What does the Spirit of Adventure mean to you? As we begin a fresh new year ahead, I want to take a moment to talk about new year’s resolutions and living in the moment. Like most people I know, I have had an incredibly busy holiday season. I was literally taking it day by day, with some unexpected twists and turns, including an unexpected and unplanned trip out of the country. Busyness took over my life like a freight train and I couldn’t see past the end of the day, sometimes even the end of the hour. But now that life is settling back down, and we all get into the groove of our daily routines, I hope that we can take a second to look at life a little differently this year.
As a travel blogger, and an advocate of finding new experiences, I believe that cultivating the spirit of adventure is an essential skill that we need to make the most of our journeys. It is essential to even to bring dreams of travel into existence. I am hoping that this year will bring us lots of new adventures, and if we start now, we can make it happen. But first, I want to touch a bit on the subject of living in the moment, because I believe that it goes hand in hand with the spirit of adventure. It is an art that is difficult to master in our technology laden lifestyles of today, but it is crucial to understand because it will ultimately help make your experiences that much richer. Any adventure is not fully complete until you are totally present in the experience that you are living.
Learning to Live in the Moment
We have so much to be thankful for in our modern day world of technology with instant everything right at our fingertips. We can cram more into a minute and multi task like never before, having access to unlimited information on the world wide web. Yet sometimes I wonder if all this technology is really good for us in the long run. Are we losing our ability to be fully engaged in the life we are living? Are we connecting with other human beings in real life? Or how about the ability to connect with ourselves? I suggest this in part because I see how we can be so absorbed into a screen that we lose touch with the real world that is passing by before us. Like a crab in a boiling pot, we have been slowly acclimating to a world dependent on technology, not even aware of how our minds are changing with this dependence. We have become used to answering emails and texts no matter where we are at, distracting us away from the moment that we are physically present in. I once had a boss who tried going to a meditation retreat, but couldn’t leave her blackberry at home, and continued to answer calls and messages during her supposed vacation. This woman was so stressed because she couldn’t “check out”, even temporarily for her own health. Needless to say, she eventually left her job. To all the parents out there, are we missing out on precious moments with our littles because we are too busy checking our social media feeds? Are we devoting time to be with them to just play, or are we teaching them the same habits, that a screen is more important than the person in front of us. It is a heart breaking reality to face. But the moment of truth when we see this can be the catalyst for change.
This problem that enables us to live in a manner consumed by trivial matters on our news feeds, or also the inability to “check out” from work is a growing concern. We are now available 24/7. I believe it is even changing the way our relationships are developing. If it takes too long to respond to a text, some people become stressed, worried, or upset, never occurring to them that perhaps the person is just busy, or distracted in their moment. This expectation of instant availability can be a source of frustration for some. It is not possible for the human soul to be without moments of stillness for long periods of time. A life without rest cannot be sustained, we need to feel as if we can retreat. I think we all know somebody who cannot seem to disconnect from their work. We see all their dreams of travel and life enjoyment put on hold…indefinitely, or at least until there is a moment of revelation that we ourselves are responsible for making the change. Technology is permeating mankind at such a rapid pace, affecting the way our brains respond to the world around us, as well as our identity in what it means to be human. Some neuroscientists have been studying the effects of technology and are concerned about where this slippery slope could lead. It makes it almost seem like that sub reality that Neo from the movie The Matrix had to be woken up from could very well be a reality in the future.
I love technology and ultimately believe that it will improve our quality of life, however it is balance that I am after. Can we be fully integrated in a fast paced modern world, but still have the ability to be still, to breathe, to revel in our humanness? How do we strive to keep that balance? Again, the merry bedfellow of living in the moment is the spirit of adventure, who is the yin to the yang of living in the moment. As long as we hold on to the spirit of adventure, we will keep alive the ability to desire a sensational life. It is that insatiable curiosity for the world around us that will keep us emotionally whole and healthy.
