Travel as an Attitude

One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. - Henry Miller

When I worked in the corporate world, I remember waiting for the two weeks of travelling somewhere new and exotic to finally feel alive. 

To extend this feeling, I even took six months off to travel around the world nine years ago with my then husband. It was a wonderful experience - and it actually taught me something very unexpected.

It taught me that travel can be an attitude. That travel doesn't have to be to a far flung exotic destination. It doesn't even have to be a time when we are away from our daily lives of work and family. 

Instead, we can also apply the aspects of travel we love to our everyday lives.

We can start building a life we already love, that is filling with alive-ness, instead of seeing travel as an escape from an un-alive life. 

Here are five suggestions to start bringing travel as an attitude to every day life. 

1. Travel as an attitude means embracing discomfort as a necessary path to growth.

Travel is often about taking a small step - or many steps - away from our comfort zone. This moving out of our comfort zone is where magic can happen - where we discover aspects of ourselves we didn’t even know existed. 

Everyday life provides plenty of opportunities to push past our fears - from moving away from a situation or relationship that is no longer working to standing up for ourselves, signing-up to a dating app or even opening up a little bit more with someone we care about.

Travel as an attitude embraces all forms of discomfort as a path to growth - not just the physical discomfort of travel, but also the emotional discomfort that comes from personal growth. 

2. Travel as an attitude means being open to new experiences wherever we are.

Travel enables us to experience new things — both man made and natural. Seeing kangaroos on a beach at sunrise, taking a helicopter ride or experiencing Angkor Wat at sunset?

Definitely awe-inspiring.

Yet daily life also provides plenty of opportunities for new experiences IF we create them. These can be as small as trying a new café or restaurant in the city we live in, taking a new class, learning a new language, reading a book or buying an unknown vegetable when grocery shopping. 

We can make time to watch the sun set after work or take a different path to work. We can always create new experiences.

3. Travel as an attitude sees differences as enriching rather than threatening.

Travel opens our minds to different ways of doing things. It gently, and sometimes not so gently, reveals that other ways, beliefs and attitudes exist - and that they, too, are valid and even fascinating. In doing so, it provides the opportunity to re-examine our own beliefs and habits.

In everyday life, we are faced with different beliefs and attitudes all around us, yet we often don’t choose to see these as intriguing - annoying is probably a more apt description! 

Yet we can always choose to be open to differences in opinions and values that come from our family or co-workers - with appropriate boundaries, of course! Accepting them with the same openness and curiosity we show ‘foreign’ cultures can be a novel experience.

Instead of seething with resentment, we could become curious about this difference: 

I wonder why my colleague / family member / boss is reacting in this way? How do they see the world differently to me? What is it about their reaction that triggers me? 

Perhaps we will notice what Carl Jung wrote - that "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."

4. Travel as an attitude means being open to connection.

Away from the cocoon of our known lives, we are more vulnerable and open, both with people we know and people we don’t. And while we don't always stay in touch with those we meet, for a brief moment, we have walked along the same path, and this interaction leaves us all the richer. It can act as a humble reminder, as Maya Angelou wrote, that "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike".

We don’t actually need to physically travel to connect with people or be just a little more open and vulnerable with people around us. We can choose to put our phones down in public places and connect, even if this is just a brief moment of connection

5. Travel as an attitude means taking distance from life.

Being able to briefly press the pause button on everyday routines provides a bird’s eye view of life. Travel enables us to assess what matters most, to re-evaluate our priorities and what we want or need to change in our daily lives.

A physical change in environment is helpful - yet when this isn't possible we can also explore other ways of gaining a little perspective such as journaling, meditating, yoga, going into nature, therapy/coaching or simply leaving more space to just BE instead of overbooking the week.

Nothing will ever replace real travel, of course. But what I have found by bringing travel as an attitude into my life as much as possible is that I no longer see travel as an escape from life but a way to enhance a life I already enjoy. 

I haven't gone anywhere this summer, so this is one of my attempt at living  Travel as an attitude:  Trying out an awesome new café in Lausanne -  Ca Passe Crème  - in the great company of Tony Johnston -  freelance video, animation and podcast producer  who took this photo.  I drank a delicious cold drink called  cascara  which is made from the cherry blossoms of the coffee bean.

