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7 Life Lessons Travelling The World Has Taught Me

In July 2020, I headed towards the country that would become known as my ‘number 90’.

A girl from a small town on the west coast of Scotland making her way to one of the smallest countries in the world.

Crossing the imaginary border separating Italy from tiny San Marino, I had the simplest of entries as I checked off another country on this adventure around the world.

No visa hassles, no security checkpoints to stress over, and no navigating customs with 100ml bottles. There wasn’t even a stamp on my passport.

Preceding that has been everything from six of the Seven Wonders of the World to climbing ancient ruins in Guatemala and snorkelling off the coast of Belize.

Now travelling the world may not change your appearance, or how you come across on the outside, but it changes you deep inside.

It grants you 90 countries’ worth of perspectives, at least 90 new stories, and endless obstacles to tackle and overcome.

It feeds your imagination with far-flung adventure and turns what was once your dreams into memories.

Travelling all over changes how you see the world and how you live your life. If it didn’t, then what has it all been for?

Trip number 90 was not about one day in San Marino (pictured above); it was much more than that.

This was for the eight-year-old girl who boarded her first flight, on a family trip ‘abroad’ to Spain, and who felt that feeling of excitement when adventure awaits around the corner.

This was for the 20-year-old girl who landed in New York, after finishing university, to work the summer at a beachside amusement park in Delaware. My first taste of real freedom.

This was for the girl in her 20s who planned all the trips in her long-term relationship, who set off to work, live, and explore the gigantic country nicknamed ‘Down Under’.

And this was also for the girl in her 30s who boarded a plane to Japan, solo, after that long-term relationship ended.

What advice would I share with anyone interested in being part of the game called ‘Travelling the World’?

Keep going. Go with the flow, but always have a rough plan. Get excited. Scribble notes for future trips – it never ends.

Make it happen. Lie-ins are not something to collect. Be curious. Embrace it all…and remember, everything is figure-out-able, as coined by Marie Forleo in her 2019 book.

Before San Marino, there was Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, The Faroe Islands, Albania, North Macedonia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Slovakia…and that was just the countries in the 80s on the list. And pictured above is the Ancient City of Balbeek in Lebanon. In the summer of 2020 as lockdown 1.0 became a distant memory, I set off to spend nine weeks exploring other locations and cultures. On my return to Scotland, I embraced the space, and quiet, of the second half of 2020 to reflect. Like many people, I’ve asked myself that deep question, “what is this thing called life all about?” For me, it isn’t working the 9 to 5 existence to pay the bills or settling in a life where society’s blueprint directs you. It’s certainly not wishing away your week where Monday to Friday is merely existing, and weekends are a blur mainly with booze filled regrets. Then to repeat it all again – focusing on a break in the circuit when you embark on a summer holiday. I believe every day is a day where we make a choice to be happy, to make a difference, and see the joy in the simple things. So many people around the world don’t have the privilege of what we take for granted in the West. So many people don’t have another day, their life is gone in the blink of an eye.

I am currently writing my first travel memoir with the working title ‘Follow Your Joy’. It is an ode to learning about myself and discovering the joy of life along the way. Reflecting on my travels have also given me the opportunity to examine some major life lessons I’ve learned along the way. #1 There are many adventures waiting for you Travelling has taught me the world is a playground, it is an adventure waiting for you to leap into. There are endless possibilities waiting for you if you quiet the doubts and fears, if you tear up the blueprint, and if you remove the boundaries, labels, and expectations we restrict ourselves with. How many people prevent themselves from that dream trip, or ticking off the bucket item list all down to an excuse, or that killer statement “maybe next year?” What happens if there is no next year? When you travel and go after your goals, you slowly wake up and realise you can design your own life and happiness! #2 Material possessions don’t equal happiness We are conditioned in the Western world to strive for more: a bigger house, the latest car, job promotions, and all the designer gear. Most things are disposable. Your dinner one click away. We chase likes and followers, selfies layered with filters as everyone tries to out compete each other. In the East, life is simpler. Meals made from the food grown from the land, things happen when they happen. There is an appreciation for each day. What will be, will be. No one seems in a rush; they’re living in the moment. I’ve seen real hardship and poverty on my travels. On some trips you notice they have nothing, but they are happy. It can be confronting, shining a light back on your own life.

#3 Appreciate the small stuff Travelling taught me to enjoy the day to day, the small stuff. The fresh cup of coffee, the smile as you catch someone’s eye, a sunset run as you feel the energy of the day rise. I travelled to Ethiopia in 2019 where I felt sadness, not at the little the local community had but sadness that in the West we don’t know the privileges we have, and we waste the opportunities we do have. #4 We create our own future No one is going to come along, hold your hand and walk you through life. You need a plan, an idea, and if you don’t know where to start then figure out the things that make you happy. From that place, you can start creating your future. I know what fills me with joy – the great outdoors. It is a free source of energy. #5 We need to take some chances in life to be happy Life isn’t about sitting at home on your couch surfing Netflix or scrolling through Instagram waiting for bedtime. It is about being curious, exploring and feeling alive. In 2020 I learned to surf in Sri Lanka. In 2018 I dated a guy who convinced me to head to the slope and I skied for the first time. Through travelling I have learned that we need to take chances, go with the flow and connect with people. We are all on the same path and have more in common than we like to admit. Try new things out – as stepping out of your comfort zone is when you will feel the most alive.

(Above: Nepal’s Annapurna base camp after 7 days of trekking). #6 Don’t take life too seriously I’ve realised people can be serious – too serious, always fearing the worst. I prefer to be playful. When did the world get serious? People allow a two-week holiday to be ruined by a one-hour flight delay. Life isn’t perfect, it is raw and filled with hurdles. Don’t live your life expecting everything to be perfect. It isn’t. We create our own misery by setting our expectations too high. One of my favourite things on a trip is to enjoy the sunset. It is that time of the day where you pause and reflect. Appreciate life and nature. It allows the opportunity to take a break from the demands of the modern world, slow down and watch as the day turns into night, knowing the next day is a new day where you rise and start afresh. #7 Follow your joy and live in the moment Travelling taught me that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. We overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, and underestimate what we can achieve in 10 years. Start living today. Wake up and be grateful. Try something new. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Live life in the moment and remove the seriousness from life. Be present, be connected, be motivated, be curious, be you. Life is a gift. Open your eyes and experience more of the stuff that gives you goosebumps – that is when you know you are alive. Follow your joy.

Jacquelyn Armour loves books, listening to podcasts, and of course travelling and meeting new people. Currently writing a memoir about her extended travels, Jacquelyn lives by the philosophy “you get from the world what you put into it”. For more information visit: Follow Jacquelyn on Instagram: @followyourjoy_ja

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