10 Things That Changed My Life
A few years ago, I went through a really tough time. I won’t go into details but let’s just say it’s not a time I’d ever wish to repeat. However, from hardship comes the opportunity to make changes for the better. Those that know me, know that I’ve done just that. And I am so much happier for it.
Today I read an article called “10 Things You’ll Regret Not Doing on Your Next Trip” by Steph Dyson. As I read through it, I realised that most of these things are the exact things that I have challenged myself to do other the past few years, and that have made all the difference. So, I thought I’d share Steph’s list of 10 things, and explain how these things have changed my life.
#1: Facing Your Fears
Up until recently I had 2 major fears that stopped me doing many things: SHARKS and HEIGHTS! These equally affected my life in ways I was not happy about. I made a decision a few years back to force myself to be in situations where I would have to tackle these fears head on.
I took up sea kayaking! Initially, my fear would be too much to handle and I’d find myself frozen with fear. But I kept persisting. Then one day, it all just changed. I was on a 3 day kayaking trip in New Zealand, led by a guy named Mark from NZ Kayak Adventures. We’d had some terrible weather on the first day which had made the crossing to our island accommodation pretty tough going. That night when we were all exhausted and Mark was entertaining us with stories of kayaking ocean crossings, one of the group asked Mark if he ever got scared about sharks. My ears pricked up, because that day in the rough sea, I had been terrified about them. Every time I had looked down into the water, I had seen the shadow of a shark underneath me. Of course, the kayak shadow is the same shape, so if you look for a shark, you will ALWAYS see one. I knew that, but I was still terrified. I was eager to hear Mark’s response. And to this day, his response is something that I repeat to myself. He simply answered “What Sharks? There’s no such thing as sharks”. Then he went on to explain – he doesn’t acknowledge them, doesn’t watch shark movies, doesn’t talk about them, and therefore they don’t exist to him. This might sound a bit ‘head in the sand’, but actually it’s brilliant. From that day onwards I started applying the technique, and it had a profound impact. Now I’m able to kayak, swim, and even tried surfing, without sharks even entering my mind.
Heights was a different kettle of fish though. I couldn’t just use the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ technique, because well… it’s quite “IN SIGHT!”. So I tried something different. I forced myself, one step at a time, to overcomb the fear by simply doing it frequently. First I started by standing on chairs, then climbing a ladder, then fences, then just climbing on anything at all, then going on hikes up mountains. Then I moved up to going to look outs and looking over the railing, walking across suspension bridges, climbing sides of mountains, etc. In the last couple of trips, I climbed up the side of a volcanic crater, went parasailing, climbed a lighthouse, and various other challenges. Each time, it gets a little easier, and now I’m actually starting to enjoy it. I’m patient with myself, but only to a certain point, then I challenge myself to be a little uncomfortable to get to the next step.
#2: Waking Up Early to Smell the Coffee
Gone are the days of sleeping in, although maybe once a month I will have a little sleep in to catch up (maybe 8am). Most days, I’m up at the crack of dawn or shortly after. There is so much to fit into the day. It’s not all busy busy though. Part of what I make time for is chilling out at my favourite cafes. I’ve made this part of my morning ritual (before work and on weekends). It sets me up for an awesome day, lets me listen to some great tunes and enjoy a coffee, and also make some amazing friends along the way.
#3: Trying the Street Food
I have to credit this one to my friend Kerry. We went on a trip a couple of years ago, and Kerry introduced me to street food at the night markets of Langkawi. There were a few tourists there, but mostly locals. Kerry showed me what the world of market food could offer, and we tried everything we could get our hands on. We were rewarded with some incredible flavours. Since then I’ve been hooked.
#4: Travelling Without a Plan
In my professional career, everything is planned out and delivered according to a plan… that’s project management for you. But in the last few years, I’ve been getting better at letting that go a bit when it comes to travel. I guess it’s the time for me to unwind from the hectic pace at work, and be the opposite for a while. It usually takes me a few days to unwind, but when I do, I have found it really rewarding to just go with the flow. As a result, I’ve experienced things I could never have planned for, met the most amazing people, and learnt so many things along the way.
