I’ve found that in the lifestyle and travel press, discussion topics typically steer towards the importance of “escaping the ordinary” rather than the importance of traveling with the right mindset. In my opinion, the reason we don’t talk about “packing a positive attitude” is likely because it is far easier to temporarily change someone’s location than to change the way they think.
Thus, if someone chooses to be angry or close-minded, they could literally travel the world and find something to complain about at each destination!
Personally, I find that to be a terrifying thought.
But…let’s back up a little. I didn’t come to this realization until last week, so let me lay the groundwork.
Lately I’ve been listening to many podcasts on my commutes to/from work. One of my favorites is (not shockingly) Travel With Rick Steves. Last week I caught up on one from April 4th where Rick interviews a long-time travel journalist named Pico Iyer, who discusses his book and TED talk called The Art of Stillness.
I found the interview absolutely inspiring.
What has stayed with me most over the past week has been the dialogue below:
Rick Steves: Pico, when we’re talking about turning our travels into more than just a collection of sights – but rich insights – so often our attitude shapes the potential of the travel experience we’re going to enjoy. In my experience as a tour guide, two people can go to the same place and come away with two completely different experiences – one great, and the other one riddled with complaints and disappointments.
Pico Iyer: Yes, I often tell myself you can take an angry man to the Himalayas and he’ll just continue complaining about the food. But then you can take a responsive, appreciative person to Newark, NJ and she will find an amazing Tibetan museum that’s tucked into downtown Newark. So, I feel that the destination is less important than the spirit you bring to it. And part of the traveler’s job is to prepare her spirit accordingly and to ensure her heart and eyes will be open to what can be found in any place.
In the world of travel journalism, I feel no truer words have been spoken. The idea that one needs to have an open heart and eagerness to explore are the building blocks of meaningful travel experiences.
When I travel in the future, I hereby vow that I will exercise self-awareness of my attitude in order to maximize the value of each experience. Whether I’m near or far. Whether I’m in Indiana or India. Whether in Jersey City or the Isle of Jersey. There is nothing to bemoan about the ability to travel freely.
Instead – as travelers – we have an entire planet to gain. We are all incredibly blessed.