Updated: Dec 25, 2021
I think I've always been a pretty spiritual person deep down, so I think that has a role in everything I'm about to write. Traveling, however, only enhances everything you learn about yourself and the world around you. So in retrospect, I owe everything I am today to the universe and all the beautiful cultures around us that continue to inspire me each and every day. I felt compelled toward writing a spiritual post to hopefully help others understand they are not alone in feeling anxious, in feeling like life or this year in general is a little overwhelming, and it can be incredibly difficult to see what comes next. This is not to invalidate what any of you are going through, but hopefully make you feel some positive emotions. A spiritual connection in some way.
"Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another." (Mind Journal)
This is something you might take on if you've been through your own trauma. You might have gone through something so intensely that you never want anyone else to struggle with it themselves. If this relates to you, empathy might come naturally, and as you travel you are only expanding on what you are already aware of. However, traveling and spirituality can actually open this up even for those that haven't gone through the trauma themselves. This is one reason I always say that everyone should travel. Every single person. (Take note: I mean travel, not vacation, there's a difference). From being on the ground in other cultures you yourself are taking in everything directly. It's a known fact that this is how we take in information in the most effective way. We are visual creatures. To open your eyes, open your comfort zone and begin to understand the importance of educating yourself before speaking your own opinions. This is crucial. This is empathy.
If you are not understanding another culture, or idea this is where spirituality ties in. Spirituality looks like many different things for many different cultures, so I use the term loosely in this context. For me, I want to always learn about others belief systems and respect their views when I am in the country myself. Empathy in this aspect, is looking from their perspective and practices even when I may not always agree with them all. But in keeping patience, in knowing that the most effective way to also get your own point across, is to level with the other person, you elevate your spiritual self. You continue to see there is a bigger picture.
Which leads me to this next topic of: perspective. Are you looking at the way you see the world?
Now, are you looking at the way the world might see you? A balance of the two intertwined is what I was taught from personal experience.
In everything I do, I try to keep this balance. Whether it's past, future and present or small picture meets big picture of how my life is. Am I on the path that I feel is best for myself? Do I feel aligned with my growth from my past? Do I feel present right here in this moment? Am I pursuing everything I want for myself? We may not always realize it but perspective plays such a main role in our own mental health and purpose.
Before I started traveling solo, my perspective was always looking back. I went through tough moments, my mental health wasn't great, and I often didn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wasn't aware of what the world had out there, and didn't see a purpose. I lost perspective.
Traveling changed how my mind worked, I saw what others struggled with on the daily and rather than feeling guilty about what I struggled with in comparison, I took a much needed step back. A perspective break, if you will. To understand that what others are going through around the world, doesn't lessen what you yourself might feel and go through. That would be considered self manipulation or gaslighting, and in the end, doesn't benefit anyone. But instead, you can change what you do about it. To begin taking care of yourself so you can gain a better perspective.
To understand that what others are going through around the world, doesn't lessen what you yourself might feel and go through.
Before I found my strength in spirituality, I was looking forward constantly as well for a period of my life. Only to realize that when constantly looking forward, it can become overwhelming when things don't go your way. Suddenly you are heartbroken after planning things so "perfectly" for your life. Spirituality gives you a perspective that reminds you that you are not in control of life. Life has another plan, you can only continue to change the perspective you have of what comes and what you can control and that is the perspective you want.
In making the decision to travel constantly and focus on my spirituality, I gained a ton of strength in choosing to believe I could do it. When you make that pact with yourself I feel like a sense of trust is gained. And when you focus on that balance of respecting yourself and seeking to understand others, that kind of growth changes what you feel you can survive. So often, we limit ourselves when in actuality we can do more than we put our minds to, cause we haven't done it yet. You won't know until you do it, right? It's what it all comes down to is: action. At certain points in my travels, I might've felt invincible, almost on an ethereal high. To know deep down that you can do even beyond what you put your mind to, because you're actively doing it, that is strength. Even one step further, it's incredible to do this before you even put it into action. To know yourself so whole heartedly, that you make it happen, no matter what.
