And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
-- Abraham Lincoln
My travels around the world have taught me many things that I couldn't learn commuting in a first-world country.
Growing up in Canada, I always knew that I wanted to explore the world. I researched doing a student exchange in high school, and was always fascinated by National Geographic. It wasn't until university that I got the chance (and the motivation) to pursue this dream.
After my freshman summer was spent working at a typical office internship I knew, I never want to do that again! So I tiptoed out of my comfort zone and got a gig teaching English in Italy. This spiraled into many more paid travel internships so that I had visited 21 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe by the time I graduated university.
Now, when young people hear my story, they often ask me, "Should I travel too?"
I always, always answer, "If you have a desire to travel, do it. It's your soul longing to grow. It means there is something out there for you to learn."
Pack your bags. Book your ticket. I'm going to share with you my top six lessons gleaned from climbing volcanoes in Bali, trekking across deserts in Africa and swimming in the Indian Ocean.
6. There is a greater power guiding your every step.
Everything happens for your good, so you can learn what you need to grow.
When I first started travelling, I would blaze through countries, giddy with awe and wonder at our magnificent world. In time though, the excitement wore off and my plans would go wrong. I would get lost. I would lose money. I would get sick. This was where I started to realize that I wasn't alone. There was a reason that a help would always show up from out of seemingly nowhere.
"You are loved and taken care of."
"Forgive and let go."
"You are never alone."
Like whispers in my ear, these messages started appearing when I started looking at my travel hiccups differently.
5. Be kind to yourself and compassionate to everyone.
This includes the person who stole my wallet in Tanzania and the guy who sold me a fake bus ticket. Everyone is doing the best they can at the time.
For every terrible thing that happened to me, I also have countless memories of people's incredible kindness. Total strangers have invited me to "opa!" at their weddings and to share dinner at their homes!
There is so much love in the universe. Choose to be a part of it. Let go. Forgive.
4. Bloom where you are planted.
I've travelled to run away. I've travelled to escape. I've travelled for love. I've travelled away from love. I've travelled to grow. I've travelled to explore. I've travelled to hide. I've travelled to laugh. I've travelling to cry.
In the end, I grow the most when I am fully present wherever I am, not trying to get someone else.
3. The greatest moments in life always, always come after a struggle.
It really is about the journey. I trekked up a volcanoe in Bali last year, and I remember oscillating between anger, ecstasy, self-loathing, fun, disgust, excitement for the two-hour hike up. At 6 a.m., we reached the summit, and I witnessed one of the most spectacular sunrises of my life.
Struggle is okay. It's okay to be down and depressed sometime. Just don't stay there. Get back up. Choose a different thought. There is always sunset that will take your breath away.
2. Lighten up. It's all going to be okay.
I used to swim off the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania stressing about whether or not I should be in Canada building my "career" instead.
Am I just wasting time? Shouldn't I be at a "normal" job?
I finally realized that I should simply enjoy this moment!
That summer in Zanzibar ended up leading to an amazing internship in Rwanda the following year, but there was no way I could foresee that.
I've had too many instances of miracles on the road to believe that life is just a big chaotic mess. Time and time again, paid jobs show up at the last minute. Finances come through to fund trips. Invites to incredible opportunities come out of nowhere.
We don't have to stress and worry about everything down to the last detail. Trust that you're in the right place and the right time. You'll be able to connect the dots later.
1. The meaning of life... is to bring forth the greatest expression of your gifts.
There is a reason that you are here. (There is also a reason that you're reading this!) Take the time to examine what makes you unique and what your naturally good at.
Your job in life to do more of it! In the process, you will grow and carve a totally unique path for yourself.
You don't need to be everything to everyone. Just strive to be the greatest version of you.
Even though you have my secrets now, chances are, you need to experience them to know them in your heart and soul.
If you have an inner nudge to travel, it's because there is a part of you that desires to grow! Your soul wants you experience more of life. Go for it!
Now I'd love to hear from you.
What have been your greatest lessons from travel?
Leave me a comment below.
Anita Wing Lee is a transformational life coach, award-winning speaker and author who guides aspiring trailblazers to uncover their soul purpose and access unlimited courage to pursue their dreams.