As the 26th chapter of my life comes to a close, I’ve realized I’ve learned a thing or two. This past year especially was full of reflection and deep diving and I thought I’d share a little of what I learned with you.
27 lessons from my past 27 trips around the sun:
1. Let go of the things and people that don’t serve you. I wrote a blog on Marie Kondo-ing my closet but sorting through objects is the easy part. Taking the time to evaluate the relationships in your life and how they impact your mental and emotional wellbeing is where the hard work is. Relationships take work, and they all have their ups and downs, but the problem is when they take more than they give. As someone who never likes to let anyone down, learning to recognize when I was left feeling drained was a turning point. I realized that those you keep closest to you should leave you feeling full and energized. Not everyone is supposed to stay in your life forever. Learn the lesson and learn to let go.
2. Get outside. Spending time in nature, breathing fresh air, and feeling the grass between your toes is refreshing. Too often we get caught up binging shows on the couch and miss out on the beautiful sunny day outside. Go outside and reconnect with nature — you won’t regret it.
3. Visit new places. This is on every advice list for a reason. Get out of your bubble and see someplace new. Whether it’s the next state over, or on the other side of the globe, you will learn about the world, but more meaningfully, you will learn about your place in it.
4. When camping, bring ALL the bug spray. If the mosquitoes are particularly bad, you can never have too much bug repellent with you. Don’t be too proud to wear a head net either — otherwise don’t complain if you get a mosquito bite to the eye…
5. Your journey is your own, don’t compare it to others. This was a big one for me and a big lesson I finally understood when I travelled solo for the first time. Comparing your life to those around you will kill your joy. You’ll never be happy constantly trying to keep up with or imitating what those around you are doing. Your life isn’t meant to follow anyone’s path but your own.
6. Go somewhere by yourself. I realized that if I was going to wait for someone to travel with, I’d never go anywhere. It was nerve-wracking, and emotional, but I learned more about myself in those few short days than all my traveling in the years prior. Not to mention, when you travel solo, you don’t have to worry about what others want. You do you the entire time; do what you want when you want. Trust me, you can do it.
7. Tune in to your body. Learn to listen to it. Our bodies tell us what they need and when they need it, sure there’ll be times where we’ll push too hard or eat and drink too much, but pay attention to it after. Know when your body needs to rest or needs to move. Know when it needs nourishment or water. Your body is your forever home. The better you listen and take care of it now, the longer and better it will take care of you.
8. Don’t be afraid to dabble. You learn the most about yourself when you're put in new situations. If there’s something you admire others for doing, why not try doing it yourself? Learn from them and add new skills to your repertoire — you never know when something can come in handy, plus you get to meet new friends and build relationships with awesome people in the process.
9. Try the food. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people don’t try new foods. Unless you’re allergic, a bite won’t hurt you. Trying the local flavors is the best way to learn about the culture and the history of the place you’re visiting. There have been multiple occasions where something did not look or sound appetizing, but I tried it anyways. I’ll admit there have been things I’m good with trying just once, but more often than not I’m pleasantly surprised.
10. Treat yourself. This one is self-explanatory, but instead of material things, try to treat yourself with an experience. A massage or facial can pamper and refresh you in a way an inanimate object can’t, and a class or getaway can teach you something new about a subject you love and won’t get left collecting dust.
11. Learn to listen to your gut. Are you as guilty as I am of overthinking and worrying about situations that haven’t happened yet, or that you have no actual control over? I know I can distract myself with tons of excuses for something I inherently know isn’t working but really want to work. If something is stressing you out, take a step back, reflect, and go with your gut. We get into trouble when we stop listening to ourselves and focus on outside influences. Learn to listen to the little voice inside of you and trust it.
12. You have to have the uncomfortable conversations. I learned this the hard way. I hate conflict and avoid it at all costs. I realized that continuing to act this way did nothing to serve me. If anything, it put more strain on the relationships I was hoping would be helped by my avoidance. You can’t avoid the issues and expect everything to be okay. The only way through is to bite the bullet and have that conversation. It’s not easy, but so worth it. And I’m willing to bet it will turn out better than you think.