I have made a promise to myself that I would attempt to live a life more in the moment, savoring everything that I can experience. I have been attempting this for awhile now, but it really hit me when I went down to Mexico this last December on a 4 day unplanned trip. My trip was to deal with some family related issues, but it became more like a spiritual pilgrimage for me. It was there that it hit me with the realization that the life we are living as a society, that I myself am guilty of, can take me away from the very thing that I crave with all my being… the desire to experience all that this life has to offer, and be fully present in each and every moment. It is not easy. Try taking a cell phone sabbatical for even a day and you will feel like you are missing the air that you breathe. A week without social media can feel like torturous starvation. I admit, I am addicted to technology, and cannot live without Google. I am an avid reader, and love that I can research any subject that comes to my mind. Even in Mexico, I read and researched continually. What was I researching? Living in the moment. But being in another country where my data plan had limits, there were many moments where I had no access to my beloved internet. There was no other choice other than to absorb my environment, to see the beauty all around. It was a task that I joyfully embraced.
The Mexico Transformation
Here I was, in another country, in the heart of the land where few “tourists” ever travel to and can barely even imagine. A land where wild dogs roam the streets, farmers use carts and donkeys to haul their goods, animal carcasses hang in the marketplace, and not a soul speaks English. Although this wasn’t my first trip down to Mexico, this was my first time savoring this trip in an unusually different way. I was in a small rural town staying in the home of extended family, a place that I had been several times before. I had to communicate with people in a language that I have spent my entire life learing. Speaking Spanish in California is completely different, since so many dialects have melted into one that nobody seems to care that I have an accent, or that my Spanish is imperfect. Yet in Mexico, in small rural towns, my alien status is quite obvious, and communicating with my accent opens up fears and insecurities that I had forgotten about. Trying to understand a thick slang Spanish was a challenge for me, as I felt completely inadequate. Yet, despite being slightly insecure, I still reveled in the fact that I was in fact still here. I was talking in a foreign country, in a foreign language that is not my native tongue. I was here. I was present. I allowed myself to feel the fear, and through that fear, I made myself free, for it is in facing our fears, rather than shying away or running, that we find peace. We find more of the ability to live in the moment. This was what it is about. It was the experience.
Fear. It another thief of living in the moment. It holds us back, and keeps us from reaching outside of our comfort zones. Sometimes the fear comes from within, stemming from feelings of insecurities, but other times it comes externally, when other’s thoughts or opinions plant a seed of doubt in our minds. For example, Americans are told that Mexico is a scary place, with a picture of danger lurking on every street. Many people would be afraid to travel there, based on the picture that the media or somebody else has made for them. The truth is, even America has its scary parts, and there are parts of even my beloved California that I prefer not to go. Like any place, there are good parts and there are bad. Mexico, like any country, has its bad parts. But why throw out all of Mexico’s splendor just because of a few bad? I realize that my travel experiences, even just to Mexico, are a bit too much for many people to understand. I have spoken with countless people about my travels there, only to have them question the safety of it. Why do we let fear control us? Why do we let fear hold us back from experiencing people and places that we never even dreamed about? Fear becomes a prison that keeps us away from experiencing all that life has to offer. When I am there, I never feel danger, but rather the warmth of a people and land that is as vast and varied as my homeland.
Perhaps it is not a trip to Mexico that you are dreaming about, but could be even a trip to another city close to your home. Is there something that you fear? Driving on the freeway to get there, uncertainty about the roads or where you are going? If we allow tiny little fears to control us, we will be missing out on so many rich experiences that have the ability to change the way we see the world. I recommend that you open yourself up to new experiences and embracing fears of the unknown.
