This week officially marks six weeks since we said goodbye to our friends, packed up our backpacks, and headed to the airport to launch our travels. I was thrilled that it was finally travel day, but also filled with anxiety because all our friends were successfully settling down, buying homes, starting families, and progressing in their careers, while we were going on a complete alternate path. It led me to question our decision, but luckily, one of my best friends (without even knowing of my internal struggle) sent the sweetest note that reminded me of some of the reasons we chose to travel in the first place. She said I was taking control of my life, and that she was proud of me. “Take your happiness and your life into your own hands. Enjoy life. Travel the world. Don’t wait until they tell you that you have to retire to enjoy life. Live life like it’s your last day.”

While I would love to say something stoic like, “Since this moment, I never looked back,” I honestly can’t. I have reflected on our decision so many times since then, and will probably continue to have anxious moments about it from time to time. Regardless of my thoughts, there is no way that I can deny how awesome these last six weeks have been — we have had some of the coolest moments of our lives. We’ve visited five cities, and two countries. We’ve eaten some of the most delicious food. We’ve picked fresh organic fruit and vegetables from a local organic farm up in the winding hills of Bali. We’ve had dinner overlooking Bangkok (32 stories to be exact). We’ve “splurged” on $20 massages. We’ve squeezed ourselves into packed trains. We’ve gotten lost (on several occasions). And we’ve seen the back roads of Thailand via a 10 hour bus ride.

While I’m reflecting on some of the best moments, our travel hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. There have been difficult days, uncomfortable situations, and medical issues — We’ve landed in the hospital four times so far due to Rob’s asthma. We’ve been swindled by taxi drivers. We’ve felt like outcasts. We’ve felt like we were treated differently because of our skin color.

Through the good and the not-so-good parts of this journey, I have picked up a few lessons along the way. Here are my top six.

1. Great experiences lie outside of your comfort zone.

Some of our best experiences have come after some moments of uncertainty, fear, or being uncomfortable. One of the most recent examples is our decision to take a 10 hour bus ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, rather than the very convenient alternative of a one hour flight. It wasn’t the most preferred, or most comfortable situation, but we got to see parts of Thailand we would have never seen had we taken the plane.

While it is habit to stick to what you know, don’t be afraid to shake it up. You never know, it could turn out to be the best moment of your trip.

2. Your problems won’t magically disappear.

Leaving your city, or your job, and jumping on a flight won’t make your problems go away. There’s a great quote from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck that explains this perfectly: “Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of another.”

Once you satisfy one need, it’s true that other ones pop up. Reaching my goal of traveling wasn’t the cure to all of my problems. I still have to work on myself to find joy internally, rather than from external situations. That being said, I’m currently on a 8 week meditation challenge with the book Mindfulness: an eight week plan for finding peace in a frantic world to help with my journey.

3. Prolonging your goals to the future is a terrible idea.

Every time the topic of death comes up, I am reminded to enjoy life while I still have it. I know everyone may not be in the position to make changes in their lives, but for those who are able, start working on your dream. Whether that be travel, whether that be opening a business, etc. Begin designing the life you desire, even if it’s contrary to what everyone else is doing.

Rob and I are living proof that you absolutely don’t have to be rich to travel. We are also living proof that you don’t have to setback your dreams for retirement, or wait for everything to align perfectly before you jump into your dreams. “If not now, then when?”

4. Pack light, you can it buy it there.

When I packed my bags, I had a long list of things I needed to have. I got small bottles of toiletry items, I went shopping for my “travel outfits.” I ended up with this massive-looking backpack that dug into my shoulders due to its weight. The stress I put on myself to get everything right was so unnecessary. In fact, I’ve since repurchased my toiletry items (after running out of my airplane-approved portions) and they cost considerably less than at home. I’ve even picked up a few more pieces of clothing along the way.

5. Connecting with locals brings about a worthwhile experience

You can go the tourist attractions, visit the museums, and do research on a particular place, but you won’t truly learn about the culture unless you have conversations with locals. It can take your travel experience to another level. Although it’s not the easiest thing for me to do, being an introvert (another example of stepping outside your comfort zone), I enjoy talking to locals, and learning about how they live, finding out what we have in common, and what’s different. After all, it is the people and their values that define a place.

6. When language fails, a smile is always useful

I don’t know if our habit of smiling is something we picked up living in Canada, or if it was embedded in us as kids in the Bahamas, but It has been extremely useful throughout our trip so far. Smiles have the wonderful ability to transcend language. The language may be different, the culture may be different, but a smile will always mean well.

We still have 10 weeks left to go, and two more countries, and I’m definitely looking forward to picking up more lessons throughout our journey.

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