My globe-trotting Entomologist father was regarded as something of an authority on pest control in the vast sugar cane fields in that part of the world. Therefore the whole family, including my three brothers before me, had grown up far away from our English roots.
My ensuing childhood years were spent shuttling between dazzlingly beautiful South America and a more traditional family life in the UK.
Study and work in France and Spain followed, and then a career in corporate event management that took me, literally, all over the world. Topped off with twelve years in South Africa and multiple moves around Europe with a growing family, I’ve been so fortunate to have this overview of how people live around the world.
Whether for business or more personal reasons, however, all of my transitions from one country to another have served a fantastic purpose which I’d love to share with you today. Quite apart from the endless things I’ve learned about myself, I’ve discovered some universal truths along the way that can be applied to all of our lives. In no particular order:
You can learn something valuable from any new environment, even less hospitable ones. Just don’t forget to apply your own solid core of standards and beliefs. Learn, absorb – but be true to you.
Even in the most desperate of scenarios, such as the South African townships I witnessed, one can always count on the bravest, most positive people to rise above their circumstances. Help centres, creches run by mothers and small community initiatives run by local women and men all made a difference to those with so little. A positive spirit trumps just about everything else in life – whatever your situation.
If you ever have the opportunity of seeing a country through the eyes of an (honest) local, do grab it! There is truly a world of difference between being a tourist on a two week holiday package versus full immersion, no matter how brief, into local life.
Few of us wish to spend an entire lifetime travelling. Infact I’d go as far as to say there comes a point when we no longer feel this urge to roam. However; do promise me that you’ll add a few exotic or interesting destinations to your wish list? You will never, ever regret the memories made in other parts of the world – hopefully with someone special to you.
No matter where you travel, you will always encounter the good, the bad and the ugly side of life. But when you offer kindness as a currency, you will benefit in numerous ways. We’re prone to cynicism these days, and wary of everything and everyone. Don’t allow every encounter to be diminished this way! There are lots of kind, wonderful, helpful people out there – just like you.
As a Mum of three, I am constantly torn about this one. Two of my children are young adults now (one still too little to travel alone thank goodness!). Do we let them go? Or do we fuss and become overly protective?
The world is certainly blurring its boundaries a bit. Air travel is accessible to the masses and the airways packed to bursting with cheap, last minute.com flights. Travel involves dangers it perhaps once did not. However, I still believe that young, responsible adults should be encouraged and allowed to plan adventures of their own. The alternative of no travel is just too limiting in the modern world.
You can read all the travel books you like, watch the documentaries and idolise the marvellous Sir David Attenborough until the cows come home (did I tell you my father worked with him in Guyana when I was a little girl?) – but still you will not have a real sense of the wonders and beauty and splendour of another country unless you hitch up your gum boots, pack that case and book the ticket!
You become a more rounded (hopefully more open minded and knowledgeable) adult with every trip you make.
The more you travel, the more you get it. We spend a lifetime coveting ‘stuff’ – but people and experiences are what make the important memories in life! Who cares what car you drove in your twenties? The more you travel, the older and wiser you get – and the more obvious it all becomes.
I’ve met some incredible people during the course of my travels – from both ends of the social and financial spectrum. You soon come to realise that if you strip away the visible differences we are all, most definitely, the same, imperfect beings deep down.
However, decent people the world over will always put family first, respect others, dream big (if allowed to), appreciate small kindnesses, be fearful of loss and disruption – and share a smile when they have nothing else to offer you.
If travel has given me one huge gift, it’s the ability to adapt to change.
I’ve spent almost my entire life adjusting to new surroundings. New groups of friends. New homes. Settling children into new schools. Learning new languages. Adopting local traditions. Trying out weird and wonderful new cuisines. Being considered the ‘new kid on the block’.
I’ve undoubtedly clocked up untold tens of thousands of air miles in the process too.
Living in different parts of the world, far from my family has certainly been tough and challenging at times. But would I change this well travelled journey of mine?
Not one bit.
How about you? Are you a nomad? Or more of a homebody? Can you recall important life lessons learned on your own travels?
If you’d like to read other, related articles, take a look at two of my most popular posts: Life Beyond The Comfort Zone and The Gift Of Today: Why Gratitude Is Key To Everything In Your Life
Originally published at www.sarah-virag.com