“One of These Days”
Another one of the most common “dream robber” phrases that I hear is that there is not enough time, and that “one of these days” we will get to see or do what we might dream of. True, we get caught up in our responsibilities of daily life, but do we let it drive us into a place of complacency? Are we really going to let life pass us by, until one day when our time left on this planet is short and our legs to carry us are too weak to show us? The time to live is NOW. The time to see our dreams is NOW. I am not saying that we should walk away from our responsibilities, however what I am saying is that we need to make ourselves a priority and stop letting busyness rule our life. With careful planning, we can make our dreams a reality, and even make the day in and day out tasks seem bearable, and even joyful. But saying this is a lot easier than done. And starting big may seem a bit overwhelming. So what I am suggesting is that you start small, and work your way up to bigger and grander adventures.
In closing, I hope that you will find each day with a new outlook, a new inspiration, or a new hope. Perhaps this year we can all find beauty in the moments and stillness to renew our walks. This is my New Year’s Resolution. I plan to embrace my fears, learn to be more mindful, and to not let technology run my life, but rather me be the one who masters technology.
Cheers to a beautiful and adventurous 2016!
Below is a list of things that I feel may be helpful in living a life embracing the spirit of adventure and living in the moment.
10 Tips to Cultivating the Spirit of Adventure
1. Take a day off from social media/disconnect
Learning how to disconnect from technology is a big one. Sure we love social media to share our adventures, however the first step to enjoying your travels is to be present in the moment. And you can’t be present in the moment if we are absorbed into our screens. If you already live without social media, try disconnecting from some type of technology that you use on a regular basis. Outside of America, it is incredible what people live without. So getting used to some type of living “without” is important.
2. Savor your food
During your travels, you will no doubt be experiencing different types of foods that your palate has never experienced before. This practice also helps us to slow down and be more present in the moment.
3. Research your chosen destination and learn about the culture
This one helps me to stay motivated during the saving process. It also is wise to understand better the place you are traveling to. This is especially true if you are traveling to a foreign country, where social taboos can be extremely different than that in the United States. If you are traveling somewhere close, or within our own country, sometimes just daily research will be enough to keep that spring in your step to keep you motivated and excited.
4. Start in your own backyard
Before tackling a huge international trip, I suggest starting with local destinations that are close to home, ones that you can do on a weekend. This will push you out of your comfort zone if you are not used to trying new things. International traveling can be overwhelming, so building yourself up to experiencing new things and adapting to finding your way are skills that are imperative. Even the culture between the east coast and west coast can be so different.
5. Graduate into destinations not too far away
Make your next set of destinations outside of your home state or area, but yet close enough where you won’t experience a language barrier or have too many cultural differences.
6. Be aware of your thoughts and actions
This can be considered to be part of what is called “mindfulness”, one of the pillars in Buddhism. No matter what religion you are, or what spiritual beliefs you hold, everyone stands to benefit from this practice. Being aware of your actions, thoughts, feeling, and surroundings can actually have quite a few health benefits.
7. Attempt to make small steps to conquer your fears
For me, I have a fear of heights that I have been battling ever since I discovered that heights do in fact make me queasy. This year I have attempted to tackle this fear by choosing to engage in a some activities that push my limits, including ziplining. Conquering fears will make you feel like a superhero, and can enhance your traveling experiences.
8. Let it go
In the famed movie Frozen, Elsa’s moment of truth came when the very thing she spent her whole life fearing came out in the open. Rock solid truth in a Disney movie here. Once your biggest fears are faced and actually happen, it can be a time of great healing. Don’t be hard on yourself. Accept. You will find freedom on the other side, and maybe even strike a new look, hopefully one as badass as Elsa. lol.
9. Find something to be thankful for
Dwelling on the positives rather than the negatives will create a healthier outlook on life.
10. Don’t dwell on your performance
This happens to me a lot when I speak Spanish. When I overly think about what I am trying to say, I tend to speak worse than when I just go. Some moments I forget that I actually am not 100% fluent, because everything just falls into place. Those are moments that I generally forget to think about what I am saying. Sounds contradictory, but it is truth. The more I think hard, the worse I am. The same goes for dancing. When I am out on the dance floor, if I think too much, I tense up. Loosen up, let it go, and dance like you are living!!