Life Lessons Learned From a Summer of Adventure

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Picture of Train Street in Hanoi, Vietnam

This summer has been quite an adventure for me, and I’m sad to see it coming to an end!  After spending 8 days in Europe, 23 days in Asia, and moving from New England to the Midwest, I learned some important life lessons.

  1. The best part about being on an adventure is having the opportunity to explore new things.  It’s easy to pass on new opportunities and stick with what’s comfortable, but personal growth comes from stepping outside your comfort zone.  I am very lucky to have had so many new experiences this summer, including traveling to new countries, trying new food, snorkeling, and parasailing.  I may not have loved every new experience I had (like the Chinese food that was so spicy my lips tingled then went numb), but each new experience was worth it.
  2. I was reminded many times during our travels of the importance of keeping things in perspective.  At the beginning of our Asia trip, I was sick for four days after drinking tap water in Hong Kong.  It was humid as hell (well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit with the humidity), I lived off of Gatorade, saltine crackers, and bananas, and I constantly feared pooping my pants (sorry for TMI).  In short, I was miserable. At one point, I told my husband that I wanted to go home, but of course, I didn’t actually want to give up on our summer of adventure. A few days later when we had some stressful situations in Zhangjiajie, I whined that I would never travel to Asia again.  I didn’t actually mean that. Sometimes we become overwhelmed by emotion and trapped in our dramatic thoughts. It’s helpful to have an outside perspective during these times, and luckily, my husband is constantly a voice of reason to me when I need one.  I’m grateful that my husband encouraged me to keep things in perspective during difficult moments in our travels.
  3. Slow down and relax.  My go-go-go personality has trouble relaxing.  Quite honestly, before my travels this summer, I sometimes judged people who loved resort vacations and cruises, because I didn’t think that those vacations were new cultural experiences, which I value greatly.  During one part of our summer travels, we spent two days at a resort in Phuket, Thailand, and I realized how incredible it was to slow down. At one point during those two days, I thought to myself: This is what it feels like to not have a worry in the world.  That feeling is so foreign to me, so it was something that I really appreciated.  The resort vacation experience made me realize that while I enjoy vacations that involve exploring new cultures, I should also take time during my travels to relax.  
  4. Remind yourself to be thankful and humble.  In Hanoi, Vietnam a typical street food meal usually cost about $1.50; I also spent just $21.50 on a 90 minute massage.  To Americans, this sounds cheap. In fact, we felt a bit like king and queen buying whatever we wanted and not having to worry about the price.  But to people living in Vietnam, it’s not cheap. As I looked around Vietnam, I was reminded of something important: the things I complain and worry about are things that someone somewhere else in the world would love to have as a problem.  It’s so important to be grateful for the things we have.  As Gustav Flaubert, “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” 

This summer I truly embraced every single day, and I couldn’t feel any happier.  My husband starts his PhD program tomorrow and I return to work next week, so we’re moving into Chapter 1 of our next adventure.  I can’t wait to see what this chapter will bring!

“Life is like a book.  Some chapters are sad, some are happy, and some are exciting, but if you never turn the page, you will never know what the next chapter has in store for you.”

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