Earth as a travel destination – customize your trip

What would happen if we started thinking of Earth as a travel destination, and planned our life as we plan our vacations? It may lead to a more intentional life.

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I read somewhere that the souls that chose to be born on Earth (if such a thing is to be believed) are the adventurous ones, the daredevils of the universe. Why, then, are so many of our days boring and unpleasant? Did we just forget why we decided to take this trip? What would happen if we started thinking of Earth as a travel destination and planned our life the same way we plan any trip we take?

“I address you all tonight for who you truly are: wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, and magicians. You are the true dreamers.”

Brian Selznick, ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret

These are the questions I usually ask myself before any journey:

Think about it. All those questions could easily apply to life and would arguably make it better. Let’s take them one by one:

What are the main attractions? What do other travelers rave about?

If you read any article, book, or study examining what old people enjoyed the most in their life, you get an idea of what the main earthly attractions are:

  • Savour the moments you spend with people you love.
  • Notice and enjoy the little things.
  • Laugh and play.
  • Find beauty in everything around you.
  • Learn new things, make new friends, and see new places.
  • Travel while you can, don’t worry about the money, just make it work.
  • Experiences are far more valuable than cash.
  • Your most cherished memories will be of people, not of things or accomplishments.

Do I want to do what everyone else is doing or do I want to get off the beaten path?

If you don’t like art galleries, skip the Louvre when in Paris. You don’t have to go just because everyone else does. There is no shame in spending your trip (or your life) the way you see fit.

You might not find a lucrative career to be worth the time and effort. You might want to live in a different country each year or you might want to spend your life in a tree house in the woods. You might want seven kids or you might want none. Maybe you want to go down a slide at a playground at age 85 or make hopscotch your daily exercise. Who’s to stop you? This is your adventure. The fact that things have been done a certain way for generations doesn’t mean that they have to be done the same way now.

You can even rebel against yourself. If you make a decision and don’t enjoy it, change it. Most decisions are reversible. But think long and hard before you have kids, you can’t get out of that one (well, you can try, but they deserve better).

Who do I want to go with? Who do I want to meet?

Time is precious, a non-renewable resource and the world is full of beautiful, kind, and fun people.

When you were a kid, your life was in the hands of your parents or caretakers. Without their support, you would have died. As an adult, you can purposefully design your life around the people you enjoy spending your time with. You can look for new friends in circles that are close to your heart or you can search for people who are completely different from you and let them expand your world.

Remember, the main attraction on this trip is your fellow travelers.

Have a read about our volunteering in Laos. It cost us almost nothing and ticked many boxes: we met amazing people, got to know a new place, played with animals, and felt useful.

What do I want to take with me?

My luggage keeps getting smaller. I moved to England for a year with two big suitcases. I moved to the US with a big backpack. I traveled around the world with one carry-on bag. When I go out, I don’t carry a purse. Whatever doesn’t fit in my pocket, stays at home. The more things you try to live without, the fewer things you realize you need.

I am aware that I’m speaking from my ivory tower in a society where excess in everything is the norm but I grew up in an (by western standards) underprivileged, communist, Eastern European country and I’ve traveled and experienced enough to know that the amount of stuff you own doesn’t seem to be in direct proportion to the happiness you feel.

Having access to nice things and places is more enjoyable than owning them. Hence, I try to travel light, constantly paring down my possessions, on the road and in my life, while looking for beautiful, inspiring places and nature. I have no desire to own a swimming pool (with all the expense and upkeep), but I do seek out public ones, lakes, and swimming holes wherever I go. I don’t dream of a home theater, I’d rather pay $3 to see a movie in a state-of-the-art cinema in Thailand.

As in travel, so in life, the old maxim still holds true:

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”

Susan Heller

How do I plan my trip so I don’t have to cram everything into the last few days?

Imagine Disneyland had a set opening hour and a flexible, secret closing hour. You get there at 8 am as the gates open but you have no idea how long you have to enjoy the park. Will it close at noon today or stay open til midnight? Do you jump on the best rides first, can you fit in a show, sit and have a frozen banana, or gobble one on the run? Should you do your favorite things first or save them for last even though you have no idea when they’ll shoo you out?

I feel the same about life. I would love to know the date I’ll die so I can plan my days and years accordingly.

If I knew I had a year left, I’d travel, explore, and adventure more, and I’d enjoy the money I’ve been saving for “old age”. But if instead I found out that with the help of some new antiaging invention I’ll live to 120, I’d spread out the fun and money, maybe even go back to school.

Since I don’t know how long I have, I assume I’ll live an average lifespan and health span. When I started writing my bucket list, I just added items willy-nilly with no regard for “when” I want to do these things. I now realize that skydiving seemed much more appealing when I was 25 than it does currently. A backpacking trip through Europe is probably more fun when you’re young and single. Mark and I Eurailed for two months together in our 30s and it was still an amazing experience. I just have a suspicion that the older you get, the less discomfort you are willing to tolerate (and the discomfort is half the fun). Not that I wouldn’t give it a try again, to test the theory (you know, for science). The oldest hiker to finish the 2650-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail was 81 years old. Should you postpone the trip with the hope that you’ll still be able to hike PCT in your 80s? Probably not. Also, the people you want to do it with might not be here (or you might not) in a few years.

I started thinking in seasons (even though I live with the illusion that the summer of my life will, somehow, be much longer than is ordinary, haha). I re-shuffled my plans to prioritize things that need to be done soon, for maximum enjoyment. The worst that can happen is that I check off my bucket list too soon, and that’s a problem I can live with.

What are the things I’d regret not doing while there?

No matter your life circumstances, you have things you’d like to experience. If you think of Earth as a travel destination and your time here as a trip, an adventure, what are the things you really don’t want to miss? If your soul survives your death, what will you feel dumb about not doing, or doing too little of?

If I were to die now, my main regrets would be about people and places. There are so many wonderful, kind, and jolly people in the world, I’d regret not getting to know more of them and also not devoting more time to the friendships I already have. And, even though I do travel, I haven’t nearly seen enough of the countless breathtaking places this planet has to offer.

To get the most out of our trips, we travel slowly. Have a read about our Month in Bali, Ten Weeks in Australia, or our car camping trip through the North and South Island of New Zealand.

I’d also regret not having an animal (hubby notwithstanding) in my adult life. Knowing this, I compensate by taking care of my friends’ pets. As I’m writing this, I’m lounging in a huge window seat overlooking a red Utah canyon, surrounded by four adorable little doggies (who make writing this a bit of a challenge by crawling on my lap and demanding to be petted, but what cuter distraction could there be?) and by volunteering at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the biggest of its kind in the US, housing over 1600 animals, from horses to hamsters.

And, most importantly, What is there to eat?

I’d be pretty annoyed if I died before making a dent in the list of the most delicious foods in the world, the best desserts, and many of the amazing fruits this world has to offer. If I think of Earth as a travel destination, I feel compelled to sample as many different flavors, cuisines, and eatables as I can.

It’s about living with intention. Both life and travel have the habit of being unpredictable, ever-changing, surprising, and messy, and therein lies the beauty of it all. The planning process stays the same. Decide what you want to experience, at what age, and with whom, with the knowledge that “when I retire” might be too late for many of the items on your bucket list.

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