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I was one of those people who never really knew what they wanted to do with their life.
It was painful. For as long as I can remember, I was incredibly career-driven and thirsty for success… I just didn’t know what I wanted to be successful at. Oops. Throughout my school and university years, I spent way too many hours trying to figure out what on earth I wanted to do once it was all over – and I left with fewer ideas than ever.
Why am I telling you all this?
It’s relevant, I promise. What I’m trying to lead on to is this: the only thing I was ever sure I wanted to do was learn. Careers advisers pointed it out. Teachers pointed it out. Even a work experience manager pointed it out. And I brushed it off every time because ‘learning’ wasn’t a real job and I needed a better purpose in life.
And then I found it in travel. It took a while for the coin to drop (oops again) but you can’t avoid learning when you travel. Since I started travelling full time, I’ve learned SO much about the places I visit, about the world in general and also about myself. Not quite in an Eat, Pray, Love kind of way, but in an equally soul-satisfying manner.
Here are some of my biggest lessons I’ve learned from travel to date. Some are no more than tiny light bulb flicker, some are super deep and others are downright silly. But I might not have learned any of the below if I didn’t travel.
Lesson #1: how to prioritise
When you work for yourself and juggle it all with a life of travel, you kind of have to get your priorities straight. One of the hardest things about being a digital nomad is the constant balancing act that comes with working on the road. You can feel like you’re not doing enough travel OR work, when really you’re doing more of both than the average person.
Lots of people ask me if it’s hard to work when there’s a new city waiting to be explored outside. It can be – but it’s the other way around that’s harder. The truth is it’s impossible to even enjoy the travel if there’s a deadline looming and you’re feeling waaaay behind. Prioritising is the only way to ease the stress, make the most of every day and actually enjoy this crazy lifestyle. And I feel like I’ve become pretty damn good at it (most of the time).
Lesson #2: The world is inherently good
Man, I used to hate reading the news. I’d do it anyway, either because I felt like I “should” or I’d be bored on my lunch break. Or, you know, I got distracted on my path to the crossword. But boy was it scary at times.
It makes me sad that we’ve moved into a time where the UK wants nothing to do with half of Europe, victims of war are seen as the enemy and someone like Donald Trump can rule what is supposed to be the most free land in the world. I even used to question if maybe I was too optimistic and saw too much good in people.
Travelling had made me realise I didn’t see enough good in people. Sure, there’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. Until humans evolve to be ego-less, that’s probably never going to change. But there’s a whole lot more good than there is bad – you just have to be open to it.
Lesson #3: There’s always a way
I quit my job with no real idea of how or if I would make enough money to survive. I took a leap – a massive one – and it could have gone horribly wrong.
Since then, I’ve taken a lot more “risks”. Sometimes travelling forces you to take them and other times the reward is worth the risk. Every time, though, I’ve thought about the worst case scenario. And, every time, I’ve realised that the world wouldn’t end because there’s room for something good to come out of every situation. It might not be what you planned, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad – or even worse!
Usually the biggest thing standing in my way is my mindset. But, with a positive mindset and an open mind, there will always be a happy outcome of some sort.
Lesson #4: What matters most
When I lived in London, I used to overthink EVERYTHING. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I would put thought into every little decision. Worse still, I would constantly tip toe around, going to events I dreaded because I didn’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings. Going for team lunches with people I already spent too much time with. Doing all sorts just to please others or because I thought I ‘should’ care.
The freedom that comes with being your own boss and being completely location independent is kind of overwhelming but also incredibly powerful. It took me a while to adjust, but now I’m much better at putting myself first. It’s kind of crazy how unnatural it felt at first, but it’s even crazier to think how much I lived for other people before.
Travelling full time while building a business also means I have very little free time. When I do something, it has to be because I want to. That means there’s no room for the kind of half-hearted friendships I’d put up with before. Everything takes a little more effort and, though that seemed like a negative at first, I realise it’s helped me weed out anything that I didn’t really want (or need) in the first place.
Lesson #5: It’s good to be uncomfortable
As I get older, I seem to get more and more cautious. And I hate it! Every time I’ve made significant progress or feel like I’ve grown as a human being, it’s because something took me (or pushed me) out of my comfort zone.
I think we’re all guilty of getting into ruts and routines as we get older. And guess what? It happens on the road, too. It takes more and more effort to break away from them, but that push is necessary. Every time something significant happens, it’s because I’m out of my comfort zone. So why keep trying to hide inside it?
Lesson #6: I’m very privileged
I lived a very average life growing up in the UK. Not average in the sense of fun, love and fulfilment (it was definitely above average in that respect!) but very average of a British woman growing up in the 90’s. I now realise and appreciate how incredibly privileged I was to have an ‘average’ UK upbringing.
Yes, I complain about the UK a lot. And yes, I’m constantly troubled by everyday sexism, even in my professional life. But I’m lucky to be in a situation where I can complain about those things and act on them. I’ve worked incredibly hard to be where I am, but there’s no denying that the card I was dealt in the birth lottery has given me a helping hand.
It’s a funny thing, really. If I’d stayed in the UK, I wouldn’t be considered particularly lucky. Again, I’d be average. But in the wider world, I’m one of the luckiest people around because I’ve never had to worry about food, shelter or any other basic needs. I worked hard to get into grammar school but I was lucky to have that chance in the first place. Hard work also got me into a top university but I was lucky to get the loan I needed to pay for it. I have a load of debt because of it – and I’m lucky to be able to have that debt. I worked SO hard to build my own business but I was lucky that I could own a laptop and do so. More hard work has kept me going on the road, but I was lucky enough to always have somewhere I could go back to if I needed to.
I’m incredibly grateful for the ‘lucky’ circumstances I was born into and I hope I never take that for granted.
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