1.) Bloom where you are planted.
Whether fate takes you to a beach, a mountain, a bustling city, or an isolated shack in the middle of nowhere, make use of every opportunity thrown your way to be an even better, stronger and more enlightened person than when you first came.
2.) Travel light.
Leave behind as much belongings behind as you can; packing is a good lesson on prioritization and improvisation. Also, leave behind your prejudices and grudges. Every destination has a lesson to teach you, and it doesn’t help if you let your past disappointments get in the way of meeting your future happiness.
3.) Sometimes, destinations will disappoint. Have fun anyway.
That rustic, peaceful paradise you were looking forward to might not have been as isolated as you’ve hoped. Timings might suck. Loved ones will bicker. Having a sense of humor might just make the difference between what could have been a total disaster or what could have been your best travel story.
4.) It’s always about the people. Always.
It’s great to check off seeing the Statue of Liberty, and other famous landmarks in the world. But one sure-fire way of missing out is to close yourself off to making new friends, or maybe even to getting to know your loved ones in a whole new light. More often than not, your go-to travel stories will mostly be about the funny experiences you’ve had with wacky personalities you’ve bumped into, and the enlightenment you didn’t expect them to share with you.
5.) Learning a bit of the language goes a long, long way.
That teeny bit of effort into learning how to say even just ‘Hello’, ‘Thank you’, and ‘Delicious!’ in the local tongue has a mighty pull on the heartstrings. It has the power to instantly put a smile on a person’s face, and that could pave a way to a warmer welcome than you had expected.
6.) People are nicer than you think. Trust.
There’s a thin line between being mindful and being just plain paranoid. People are not always out to get you; give strangers a chance. Remember that you’re a stranger to them too, and you’re not so bad, right?
7.) Disagreements don’t always have to be fights.
Surprise! People from other parts of the world may have a totally different belief system from yours. Immersing yourself in the flip-side of your norm can bring about massive light bulb moments. The moment you understand that there can be times wherein people disagree but still both be right at the same time — at that moment, you know you’ve already won and have become a whole lot wiser.
8.) Choose your battles.
If ever tempers do flare and you feel the need to be angry, think twice. Is it really worth bickering over 2 dollars worth? Do you really want to wrangle about the politics of Not-Your-Country? A month from now, would this situation even matter to you? If you do think hard about it, and still feel that you have to put your foot down, then make sure to fight with all you’ve got.
9.) Momentous feats are often missed by over-thinking.
The rational You won’t jump off a cliff. Or strap himself in a harness and jump off a plane. Or go for a night-out with people you’ve met just 2 minutes ago in your dorm. Bet you were glad you did it after all, am I right?
10.) Traveling does not need to cost much.
Backpacking can easily cost as much (or even less!) as roaming around your own town — if you put a bit of effort into planning ahead. Splurging does not necessarily mean having the best experience — hostels and guesthouses are an affordable way of scoring a strategic home base, and activities come cheaper when you weed out the unneeded fluff. Do you really need to be chauffeured around in a luxe limo, when maps for self-guided walks and drives abound? Often, figuring out the local transportation and hitting the locals’ favorite street-side stalls are adventures in itself.
11.) Beware of becoming a slave to your possessions.
Coming back after several weeks of living out of my backpack, I always get shocked by how many clothes I actually have in my closet. Do I really need this much stuff? Most often, the one thing that holds me back from pursuing my dreams (spoiler: it’s long-term travel) is the anchor of safety that a monthly salary provides. A salary that in turn fuels a lifestyle, where I feel safe to take out loans for a prettier apartment or car, or to buy gadgets, food, and clothes that are a bit fancier than what I first needed. Since I’ve accumulated more possessions, I’m confronted with a brand-new fear of losing any of these fluff. It took a few trips of literally carrying only the essentials upon my back, living with less but experiencing more, to put things into perspective.
12.) It’s better to see things for yourself.
Gossiping is never good; why should it apply to places? You’ll find that most locals laugh off the labels of their cities being “dangerous” and “primitive”, and the people being “naive”. When in doubt, see for yourself.
13.) It’s not always about the sights.
The Mona Lisa is a teeny painting, compared to the other treasures housed in the Louvre. Yet people sometimes push and shove only to see this one, take a photo, then rush off to the next “must-see” sight. Remember that the “must” in “must-see” is relative; you don’t always have to follow the guidebooks. Follow your heart to wherever you’re drawn — even if it’s an obscure cooking class, a lesser-known history museum, or smaller castles tucked away in the outskirts.