I haven't gone anywhere this summer, so this is one of my attempt at living Travel as an attitude: Trying out an awesome new café in Lausanne - Ca Passe Crème - in the great company of Tony Johnston - freelance video, animation and podcast producer who took this photo.

I drank a delicious cold drink called cascara which is made from the cherry blossoms of the coffee bean.

The Wisdom of Patterns

“To understand is to perceive patterns.” - Isaiah Berlin

When I was at school, I hated math. Until one day, we did a type of math that went something like this (in more complex form)

2, 4, 6, 8 __ __ __ ?

It was about seeing a sequence of numbers, and figuring out the numbers that came next. For some reason, my brain comprehended this type of math.

It made sense to me that we could guess what was likely to happen next based on what had happened before.

I think this made sense to me because patterns was my way of trying to make sense of the world around me. 

As a child, I would hear my parents speaking a language (Arabic), then go out and notice people looking different to us and speaking a language I did not understand (Swiss-German) outside of home. When my brothers and I started school, my parents put us in the English-speaking system, and my Dad worked mostly in French.

Wherever I went, I felt I didn’t really speak other people’s language. 

In Jordan, where we would spend summers, this feeling of not really fitting in made the role of observer feel natural to me. I could be on the outside, looking in and simply notice what was happening around me, how people were interacting without having to take on a more active role. 

I remember sitting through endless family visits and observing people, wondering why they behaved the way they did: What made this aunt so grumpy? What had happened to her in the past that made her like this? How did her way of seeing the world make sense to her?

I became someone almost invisible who was trying to find patterns. 

I think this is what drew me to Psychology. Understanding human behaviour. Why we do what we do as humans. 

How in life, what came before - usually during childhood - can explain what happens next. 

Most of what we do is not some random behavior. It is usually part of a larger pattern.

We learn to act a certain way because in a certain context, this was the best choice available. 

For example, a child with a critical parent will probably ‘adapt’ to this situation and try to make it less painful in various ways:

She might become a perfectionist, intent on not making a mistake to avoid criticism. 

She might become anxious, as a way of preparing herself for another ‘attack’. 

She might learn to play small, to take up as little room as possible, to not have needs or emotions as a way of avoiding potential criticism. 

She might become people pleasers as a way of trying to appease the critical parent and win their approval.

She might develop shame about ‘there must be something wrong with me’ because blaming the parent for their behavior is not an option for a child who relies on the parents for their survival. 

She might become very critical of herself, as a way of motivating herself to do better because this is what was familiar to her.

Or she might even go more into narcissism or grandiosity and a need to feel superior to others to avoid feeling the vulnerability of the child who was hurt. 

There are many possibilities or a mix of possibilities, and of course, this is a simplification. Reality is more complex than this, and there are more factors at play, including culture, the rest of the situation (for example having a more supportive parent or grand-parent might have been a more protective factor), genes, life events etc. 

If we think about this child though, what will she expect human relationships to be like later in life? She probably won’t expect them to be safe and supportive as this was not her experience growing up. 

She has been primed to look out for what confirms this belief, to orient to danger in relationships, and is already armed with her ‘adaptation’ to protect her. A pattern has been set-up, but it is so engrained, that it is difficult to even notice it. 

In other words, a child who learned to please her critical parent will probably continue this people pleasing behaviour in her adult relationships.

This adaptation is part of our implicit memory. It feels ‘right’ - a part of us, who we are.

I just like others to be happy. That is who I am, the role I take with friends.

These adaptations become so established that we cannot imagine who we would be without them. 

And yet, change is always possible.

Patterns are not destiny. They can be changed once we notice them - or we may not want to change them, but simply bring more choice and flexibility in when we use them.

What came before does not have to be what happens next. 

Before changing a pattern,  we need to first notice it. Understand that this was the best option we had at a time when we did not have much choice. Recognise the wisdom of this adaptation. 

So if you are struggling with a behavior or a pattern in your own life, before trying to change it, consider this question: 

How does this behavior or pattern make sense in some way, given what came before? 

PS - regarding my own adaptation, it morphed into asking others lots of questions instead of just staying invisible. Apparently this is more socially acceptable for adults! I was genuinely interested in others, but this was also a way of deflecting attention away from me, and my feeling of not belonging. Does my choice of work as a psychologist seem like a stretch?  

I have learned over the years to have more balanced relationships, where I also open up and share myself. Part of my sharing on this blog is my way of using this (often useful) adaptation with more flexibility.