How do you want you son or daughter to approach the world?
I’m happy to admit that I adore and look up to my dad. Most women probably feel this way, but I’ve always thought my dad was just about the greatest guy on earth and full of wisdom that I had to soak up. Despite butting heads with him over the years (we’re both controlling type-A’s), at the end of the day I accept that he’s taught me a lot and played an important role in the strong (controlling, type-A) woman I’ve become. One area where this is especially apparent is when it comes to getting the most out of life.
While I’m not typically found jumping out of airplanes or spelunking through caves, I do love trying new things and seek out adventures whenever I can find one. And whether or not my dad realizes it, he’s to thank for a lot of my travel and adventure seeking habits.
Here are 10 secrets my dad taught me that changed how I look at the world and all it’s adventures.
#1. People Make Everything Worth It
One of the most influential things my dad ever taught me was that people are what make adventures. Sure, solo adventures are important in their own right, but being able to share an experience with others can truly transform it. When I was a teenager I started to find our family’s yearly trip to the Smoky Mountains boring and repetitive. But looking back, I have so many special memories. Not of us visiting crazy places, but of us doing and saying crazy things. The pranks we pulled, the songs we sang, the ways we challenged each other- those are memories that made even the 10th trek through Cade’s Cove an adventure unlike any before it.
#2. Discomfort is Okay
Pushing through uncomfortable situations is a skill not everyone appreciates. But the truth is, most life changing adventures are going to require you to try something new, take a risk, feel awkward, or maybe even throw up. You may have to freeze your butt off or sweat through a few days of hiking to reach a beautiful peak, but once you get there all the discomfort will seem unimportant. If you’re never willing to embrace discomfort, you’re likely going to miss out on a lot of adventures that could transform your life for the better.
#3. Learn to Laugh About It
As a child (and adult) who struggled with perfectionism, learning to not take myself of my mistakes too seriously was a hard lesson to swallow. But once I got the hang of laughing it off, my whole outlook on travel and risk taking changed.
Instead of dreading making a mistake or carrying around the tension associated with obsessing over something that went wrong, I found myself feeling free and happy regardless of what obstacles I faced. Suddenly, choosing the wrong (aka drunk) tour guide for a 3 day trek through rural Mali and later being called a witch by said tour guide, went from being a scary situation that I was desperate to control to a ridiculous scene that my friend and I walked away from unscathed and were later able to laugh at.
#4. Nature is a Badass
One of the greatest gifts my dad passed along to me was a love of nature. Although there are countless cities to travel to and experience, many people forget that nature also has more adventures waiting for you than you can experience in a lifetime. Adventure-seeking doesn’t require long distance travel. Once you start giving nature the credit it’s due you’ll discover that you can explore beautiful and special adventures all around you. Go hiking, skiing, camping, boating, swimming, running, mountain biking, rock-climbing, volcano exploring, scuba diving, kayaking, caving… Get outside and mix up your activities. Find new ways to experience the world around you.
#5. History Can Make Any Trip More Exciting
I was the typical kid who rolled their eyes when dad started “lecturing” me about the historical significance of whatever place we were visiting. But, with age, I’ve again realized that he was right all along. He instilled in me not only a love of travel but also a love of understanding and connection. I can now be found researching my upcoming trips not only in terms of what sites to see but also the history of the city, neighborhood, landscape. What I couldn’t appreciate as a kid was that understanding the who, where, what, how and why of a place helped shape my experience. By understanding all that history you can fully experience a place.
#6. Connect Through Food
Seriously, food is it’s own adventure. While you can’t always live the way the locals live, you can eat the way the locals eat. Food is a powerful part of our lives, and steering clear of the same ol’ same ol’ is a must when traveling. Sometimes it’s hard to move past our assumptions about foreign foods that seem weird or gross to us, but I’ve found that time and time again the foods I was hesitant to try turned out to be delicious. And it’s not just about eating new foods, but eating them in new ways. Experiencing the culture of food is just as important as trying the new food itself. Try to imitate the way locals eat their food, what drink they pair with it, and the utensils they use. It gives you an intimate look into an everyday part of people’s lives and is an accessible way to connect, even if you don’t speak the same language.
#7. Document It
My dad was always taking pictures and video of everything when I was growing up. Being able to look back on our vacations from 20 years ago is something I cherish, especially when I can replay the adventures I had with my grandparents who are no longer with us. Whether it be through photos, videos, sketches, or journals, I try to capture the essence of my trips and the lessons I learned. These memories get me through any boring stretches and inspire me to plan new trips and excursions.
#8. But Also Take Time to Simply Be
While documenting a trip is a great thing, it shouldn’t be the focus of your activities. Although my dad loved to take photos and video, he was also adamant about leaving the technology behind at times and simply enjoying the moment.
The adventures we took hiking up a mountain, or swimming in the ocean, may not have been captured on film but they will always be times that I remember like it was yesterday because in those moments I was fully present and mindful of all my senses and the people around me.
#9. Use Every Vacation Day
This should be obvious but maybe not based on the number of people who don’t use the vacation days they’ve earned. Even if you can’t afford to travel somewhere far away, taking your vacation days to do something fun and new is a must. After all, you earned them and we all need time off to take care of ourselves.
My dad loved trying new things and that also was true when sticking close to home. We were always checking out new festivals, musicians, or lakes we’d never been to. Although we often didn’t know what to expect, having a day off to explore and go on mini-adventures helped us all relax and bond as a family.
#10. There’s No Place Like Home.
And while my dad taught me so much about adventure through his actions and his attitude towards life, he also taught me that you don’t have to go anywhere to have fun or be adventurous. Watching my dad teach us about the constellations while camping in our own backyard was an adventure in it’s own right, and to this day I still love laying back and looking up at the sky. While some people may always be looking for adventures on the other side of the world, my dad taught me that enjoying the little adventures at home is just as special.