13. It’s okay to ask for help. You don’t have to do it all. I struggled with this, until I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere alone. People are happy to help with just about anything they can, but they can only do so if they know what’s needed.
14. Have a positive mindset. Making sure you have a positive mindset isn’t some self-help goop authors use to sell books. For some, it's a life-changing fact. Positive thinking has physical and mental benefits backed by scientific studies. A positive mindset can give you more confidence, improve your mood, and even reduce the likelihood of developing stress-related disorders. Plus who doesn’t want to be around someone who’s happy all the time?!
15. If you need to go to the bathroom in the woods and decide to hold on to a tree, make sure it’s still living and not dead before you grab hold...
16. Laugh at yourself. It’s okay to let others know you’re not perfect. Chances are they can relate. If anyone reading this can relate to #15.. I feel you.
17. It’s okay to hurt and feel the feels. All your feelings are valid, and it’s okay to talk about them and share your feelings with others. Growing up I didn’t learn how to express my emotions very well. I bottled everything up and it wasn’t healthy. I’m learning to be more vulnerable and open with my emotions. It’s hard, and I start crying whenever anything slightly emotional comes up — but I’m learning, and I’m growing.
18. Find someone you trust a little bit outside of your circle, and seek their advice. It’s natural to turn to your closest family members and friends to seek advice on a situation in your life. More often than not they have your best interests at heart and give truly amazing advice. But sometimes seeking advice from someone with a more objective view can help shed light on things that others may not have been able to see, or give you a new perspective on a situation.
19. Find faith. I’m not a perfect Christian, and I’ll admit I’ve struggled with my faith. But the more I’ve learned to trust in God, the more I pray, and the more I worship, the lighter I feel and the clearer my path becomes. Find a church that makes you feel alive and find a community who encourages you in your faith.
20. Unplug. Go somewhere where there’s no service, or intentionally turn off your phone while you’re away. Disconnect from checking meaningless notifications and learn to truly connect with those around you. Learn to be in the moment, to experience things as they happen, and not through a screen.
21. Know where your food comes from. You don’t have to harvest your dinner, but to me, there’s no better feeling than knowing I had a hand in the food that nourishes not only me but my loved ones. It wasn’t hundreds of different hands that touched it to get it there, it was mine; from field to plate.
22. Do the things that scare you. Like giving an emotional speech In front of 150 people or sleeping in a tent in the middle of bear country. You don’t grow where your comfortable. You grow when you test your limits.
23. Own your mistakes. Take responsibility for your f ups. Say you’re sorry. Being able to take responsibility for your actions is huge and is a big indicator of your character. We’re all human, and although we don’t like to admit it when we mess up, its the only way to move forward and be respected. Own your mistake and do what you can to make it right.
24. Focus on yourself. I realized that I couldn’t rely on others to make me happy. If I wanted to be happy, it needed to come from within. I needed to focus on myself to figure out what I liked, what I wanted, and what made me truly happy in life. Its okay to be a little selfish to figure yourself out. Only when you’ve figured out who you are at your core can you show up fully for others.
25. You are whole. I found myself too often adjusting my life to accommodate other’s and trying too hard to incorporate their life into mine — I mean, wasn’t that how it was supposed to be? I realized I would keep getting lost in the process until I could figure myself out and be my own person first. Grow, love, and appreciate yourself. You are not a half to a whole, and you don’t need someone to complete you.
26. Be yourself. I avoided posting and speaking about parts of my life because I was scared. I posted what I thought others wanted to see and hid things I enjoyed because I was scared of what others would think. I posted too many song lyrics and didn’t dig deep. Once I started to open up and be vulnerable and post the things I wanted to post, I realized it wasn’t as scary as I’d thought. People want to get to know the real you, and they’re more supportive than you think.
27. Be grateful every day. If you made it this far, I am grateful for you.
I’m still learning and growing, and I can’t wait to see what this next year will teach me. My hope is that this resonated with you on some level. If you think this will help someone else, please share it with them.