7 Ways Spirituality & Travel Changed My Life
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.
The only constant in life is change, right?
I was completely thrown into this idea when I went on Semester at Sea, every couple of weeks we were in a new country, and for someone like me who likes to decompress and delve into everything you're seeing along the way...it was a challenge for sure. The emotion, the overwhelming sense of learning what to do in a new culture every time, what to say, what to learn more about, making new friends. Using every ounce of energy I could muster to maximize my experience in such a small timeframe. Then of course, there's things you might not think about like the dangers to worry about, and staying safe with what food and water to have. Don't get lost. Don't let others pin point you as a tourist. Change was the chaos I was immersed in. But I quickly learned what a beautiful, rare effect this would have on my life.
Change was the chaos I was immersed in. But I quickly learned what a beautiful, rare effect this would have on my life.
It seems like even in quarantine things were changing. Some were for the better, our beautiful Earth was thriving without us (big surprise there). Others, were not easy at all. Many people dealt with deaths, whether due to Covid-19 or not, family issues, friendships changed, and emotions were high. For a while, we had no idea what would happen next. There is something to say in what we've learned from all of it.
That change will always occur, this is pure fact and that sometimes, life can seem cruel.
I did a lot of reflection during this time and realized that I was grateful for even my worst moments during my travels. I learned that the change will always happen, but the choice you have is what to do about it. If you gained perspective during this time, what are you going to do about it?
Change is action,
its taking everything you know and understanding that what you do next matters. There is meaning behind everything that has happened, whether its cruel or not. It still sucks and some of it is definitely not okay. What are we going to do about it?
What action do we want to make?
In the spiritual sense, this constant change is actually something that binds us together when you get down to the foundation of it all. Whether you believe in something or not, you can probably agree that change will always happen. Its life, right? We go through highs and lows, and just when we get comfortable with something, another crazy life event occurs. I believe there is something to be said that all humans go through this. We all deal with change and how to react to it. I take heart in knowing that this is relatable. You may feel like no one understands, or that you are alone in this but in reality, you most certainly are not.
Change is everywhere.
I definitely talk about this one quite a bit, if you are an avid reader of mine. But I felt compelled to mention this again because it is so so important to me. Traveling helped me find my purpose within this world, as I believe it does for many who decide to do it. When you take on exploring and delving into other cultures and experiences, things change. You change. Your idea of what was "normal" expands, you grow, learn empathy and perspective on a global scale. It would be no surprise to me if your purpose changed as well.
Or what you felt you could do in this life.
On the spirituality side of things, I think I felt a deeper tug at my heart strings for what I wanted to do to help others. Everyone always had their ideas for what they saw me doing but I was so unsure and didn't want anyone else making that decision for me. When I decided to travel and focus more on my spiritual sense and feeling connected to the universe, I felt more of a gut feeling that I could do anything I set my mind to. This is how I wish everyone could think, but unfortunately it usually takes others actually doing it themselves to see it and believe it. The spirituality I built within my soul let me understand there was more for me, it made me believe I would do it. No question. I still don't always know how, but I believe it.
Traveling always helps me believe the action is going to happen if there is any sense of doubt. It opens your world up and suddenly you're paying attention to new ideas and belief systems. You might even think you are capable of more than you know. Thus why I decided on this post of Travel + Spirituality.
One without the other, will always be beneficial. But the two together, creates purpose. Meaning.
And each of us has this, its just a matter of finding what sets you on fire. Some of us travel to search for this. I started out that way for sure. However, I learned travel was intertwined with my purpose. Either way it can only challenge you further, and that is a beautiful thing to do for the person you are and who you want to be.