There is also a strength that comes with your spiritual self, in knowing you are never truly alone. I began to think I could do more when I realized this as fact. Even if you aren't thinking on this spiritual level of the universe having your back or God always being there to listen, I also mean in the sense that good people are everywhere. It's connecting with them that we might feel challenges us or scares us. It's different and new, and out of our "norm" but what it comes down to is you are never truly alone. I felt a deep sense of serenity when I took note of this. And traveling allows you to find more like minded people to make you realize this.
What is the "Norm" Anyways?
The more I meet others from different cultures, the more I open my eyes to the fact that "norm" is subjective. It can relate to so many different things yet we so often try to categorize it, minimize it into --- what exactly? What is the "norm" anyways? And why do we say it so often?
"That's not normal."
"It was pretty normal."
"She looked normal."
"Its a normal job."
"A normal experience."
I started to become hyper aware that I was saying this all the dang time, and so was everyone around me. Why the obsession with what normal means for us? When we actually take note of those who are different. Unique. In history, in day to day life, in love, in our careers even. We watch movies on standing out, we are inspired by those who overcome rather than living what societies "norm" would have us do.
After traveling and finding more of a spirituality within myself, I realized that I wanted a norm that not many understood. I vividly remember talking to my dad about this one day in the car, that what everyone else sees as normal is not what I see as normal anymore. And others might be uncomfortable with that. I grew out of the pot that society had planted for me. I moved on. And I owe a lot of that to traveling. When you are so consistently out of your comfort zone, you lose touch with that idea of norm. Your world isn't what you're used to suddenly. And everything becomes heightened and fast-paced when you're traveling around in a new culture. You kind of have to lose what you considered normal at that point, unless you want to have mental breakdowns every day.
I adjusted and understood that everyone had different day to days, different struggles, religious beliefs, cultures and so much more. Yet connected by something other-worldly. Perhaps that could be considered the new norm. That on some basic level we are all searching for purpose. But until our definition is changed, I personally want to stop using the word altogether.
All I feel it does is limit us-- from believing we can do more. From pursuing our purpose that sets our souls on fire.
Humble yourself in understanding that you matter, but there is a bigger picture here. This wasn't always an easy lesson for me, especially if you're going through something with family, friends, or even mentally/spiritually. We get so caught up in our lives we kind of forget this step.
I remember traveling through impoverished areas of the world and so often the reflex answers I got from those around me were "that must of made you feel so grateful for your own life." I think this always rubbed me the wrong way, even though I knew the intentions were never out of malice because it's almost insinuating that these experiences were to help me. Don't get me wrong, they did for sure, and I know I can only do so much to help in my travels.
I'm not naive, I'm fully aware the people I meet along the way inspire me in ways nothing else could. But in reality it has always been about wanting to help the world around me. This is kind of a hard concept to talk about when you live in a culture that brands and sells selfishness. We want to climb that ladder and accomplish everything we want to do and that is how we become happy. Or at least that's what we're taught. So this concept of staying humble honestly gets challenged when you add travel into it all. You add other perspectives into the mix. Now it gets a little uncomfortable.
Are you helping more than hurting?
Are you paying attention to the footprint you leave behind - whether that's ecologically or morally speaking.
Are you going to take what you've learned from traveling to check your privilege and do something about it?
...Are you asking uncomfortable questions?
Utilizing your knowledge but making it more about others and less about yourself, that's the real balance that comes with staying humble. This is not to say I don't still struggle with this because of course, I'm human. I want to accomplish certain things in life. However, to be aware of these aspects makes a difference. To change your thinking, to humble yourself to understand that your problems matter, there is no issue in validating that. The next move however, is to understand others are also going through something and we may never understand what that feels like. For some, we will never know. But you might have the power to help others around you. You can feel grateful for your life, and still move to educate yourself and humble yourself before other cultures, ideas, people, beliefs, etc. In fact, I believe there is a spiritual sense that comes with this.
That is spirituality.