The late afternoon sun hasn’t dried the condensation left on my palm from the now empty Bin Tang bottle. I place the bottle on the table solidly, hoping my friends recognize the hollow thud. It’s the sound a beer bottle makes before the holder creates a reason to leave. “I gotta go watch the sun set.” I say excusing myself.
On vacations I force myself to find time for personal reflection (even if it means leaving a table of friends). It would waste my money and time to fly around the world and not learn while on vacation. Watching the sun set is when I reflect on the learning opportunities I’ve had each day of my vacation.
- I’ve seen how quickly travel friends are made. Vacation time is short and instead of trying to change people I accept them, flaws and all. If I can continue to embrace people’s unique traits (like I do on vacation) I’d be rich with lifelong friends.
- I’ve observed myself being present. At home I allow distractions because my routine has no definitive end. But I know the date, and even the time, my vacation will end. When vacation limits my time I savour every moment and ignore escapes (Facebook, emails, iPod). I should always live in the now because even at home time is limited.
- I’ve witnessed those with nothing sharing everything. I look out for my family and myself. That’s why seeing someone from a developing nation (who has nothing compared to me) share their resources evokes my emotion. Seeing their generosity makes me want to be a better person.
- I’ve listened to people. The people I meet on vacation seem more interesting than the people from home. They have stories I don’t know and experiences I envy. Why can I listen to them more easy than the tweed suit guy from work? Ol’ tweedy may be more inclined to help me out if I give him my complete attention.
- I’ve taken the time to appreciate compassion. Simple acts of help, like assisting me with directions, make the locals less like a backdrop and more real. I must not forget the kindness of these strangers because I can learn sympathy from them. The inaction of good people is shameful.
- I’ve decided that it’s okay to forgive myself. Dissimilar cultures order food, greet people, and apply personal hygiene differently. When I travel, I make cultural mistakes (lots of them) and I get over it. Understanding it’s okay for me to make mistakes will teach me leniency when judging others.
- I’ve reflected, before and after vacation. Before vacation I check-in with myself: am I mentally burnt out, feeling listless, or exhausted? Of course I am, that is why I’m taking vacation. When vacation is over I check-in again. When there is a positive change I figure out why and try to incorporate it into my regular life. That’s how I learn to be happy.
Tim Hirtle is a travel addict bent on clear communication and enjoys the challenge of explaining personal growth in a simple, easy to follow, manner. He is a co-founder of The Travel Type and believes that anyone who takes responsibility for their own life can achieve their dreams. In 2014 Tim left his engineering career to travel full-time and pursue self-development.