“I’d love to (fill in the blank), if only I had the time.” Most likely, this statement bubbles up often in your busy, fully-committed life. Rarely do I meet an individual who feels they can afford time off the grid to travel, take a class, or simply push away from the computer at a reasonable hour in today’s technology-driven world. Seems to make sense, considering the demands on your time aren’t going anywhere and will just be waiting for you when you get back.
This reality is the exact reason why I booked myself for a three-week adventure in Cambodia and Vietnam, combined with a social media sabbatical at the end of 2017. Making a lengthy time commitment isn’t required, however, to reap the rewards I found in this escape. You can apply the lessons I learned during this trip to stay more connected, creative, productive, happy, and healthy in your everyday life.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Experiences are more valuable than things. Research shows your happiest moments involve anticipating excitement or recalling sweet memories. In other words, a concert, movie, or escape-room experience enriches your life more than buying another possession. When I recently asked my 92-year old Dad what he thinks about most these days, the conversation turned toward our numerous family vacations and his days playing football. Instead of collecting things, what lifetime memories will you make in the weeks to come?
2. Less is more. Blue Eyes, my love and traveling partner, decided backpacks allowed for more freedom and flexibility. I originally pushed back, but caved and carried my luggage on my back. His words rang true as we quickly moved through airports, sidewalks, and even fishing piers without assistance. Limited space made shopping for trinkets unnecessary and freed up time to play. Limited clothing options freed up daily decision making. Where can you scale back to generate more freedom and flexibility?
3. Breaks create breakthroughs. Creativity and problem-solving require allowing the subconscious brain to percolate ideas up to our consciousness. No surprise your best ideas occur while driving home or in the shower. Clarity on an upcoming decision surprised me during a mindless beach walk in Mui Ne. How much more peace or productivity could you produce by consistently taking a break?
4. Embrace “first-world problems.” Complaining is cheap, easy, and even fun some days. Yet, there is NOTHING to complain about if you have a roof over your head, food to eat, a body that moves, and someone to call a true friend. Complaining wastes valuable time that you can invest in healthier pursuits. Rather than groan over the slow barista, be grateful for absolutely everything from indoor plumbing to clean water…not to mention a toilet you sit on while doing your business (which is not always the case on the other side of the world, I learned)! How much more joy would you attract if you stopped complaining over minutia and started seeing blessings everywhere?
5. Everyone smiles in the same language. The fastest way to connect with another, no matter their race, religion, or position, is through a genuine smile. A smile quickly tells others you are open, friendly, and approachable. A warm smile acknowledges random strangers, and perhaps turns those strangers into future friends. Some of our favorite overseas conversations and experiences began with a smile. What relationships might you develop or deepen if you smiled when crossing another’s path?
6. Choose scenes over screens. My computer stayed home and phone remained in airplane mode the entire time I was away. Yes, I sent weekly texts to my folks and daughters, and responded to a handful of necessary emails during Wi-Fi moments. And yes, honoring my social media sabbatical probably meant missing a flurry of photos, funnies, and memes. But I didn’t miss the investment necessary to stay in the know. Rather, I invested my time and energy looking directly at the places and faces in front of me, minus post-worthy pressure. How would modeling presence instead of posting every free moment bring you more moments to truly connect, reflect or re-energize?
7. Your health is your wealth. Climbing narrow, steep temple steps three-stories high, crawling through the narrow Chu Chi tunnels, or jumping off a pier to a tiny fishing boat on our way to a remote island, all reinforced my goal to remain active and healthy. You can’t enjoy what you can’t experience, so continue to move more! Not only will you feel better, but you’ll lower your stress. As my favorite philosopher Jim Rohn said, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” If you committed to only one new healthy habit, how much richer would your life become?
Remember, if you wait until you “have the time” to apply any or all of my lessons learned, nothing will change. Instead, make time for what matters most…whatever that looks like to you.