Travel is unrehearsed life at its finest. You can take that one to the bank.
Homes and routine are shields against chaos and unplanned events, and those are both great places to maintain a baseline as a standard of living.
Independent travel, on the other hand, undoes that—and it’s a lot of fun. It’s fairly simple to preserve some form of structure and rhythm on the road, but plans are apt to change and test our mettle and reveal to us who we really are.
It’s important to recognize and exercise virtues that are important to traveling well—not just for our own sakes, but for the others traveling with us:
Spontaneity: Seeing plans as flexible; leaving open the possibility of something new coming along.
Exercising spontaneity doesn’t mean you have to be spontaneous. Some people are just better at it than others. But strictly-planned agendas are seldom left un-trumped on the road by random happenings, and it’s important to remember this. Good sailors don’t fight the wind, right?
Patience: Keeping long-term perspective; being complacent with and seeing past delay or trouble.
“Waiting” is a big chunk of the traveler’s experience, especially in countries where trains and buses don’t adhere to a strict schedule (not Germany or Switzerland or Japan, for instance). Knowing how to wait well—and helping your fellow travelers wait well, too—is an invaluable skill that turns the proverbial lemons into lemonade. Long hours of nothing mean extra time spent reading, learning, or creating something new in turn.
Forbearance: Amicable tolerance towards delay or incompetence.
Nobody’s perfect, but if we’re not careful, we can catch ourselves making the mistake of expecting waiters, taxi drivers, or guides to bend to our every need. If you feel that you aren’t being treated well, try to put yourself in their shoes before making snap judgments. Maybe they’re having a bad day, too, and just aren’t dealing with it in a very good way. Win them over and try to make their day better—allies on the road are some of the best friends you can have.
Acceptance: Being aware of one’s circumstance and not fighting irresponsibly against it.
Travelers have to get used to the idea that sometimes their options run out. If the hotels are all full, or if the soonest train doesn’t depart for another eight hours, learning how to make the most of situations rewards the traveler in spades. This is especially important when traveling with others, as stress can be contagious.
Reverence: Healthy respect for the world and all it contains.
Travel is full of profound moments, whether visiting tremendous works of art in Italy, standing against a backdrop of waterfalls in Brazil, or diving in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It’s things like these that keep us trekking around the world, and learning how to appreciate them in our own unique way not only enriches our experience: it can also influence others to go after their own profound moments…and, with a global perspective, the more people practicing reverence across the continents, the better we all get along, right?
What are some of the hardest virtues for you to exercise when traveling? What is the most valuable one you’ve learned?