“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 Marta Keller shares a bit of her story with us.
My name is Marta Keller and I blog about travel and living more courageously in Canada and abroad. I was born in Poland and raised in Canada. Living in the second largest country in the world, I’ve been fortunate to explore and work in various regions, including the Arctic. In 2013, I journeyed to Europe for the first time as an adult to visit my birth city. It was an eye-opening experience. I feel at home when I’m on the road. I love to explore places both near and far. Here are five things I’ve learned about myself because of travel.
#1 How much I love uncertainty
For the longest time I lived a very certain life. I didn’t desire much beyond the city I grew up in. Then an opportunity in another province presented itself to me. With great hesitation, I moved. It was a difficult time for me for several months. I desperately wanted to move back and return to my former certain life. I slowly discovered my life could be pleasant, even in another location. I also liked the change of scenery.
I ended up moving to and living in six different Canadian cities in the last 12 years. In the process, I learned to embrace and love uncertainty. I began to actively explore my regional backyard wherever I lived and worked. I’ve visited hundreds of cities, towns and villages in Canada. Then I started venturing into parts of the United States and I was inspired to visit several countries in Europe. Uncertainty now beckons me to adventure regularly.
Travel has made me a more patient person. I used to get easily upset or frustrated by life experiences, especially when they didn’t go my way. I had limited patience and it often led to unhappiness and quarrels between people. Then I started to travel. No matter how much I planned for a flawless journey, things still went wrong.
I quickly learned how much more enjoyable my travels were when I accepted delays, cancelled flights, lost luggage and other problems that arose. People were also kinder to me. I realized being irritated or angry when I had no control over a situation didn’t resolve it any faster. Patience made all the difference. I’ve since applied these lessons outside of travel and life has been much more positive.
My most significant lesson in gratitude occurred on my visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in southern Poland. I’d watched many World War II movies over the years. However, physically being at the site where the horror started was when the ugly truth struck me. This had actually happened. I felt sick to my stomach.
At the same time, I was overcome with gratitude. Gratitude for the freedom in my life because of the wars fought and the many lives lost. Gratitude for the difficult decision my parents made to immigrate from Poland to Canada so we could all have a better life. Gratitude for the support of my family and friends. Gratitude for the simple things in life. I’m a more grateful person for the life and opportunities I have because of travel.
#4 The courage to ask for what I want
For a long time, it was challenging for me to ask for what I want. I usually preferred to play it safe, even if it meant feeling disappointed. I was scared to put myself forward, be visible and risk rejection. Then I started traveling frequently. Out of a need for more comfort, I began to practice courage and ask for what I want.
For example, I asked for an aisle seat instead of a window seat. I asked what the hotel could do for me when I wasn’t satisfied with their service. This eventually led to asking for what I want in situations outside of travel. I didn’t always get what I wanted, but I knew I would be more disappointed if I didn’t ask. Rejection didn’t seem to matter as much anymore. The more I asked, the more courageous I became.
#5 The importance of family
Growing up in Canada, my immediate family included my parents and two sisters. My aunt and uncle and their two kids lived in the same city, but we only saw each other a few times a year. I had several distance relatives living two provinces away, but we rarely visited. Most of my extended family lived in Poland, but it wasn’t encouraged to visit and we never did. Separation from family was normal. It wasn’t until 2013 when I boldly decided to break the family pattern. I travelled to Poland to meet my family and it was a wonderful experience.
I now actively engage my family to maintain and grow the connections I established. I’ve visited family in Europe every year since. I also connect with family in Canada more often than ever before. A couple years ago, I even conducted an in-depth study of my family in Canada and Poland. I interviewed family members and created a genogram – a family tree diagram. I now have a better understanding of why separation was common in my childhood. I can thank travel to my birth country for leading me down this path of discovery and connection.
Image credits: Marta Keller
What’s the best self-discovery lesson traveling has taught you? Share in the comments section below.
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