FLOW: 1.a. (v) to issue or move in a stream; 1.b. (v) to move with a continual change of place among the constituent particles; 2. to move with a continual change of place among the constituent particles (v); 3. (v) to rise; 4.a. (v) to proceed smoothly and readily; 4.b. (adj) to have a smooth continuity; 5. (adj) to hang loose and billowing; 6. (v) to derive from a source; 7. (v) to deform under stress without cracking or rupturing; 8. (n) menstruate
This past month has been quite busy with settling in to a new routing in a new city. But despite the hustle and bustle of life back on the East Coast, I have intentionally set out to utilize spare moments throughout my day, like on the metro ride home or during the silence before bed, to reflect on the importance of travel. I concluded that traveling is a lesson in flow – an offshoot of surrender.
As I expressed in previous posts I often struggle with losing self control and listening to God’s needs and desires instead of my own. I attempt to white-knuckle most of my life in order to ensure everything is in place and that I do my best every single second of the day. My plan never goes as intended, I often become frustrated, and after reflecting on my reaction I get frustrated with myself because I should’ve just asked God for help and guidance. As I continue to plan new adventures in the upcoming months I’ve attempted to acknowledge this pattern of thought and asking for guidance, instead of becoming frustrated when my plan doesn’t go as desired.
So how do you practice flow while traveling? What does that even mean? Let me break it down into three points:
1. Instagram vs Reality Traveling
So the great thing about social media is that more people can learn about unique places to travel to, discover something new in their backyard, or learn about another culture without leaving the safety and security of their couch. Social media, especially Instagram, is a great outlet for discovery but it is also jaded with unrealistic expectations. Traveling is not always glamorous – especially for someone like me who often travels on a budget! There may be days where you sleep in a little motel or shared hostel or maybe you get sick from eating street food and can’t get off of the toilet for two days. That’s life, this is real! So when we experience things that challenge our inflated expectations of a “successful trip” to a social media star we have to step back and say – okay, yes this is difficult right now but this is real…this is me! It’s okay to not get the perfect picture in the sunset or your hair to be perfect after climbing up the mountain and capturing a selfie at the top. So stop judging yourself to the gal or guy that is being sponsored an is followed around with a makeup crew to take a picture that you are ogling over. Life is more than getting the right picture. So maybe if you find yourself comparing a travel experience rather than relishing it, you may want to consider doing a social media cleanse for a week to see how you feel or decreasing the people you follow to just close friends and family. It’s your life, travel how you want and don’t shame yourself for your experiences.
2. Learning to be okay with the 70% solution
Flow is about listening to God, your intuition, and the world around you. So I have learned that the best way to enjoy a trip is to give yourself options. Start off by making a list of either where you want to go or what you want to do on a trip. One you have made a choice of where or what to do the next step is to build yourself options – places to stay, sites to see, dining experiences. Once you have created a list STOP. Book a hotel and maybe one tour or experience – but go no further. It’s difficult for me to not want to schedule an hour-by-hour tracker to get the most out of a new place. But I have found that if you ensure flexibility into your schedule you will be much happier with the outcome. You will not feel pressured to accomplish everything on your list and you won’t feel bad if you do not do everything that you’ve written down. Provide yourself options and if the weather is bad…well choose something inside, if you’re not feeling eating at a formal restaurant…take out your list to see if there’s any recommended areas for street vendors or ask someone that works at a hotel or a local shop what they recommend. If you’re traveling with a friend, loved one, or a group the 70% solution includes also being open to communicating with your fellow travelers and remaining flexible to their ideas too! So go flow and be open to changing the plan.
3. Follow your intuition but don’t diminish your security
Now there are some things that you should never negotiate on – and that is your personal safety while traveling. Managing your personal expectations and remaining emotionally and physically open to change is good but never allow it to compromise your security. When you arrive at a hotel, airbnb, motel, exc. be sure to keep your room number to yourself at all times. This includes if you are getting a ride home from a night out. Now undeniably I did some silly things during college and I think it’s right to share one now. After a night out in Rome a friend and I got into a car with a guy and his friend we met that night and they dropped us off at our hotel. Nothing weird or scary happened (thank God!) But looking back that could’ve been a bad situation. So always use a certified cab or uber, never have strangers drop you off at your location, and never provide your room number to anyone besides hotel staff. Now in the room make sure your windows and doors can be properly secured. Do not leave highly valuable items in your room – even in a hotel! If you have something (like an iPod or iPhone) that you’re not taking with you either place it in a safe or bring it down to the front desk for them to place in a safe. Lastly, if you are in a hotel room and someone knocks on the door without you knowing a visitor or hotel staff were going to be coming to your room (1) look through the door’s peephole to identify the individual, (2) ask them to place the room service outside of the door, (3) call down to the front desk to request confirmation of drop off, (4) ask for removal of the item and provide description of the individual. These examples aren’t to scare travelers just to ensure awareness of your surroundings. A part of flow is being perceptive and responsive to what is going on around you.
Flow is like a new operating system for your soul. Embrace change, become aware of your surroundings, and enjoy the moment because every travel experience is unique and should be enjoyed.