A friend once told me that having children cured her of her perfectionism. For me, it was traveling that did it. But before we dig into that, I want to introduce a challenge that I’ve given myself.
Another friend of mine posted a photo every day for a year. She did this twice, actually. Inspired by this, I’ve given myself the challenge of writing a blog post every day. A year of this seems too lofty, so I’m going to start with one month and see how it goes. Consider this DAY 1.
Back when I first started traveling, planning a trip was a gruesome ordeal. I had a very limited amount of vacation time, and I felt every place I visited I would only be able to visit once. And you must make every second count.
I did enjoy these trips. But looking back on them, they feel flat. I didn’t leave any room to explore what makes a place vibrant. You know that it isn’t the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Colosseum in Rome that is going to give you the sense of a place. My obsession with having the perfect trip robbed me of what I most sought from travel. Learning about people and stories and wandering without a map just to see what I would find.
As they say here in Greece, slowly, slowly, I gave up the obsession of doing all the things. It’s because I realized these things:
You Will Make Mistakes
I only took one trip alone with my mother before she died. We went to Alaska and busied ourselves with seeing the sights. I was organizing our departure details when I realized in a panic that I had misunderstood our flight details. 01:40 means the very start of the day, not the end. This is a ridiculous travel mistake, and I’m embarrassed to admit it.
In the end, we had to catch a later flight. We ended up with an entire day with no plans. But since we were tired, we didn’t fill it with much. We hung out in the park and in coffee shops, lingered over lunch. I remember this day almost 14 years later with distinct clarity. I had some of the most profound conversations with my mother that I would ever have with her. That is one mistake that I am grateful to have made.
You can’t plan for everything. Choose a few things that you most want to see. Make exploring one of them. You won’t be disappointed.
Making A Plan Makes You Look Dumb
When I first came to Athens, my plan was to stay for 5 days. On that trip, I ended up staying in Athens for 5 weeks. I was lucky to have this luxury, and most people do not. But the point is the same, that when I got to the place and started to explore, I wanted to throw the plan out the window. And that decision changed the next few years of my life. Probably more, but that story isn’t written yet. The point is this, if I had enacted a rigid plan, I wouldn’t have met my boyfriend and wouldn’t be living in Greece now.
Practice Makes You Realize What Is Important
When you do something over and over again, you tend to cut out the things that don’t bring any returns. It is the same with travel.
I travel every chance that I get. No, I’m not made of money. I consider going to a new place in my city to be traveling. It isn’t just the huge vacation to the other side of the world. I can still learn about new people and their lives and wander without a map right here at home. But I have learned that even if you live in a city for 6 months, or a year, or your whole life, you can’t see everything in a place. I don’t try to anymore. Going far away is a continuation of my regular life. And there is far less pressure.
Give Yourself Permission
This all leads up to my outlook on travel.
I give myself permission to wander
… to make mistakes
… to go slow
… to ask questions
… to take an extra photo
… to walk instead of take a car
My friend learned that with kids, she didn’t have time to fix everything that they messed up. Or she wasted her energy doing things that don’t matter. Likewise, I learned that I can plan endlessly, but I won’t have the perfect trip. When I stopped thinking I could, the experience became more meaningful.
It’s the same with everything in life. You lose sight of the game when you follow a single player.
How have you learned from travel? How is travel meaningful to you? I’d love to learn from you as well!