“5 things travel taught me about myself” is a new series on The Yogi Wanderer featuring travelers from around the world sharing their personal insights and self-discovery lessons from a life of wandering and/or living abroad. Today Jonathan Rafael, from the site JRontherun, shares a bit of his story with us.
Hi, I’m JR, a 32 year old Canadian from Montreal, who’s been travelling on a more serious basis for about four years now. Wandering the globe has become my passion. I have done most of my trips solo, which in my opinion adds a little more to the travel experience.
#1 Being on my own isn’t so scary
I remember how scared I was on my first solo trip. It was all new to me. Yes, I was living on my own back at home, but this was a whole new level. I was thousands of miles away from my friends and family, which I saw on a regular basis. I was a little bit of a shy person and it was hard for me to make the first move to start a conversation. I would usually rely on others to help me get what I needed. Amazingly, I managed to do quite well on my own. Alone time was actually quite rewarding. And the people I did meet along my journey were amazing. And the times I was alone exploring new cities ended up being some of the best highlights of my trip. Being on my own wasn’t so scary after all.
#2 I can be my own motivator
Often back home we find ourselves looking for external motivation, needing someone to help us push beyond our limits and out of our comfort zone. Be it at the gym, where we seem to have an ‘I can’t lift more than that’ attitude, or ‘I can’t run longer than that’ mindset. Or at a bar or a club, where we struggle to find the courage to talk to that cute boy or girl. Or at work, where we don’t have the confidence to talk to our boss or manager to show them how good we actually are.
But when I climbed Kilimanjaro or sat down alone in a restaurant for the first time, I found my motivation from within; no one was there to push me. I only had me, and that was honestly life changing, because I realized I could do anything I set my mind to!
#3 I’m more adventurous than I thought
I may have grown up playing hockey, which is a pretty tough sport, and being relatively good at any sport I played. I also happen to be a big boy too, standing over 6 feet tall. So it would be easy to assume I don’t fear much. But I’ve always been one to err on the side of caution. As a kid I was a scrawny lanky who happened to be the pickiest eater. I wasn’t one who enjoyed wrestling and fighting. I was a good kid who never really took any risks. As I grew up and finally started to travel, I began doing things I would have never done when I was younger: I’ve zip-lined in Puerto Rico, rappelled down water falls in Costa Rica, whitewater rafted on the Zambezi in Africa, ate cow brains in Egypt, slept in a tent off the banks of the Ganges River… All experiences I would have never even imagined years ago. But now, I would have regretted not doing these things.
#4 I’ve become more humble and appreciative
There is a constant flow of memes circling the internet with the hashtag #firstworldproblems. We find ourselves laughing about it all the time. Heck, I still find some of them hilarious. But when you travel as much as I have to places that are not considered first world areas, you realize the things we take for granted back home are rare commodities in other places. Running water, hot showers, electricity, and even food are examples of things we just assume will always be there for us. And the moment we go without any of these for a few hours it’s the end of the world, so to say. After every trip I find myself less materialistic, and more appreciative of all the little things I have in life. My mom laughs at me every time I thank her for cooking a meal for me. She tells me ‘But this is what mothers do!’, and I am reminded of places I’ve visited during my travels where providing three meals a day is difficult for some families.
#5 I’d rather have a thousand experiences than a million dollars
A classic western way of thinking is that success is measured by the amount of dollars in your bank account, or by the size of your house, or the car you drive. We are led to believe that those who have more have succeeded. Growing up I did believe in these things. I went to school trying to get the best marks, to make it to the best schools, so that I could have a job that made me the most money, so I could be someone my family could be proud of. My grandparents did immigrate to Canada for me to have a better life, right?
Well, they were right, I do have a better life, and that is because I make sure to have as many life experiences as possible. If anyone were to write a book on me – The book of J.R. – I want to be sure that book is captivating and interesting, one that is different from others, one that doesn’t follow a set of rules and regulations. But a book that I could be proud of, one that I could look back and say ‘Wow, that’s one hell of a story!’
That story won’t be written in a big house or driving a nice car. It will be written travelling the world, and doing things we only read about or see on TV.
Image credits: Jonathan Rafael
What’s the best self-discovery lesson traveling has taught you? Share in the comments section below.
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