3 Life Lessons from Traveling

This post was inspired during my recent 24-hour journey from Hamza’s place in Cardiff to my home in Hong Kong. Multiple connections combined with various modes of travel always result in exciting surprises. And then the movie, ‘Up in the Air’ provided some more impetus. Many frequent travelers learn a few ‘tricks of the trade’ and develop certain attitudes that help them deal with the stress of traveling and keep sane. And I believe some of these provide useful lessons for life:

  1. Travel light. It’s perhaps the most important advice on traveling. Packing a smaller bag requires planning, discipline and focus on the essentials. It saves time at check-in counters. It’s easier to unpack. Less clutter means better focus, and fewer chances of leaving something behind. You can also move on at short notice. Doesn’t that apply to life too? Whether it’s your desk/desktop, wallet/purse/bag, wardrobe or the house… fewer things mean less clutter, less time wasted on finding stuff, less energy on the maintenance. The same applies to having thousands of ‘friends’ on Facebook, receiving tons of junk mail, maintaining dozens of credit cards… the list goes on. Less is more; lighter the better; quality over quantity.
  2. Be prepared for surprises. You learn during traveling that everything is not in your control, and things don’t always go as planned. Flights can be delayed or cancelled; your special meal onboard is often mixed up; bags don’t always make the connection; hotels can be over-booked; Internet doesn’t always work… And it’s not because the world is conspiring against you and everyone is out to get you. You can accept these situations with calm or fight and argue and get upset. I often remind upset fellow passengers: There are usually three reasons for a flight to be delayed: there’s something wrong with the plane, or the pilot, or the weather. And I am glad they have found out while we are still on the ground. The same applies to life. Despite great intentions and excellent planning, things do go wrong. And we have to learn to distinguish between situations (that can’t be changed) and problems (that can be solved). Unfortunately, so many people waste so much of their time and energy fighting with situations.
  3. Enjoy the moment. Just like the unpleasant surprises, there are often unexpected pleasures in traveling. It can be the most beautiful sunrise over the horizon from your window seat, a divine local meal, an unforgettable encounter with a stranger, and other memorable unplanned experiences. At such moments, you don’t want to continue reading the book or checking your email on the iPhone or responding to an SMS. In an age when electronic communications enable us to be permanently connected to (and distracted by) the virtual world, there’s a thrill in throwing yourself into a single place, a single moment. When you travel, you get to embrace the privilege of witnessing life as it happens before your eyes. This attitude need not be confined to travel. For all the pleasures of the virtual world, there is no substitute for real-life conversations and connections with the people and places around you. Even at home, there’s good reason to unplug from the world and really connect with the people you love.

Do you have any interesting experiences from your travels? Or any tips for life? Please share through comments.

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6 thoughts on “3 Life Lessons from Traveling

  1. salam…
    hw r u Mushataq bahi..
    after reading ur blog me too remember many situations which i came across during my travel to many places…in 2007 we went to Saudia..on return frm Jeddah airport we had a transist at Doha n then Karachi..but whn we reach Doha we came to know that flight for Karachi is full ..so they send us to Abu Dhabi….and there we stayed at aiport for almost 18 hours.then we got the flight for KArachi…but due to that we were able to visit Abu Dhabi airport also n met many ppl there and in 18 hours we explore the whole airport…even we thought it was tiring but we enjoyed it…as its really true that u learn a lot during ur travel.

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  2. I have always met the most interesting and amazing people on my travels, whether its a plane journey from UK to hk, or a train journey from HK to china or a random bus ride! World’s full of amazing people and you’re right you just have to open your eyes and ears to the world around you instead of being plugged by an ipod or a mobile or even a book. Sometimes it just takes one glance away from your book to see the most wonderful sights!

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  3. […] My favorite example is that of a delayed flight. Most passengers choose to react by asking for an explanation for the delay, calling up family and friends to share the anger (‘why does it always happen to me?‘), demanding to ‘speak with the manager’, expecting free meals, continuing to be angry even after taking off and landing at the destination and perhaps for the rest of the day. If you choose to respond, you could be grateful that they found out the problem with the plane or the pilot or the weather while you are still on the ground, rather than finding out when you are 35,000 feet up in the air. You could catch up on some phone calls or shopping or reading, or simply enjoy doing nothing for a change. If the flight has been indefinitely delayed, you can alsorespond by trying to find another connection to your destination. […]

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  4. […] My favorite example is that of a delayed flight. Most passengers choose to react by asking for an explanation for the delay, calling up family and friends to share the anger (‘why does it always happen to me?‘), demanding to ‘speak with the manager’, expecting free meals, continuing to be angry even after taking off and landing at the destination and perhaps for the rest of the day. If you choose to respond, you could be grateful that they found out the problem with the plane or the pilot or the weather while you are still on the ground, rather than finding out when you are 35,000 feet up in the air. You could catch up on some phone calls or shopping or reading, or simply enjoy doing nothing for a change. If the flight has been indefinitely delayed, you can alsorespond by trying to find another connection to your destination. […]

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