Next year, I will embark on a 5 month trip, with the plan consisting of the first flight, first 3 days accommodation, a list of possible countries I may go to, and the date I need to be home. I’m hoping that the people I meet along the way will help to shape my experiences and choices on the trip, and will make for a richer experience.
#5: Braving a Technology Detox
Wow, this one is tough for me. A few months ago, I was having a hard time at work, and it had all become too much. I was working crazy hours (again), taking on too much pressure (mostly on myself), and became totally overwhelmed. A friend of mine talked me though it, then I got some help from a professional too. The advice they gave me was simple but incredibly effective. Mostly it was about making time for me, being mindful and present, making choices for my wellbeing, and then came the tough one… turning off my phone and computer from time to time. At first, I found this incredibly difficult. It was like I didn’t know how to function without it. But like all challenges, the uncomfortable feelings pass. Now, I really enjoy going for dinner on my own, without my phone or laptop, and just taking in the surrounds and relaxing. My state of mind has been so much better, my creative side came back, and my ability to handle stress increased significantly. It’s not all owing to the technology detox, but it was part of it.
#6: Travelling with the Bare Minimum
This one is a favourite for me at the moment, but it didn’t start out being about luggage while travelling. For me, it started with my house. A few years back, my partner and I had a medium size house on a huge block of land. It was way too big for the two of us, and much too much work to keep up with. All our money, energy, and spare time was sucked into the vortex of this house, along with the essence of our relationship. It took its toll on us, both physically and mentally.
Downsizing from the house to a small 1 bedroom unit near the beach was the best decision of my life. I got rid of all the crap that had weighed me down for years, and started building a life based on people and experiences. I made some beautiful friends in my new neighbourhood, and began a new life.
Since then, a friend introduced me to The Minimalists. I took a good look at the things I was holding onto (even after downsizing), and started my 2nd stage of clearing out the possessions. I also started travelling with Carry On only and soon realised I didn’t even use half the things in that small bag.
#7: Accepting that Things Don’t Always Go To Plan
Yeah… this is one I’m still learning, and something I have to give myself a bit of a talking to about from time to time. But gradually I’m getting better at this thanks to my amazing friends and their positive outlook on life. Those friends really don’t know the effect they have on me, but they are such a positive influence in my life. On a daily basis, I learn important lessons from these beautiful people and the way they handle life’s ups and downs.
#8: Documenting Your Travels
I used to write quite a lot, and always enjoyed it. Then one day I just stopped. On my trip to Cambodia and Laos in 2014, I started writing in a journal again. Actually, finding that journal a few months back was one of the reasons I started this blog. I didn’t want to lose the memory of that experience. So, as you’ve probably figured out by now, this blog is now my way to capture my experiences and thoughts, and to use it to remind myself of just how lucky I am.
#9: Choosing to Forfeit Luxury for an Adventure
Actually, this one has never really been an issue for me. I’m sure my upbringing had a lot to do with it. As a family, we often went camping for holidays. I actually prefer an adventure to luxury, and have been lucky enough to have some pretty amazing experiences that would never occur inside the confines of a hotel or resort. From huts in Kenya, to camping in New Zealand, to homestays in Cambodia, the experiences from ‘off the beaten track’ have made me fall in love with travelling.
#10: Taking That Trip NOW
Life is way too short to wait. I’m continually reminded of this as life presents challenges to me and to those around me. Why wait for the perfect time… it may never come. A few years ago, I decided to stop saying “maybe later” and just started doing! Since then, my life has transformed in ways I never thought possible. I’ve travelled to New Zealand, Fuji, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and within Australia. And, I’ve started ‘travelling at home’ to make the most of all that Melbourne and it’s surrrounds has to offer. It’s amazing how much we can achieve if we just say ‘now’ instead of ‘later’.