I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
– Susan Sontag
When we’re living our day-to-day lives, how often do we really pause to take a look at our surroundings? And how we’re feeling in the moment? Last week, I talked about how my own travel experiences have helped me to slow down, listen to my intuition, and open up; I also reached out to Nikki for her opinions.
As the founder/editor of South East Asia Backpacker, a popular travel magazine for travelers in SEA, Nikki has learned a lot over the past several years: from seizing the moment to practicing gratitude and taking risks, this adventurous woman gives us some tried-and-true advice for staying balanced and leading a positive, fulfilling life — wherever we are.
K: Can you share some lessons you’ve learned from travel that also can help those of us at home?
NS: I think that travel teaches you a lot about life in general. The lessons I have learned on the road can certainly be adapted to a more ‘stable’ life. Here are a few guidelines I try to live by (and believe me, I fail time and time again — but that’s all part of the fun!)
1. Live day by day
I heard a great quote that I can’t remember fully, but here’s the gist!
If you’re walking up a mountain, you constantly stop to take in the view around you and assess your next move. You can’t make a decision on where to go if you can’t see where you are going!
The idea is that taking life day by day and not worrying too far in the future keeps you grounded. You only have today, right now, to do your best and make the most of. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow or next week to change your plans. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make any plans at all; just be open to change and accept the twists and turns that life throws at us. This lesson learned from travel in South East Asia and the inevitable changes in plans you face can certainly be applied to ‘real’ life and being more relaxed with your decisions.
My good friend and Deputy Editor of the magazine, Karen, and I always remind each other of this when we are making far-flung travel plans for, say, 12 months time. “Okay, so Buenos Aires in the spring?” I wrote on Facebook a few days ago. She replied: “We both know you could be in Russia and me in the Arctic by then. Let’s just see how it goes!”
2. Appreciate what you have
This one goes without saying. Appreciating things and being grateful for your life is easier said than done, and it’s easy to get wound up in little annoyances and forget the bigger picture. When you travel throughout Asia and the world, you will, at times, experience poverty and see people less fortunate than you, yet they still have a smile on their faces and appreciate what they do have. The positive outlook on life that many people in the Third World have is humbling when you consider the amount of people with stress in the Western world.
3. Give it a go!
The biggest mistake in life is to be constantly fearing you will make one. – Elbert Hubbard
Packing your bags to travel and leaving everything comfortable and familiar behind can be a daunting thing to do, but what have you got to lose? It is easy to sit at home and live vicariously through films and the internet, but what’s to stop you making your life as interesting as anybody else’s? It really does come down to the fact that you only live once, so just give it a go! Whether your dreams include travel, starting a business, taking up a new hobby, or even telling someone that you love them – don’t look back and regret!
What are you afraid of?
Asking ourselves this one simple question — ‘what am I afraid of?’ — can be a great jumping-off point for living more freely. Whenever I ask myself this provocative question, I usually get some answers that don’t necessarily seem very positive at first – i.e. “I’m afraid of being broke; I’m afraid of putting myself out there; I’m afraid of looking stupid; I’m afraid of failing; I’m afraid of feeling uncomfortable; I’m afraid of losing,” and so on.
And they’re not positive in those immediate forms: while some of these fears are based in at least partial pragmatism, as well as desires for emotional and physical security, most of them fall into the category of ‘irrational fears’ — fears that stop us from moving forward for no good reason.
By investigating these personal fears, we gain invaluable information about what areas we need to work on moving forward in. Choosing to move toward our fears creates excitement, adventure, and growth. Most of all, we learn that our fears are really just friends-in-disguise that we can use as positive stepping stones during our journey.
Nikki is currently in the process of transitioning from Thailand to setting up a new branch of the magazine in South America. I know what it takes to relocate countries, but relocating an entire business? That’s impressive!
K: You’ve just launched South America Backpacker. What was the motivation behind this challenging move? What is your vision?
NS: I have always wanted to travel to South America, yet running a magazine in ‘South East Asia’ made this tricky. I bought the website domain for ‘South America Backpacker’ a few years ago, and the expansion was always in the cards. However, I wasn’t sure if things would be running smoothly enough in South East Asia to allow me to leave Thailand and travel to a brand new continent!
After a lot of hard work, getting the right people involved in the magazine, and starting a brand new ambassador program, so that travelers can get involved with the magazine as they travel, I am now at the point where I can work on South East Asia Backpacker from my laptop anywhere in the world… And, attempt to set up our second magazine in South America in 2014! After that, I am hoping to take what we have in South East Asia to Europe, Australia – who knows!
The motivation behind it all? The thing with the travel bug is that you crave new adventure constantly. As soon as something becomes familiar, you need to shake it up and set yourself new challenges. I wrote a recent post about embracing the prospect of change into your life, which you can read here.
Realizing our visions
Hard work, a deep-seated vision, and the impetus to grow fueled Nikki’s choice to transfer her life — and business — halfway around the world. I love how her desire to travel around South America was the original driving force behind her professional plans!
When our work and passion are one and the same, it becomes easier to naturally want to put in extra hours, and think bigger, in order to help spread our message. We see it with successful businesses and people all the time. Like Soma, Nikki’s another great example of the opportunities that manifest when we’re intuitively following our own path of passion.
It’s a wild wonderful world. Follow your heart and let the adventures unfold.