14.) Sometimes, seeing one cathedral is better than seeing ten.
Being ‘templed-out’ is what we call the exhaustion of having seen too many temples while scouring a destination. It’s nice to explore all the tourist spots you’ve heard so much about, but don’t fuss too much over checking everything off your list. Don’t forget to take a breath and linger, in celebration of being in the presence of something noteworthy.
15.) If you can fix your bed, you can fix your life.
It’s a tiny feat, but quite a symbolic one for me. If I can gather the discipline to make my bed first thing in the morning — even if it’s not in my own house, even if I wake up groggy or hungover — then I can accomplish anything I set my mind to throughout the day.
16.) The world doesn’t revolve around you.
No, the world isn’t conspiring to make your existence harder. And no, the world won’t stop turning, even if you keep on wailing that you got robbed out of that tour price, that your parents don’t support your passions, or that you lost millions of pictures when you accidentally left your memory card at that one internet cafe. Each one of us are dealing with our own troubles and disappointments. The more people you meet, the more you realize that some of your “big deals” are in truth, trivial and very solvable.
17.) Be the best improviser you know.
Situations may be dire, but a little creativity goes a long way. Putting yourself in offbeat settings is a great way of practicing and finding out how resourceful you could be.
18.) Postcards are dope.
Today, I like sending postcards more than bringing back magnets and trinkets. It doesn’t get more personal than taking time to write an old-fashioned letter, which forces you to think about what thoughts and experiences you want to share with your loved ones. Your personal touch may be your best gift, after all.
19.) Seek to be useful.
You are an interesting permutation of talents and beliefs, and thus you have the potential to be the best visitor a place has ever had. If you have skills, share them. Loaded with advice and stories? Share them too. You never know when it’ll be your turn to need a helping hand.
20.) Love will find you.
“If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.”, says my favorite line in the Holstee Manifesto, and they couldn’t be more right.
(Left – Dotonburi in 2013, Right – Dotonburi a few months ago)
While backpacking in Osaka, Dani and I happened to meet — at a time when we were happy and at peace with our single selves, and had no agenda whatsoever, other than to pursue the things we love. We’re still on an epic adventure together.
21.) Move deliberately.
Where to spend your time is one of the most important decisions you have to make everyday. Strive to make sure that your actions are in synch with what your heart tells you to do.
22.) Hold on to your child-like curiousity.
Remember when you were a kid, and couldn’t wait to go out to see what was out there? Never assume that you already know everything that you need to know. Stay curious and the world shall fascinate you.
23.) Experiences trump possessions.
I’m rather scrimpy when it comes to upgrading to the latest gizmos or wardrobe. I rarely give a second thought, though, when it comes to booking flights, flocking to festivals, or signing up for new sports. When I need some cheering up, it’s always the experiences that come to mind, and not how grateful I am for having a widescreen TV. Also, to give the gift that lasts, I prefer to splurge for new experiences for my loved ones to enjoy instead. Making new memories, sharing the gift of being alive — that’s what matters in the end.
24.) The things you take for granted may be someone else’s dreams.
We are all rich in different ways. Long story short — never take anything for granted.
25.) Always get ready to be shocked.
Sometimes, the laws of other places may fail to make sense to you — learn to listen and to keep an open mind. What you consider strength or justice may not necessarily apply where you are. Even in the most seemingly-hopeless cases, let the world teach you the lesson you need to learn.
26.) Travel is not an escape from real life.
Sometimes, we only think of travel as of getting away. But have you ever thought this is returning to the real essence of your life? The way the rewards you reap are justified by the effort you put in. The way you participate in the karmic balance of giving and receiving. The way you meet people who will change you, and vice-versa.
27.) Just let go.
Don’t be afraid to fall in love with a destination so hard, even if it means heartbreak when you have to go. Embrace new experiences.
28.) You are more powerful than you think.
Getting to see incredible feats in the world reminds me that great things were made possible by ordinary people like me, who thought of doing the extraordinary.
29.) You are not perfect. That’s okay.
Plans will fall through. Efforts will fall short. Mistakes will be made. That’s okay. You’ll find that most people who are in the top of their craft had to go through a hundred blunders, before they got it right. Keep on going.
30.) Life is not always fair. Be a good person anyway.
No, the universe doesn’t owe you anything. There is no mystic warphole that magically sucks out each person who have done an injustice to his neighbors. Be nice anyway. Somehow, this system works.