As most of my viewers are close friends and family, there is no need to go into a deep recapitulation of my life. Well, at least not up until February 2014, when my grandfather dropped me off at that bus terminal in Charlotte, NC. I’ve sifted through all of my experiences in the past 20 months (including university) and have summarised the major lessons learned and insights found, to share them with you.
Why am I writing a blog?
These are the primary reasons:
1. To put my life into context for folks back home and people I meet along the way. Everything I’ve done has been done before, but that generalisation totally skips the main point — some of you want to hear it from me. Despite being a total amateur in most things, there are people who see me as having a degree of authority in the subject of independent travel. I’ll share with you some of the main takeaways from my experiences to date, and I’ll also work to deliberately break down some powerful misconceptions about travel. I’ll expose the gritty fringes of travel as opposed to the general hedonism associated with it.
2. To become a publisher. I have written hundreds of thousands of words here or there over the past several years, even more so in the last two years. This is my way of taking full responsibility for my writings, my actions, failures and successes, and it is one of the many steps I’ve taken to create real assets and relationships. Over time this blog can evolve into a more meaningful and cohesive piece of work. It’s primarily dedicated to friends and family, and I’ll keep you informed if I begin to do anything more enterprising.
The Problem of Being Yourself in 2016
Many people warn that trying anything new (especially blogging) is pointless
because you’re a complete amateur and everyone else is doing it. How many times have you heard, “Every imaginable topic has been explored”, “There’s always someone better than you, more popular, and more financially powerful” or “Someone is already making money off of your idea”? What terrible generalizations!
- Competition and saturation are not the same. If there is competition and everyone’s doing it, then there’s a healthy interest.
- There is always someone better than you to learn from. Stand on their shoulders. Copy their words and movements, and then do something authentic that follows a similar theme. This is how apprenticeship works. We’re here to help one another and add value to the world. We have permission to learn from one another.
- There is always someone less skilled than you. Teach them what you know, help them up. You’ll build rapport, strong relationships, and deep learning through the practice of mentoring others.
- Perspective is everything. Tilt a prism and the light changes colour. Every individual responds to problems in a unique way. Your angle is what makes you stand apart.
- There are forces that are outside of your control. Embrace it, but never resign to it. Taoism teaches us to flow like water to a stone in a river. The water does not struggle with the stone; water flows around the stone. Most circumstances in life are best approached by yielding rather than fighting or giving up. Accept your limits and respond with available resources.
- Focus on what you can do. Past accomplishments are equally valuable lessons as past mistakes. Observe these experiences in context, look for one to three important elements within each scenario. Notice the patterns and ask yourself, “what has always been there?” A lot of gurus talk about the 80/20 principle: Focus on the 20% of action that produces 80% of the positive influence in your life.
If you’re not sure what that 20% is, a good place to start is to look at what you’ve accomplished in the past. Somewhere in there were moments of thriving productivity. What were you doing? If you can only think of one moment like that, then you’re on the right track — it can be a specific set of actions.
Why do I know this is true?
Because I overthink things
more than any person I know who has anywhere close to the same amount of ambition and restlessness that I do. My first conclusion was that 80% of the time that I spent while traveling was a total waste.
The fact is that 80% of my procrastination or hesitation was because of a perceived incompetence or enormous obstacle outside of my control. Part of the obstacles were real
, but what is important is how I responded
to these obstacles. Return to the Taoist analogy of the river and the stone: what would have been different if I had yielded to the rock, rather than fighting it? Every time I have resigned or fought, I’ve been miserable. When I accept the situation, solutions manifest almost immediately.
Thankfully, 20% of my actions carried me 80% of the way. Those crucial actions pushed me through some of the most difficult trekking routes in the Himalayas, assisted me with scary financial hardship, poisonous relationships, and soul-sucking occupations. I’ve always found my way in and out of things and can now look back at all that “wasted time” to have a solid idea of what works for me and what doesn’t work at all. I know where I need to improve, where my strengths lie, and can channel energy into those strengths and use them to counter-balance weaknesses.
Top 4 Lessons Learned
Other than the realisations and mindset that I’ve adopted in the beginning of this article, there were also a few lessons that seemed to consistently result from every problem that I’ve encountered.
We must learn to accept and love ourselves first, in order to share love with others. What makes us imperfect and vulnerable is also what makes us beautiful. I think this message has become too flowery and misdefined. People confuse self-love with selfishness but these are in fact two very different things and the former neutralises the latter. We each have to define on our own terms what such concepts mean to us.
2. Follow intuition — Take deep breaths and listen. Ask yourself “why?” five times to get to the source, your prime motivator in a situation. Then take massive action, as Anthony Robbins would say. We have to be willing to commit to our goals even when we aren’t sure things will work out. It takes courage to let go of what you think you should be, in order to be who you really are.
3. Strive for balance.
The benefits of a balanced diet and adequate sleep are two prime examples. Everyone experiences suffering, and often we opt to numb the pain, but in doing so, we numb everything. I’ve been redefining my own boundaries
and eliminating addictions
in order to become a more balanced being, but there’s a long way to go.
4. Practice gratitude.
Being thrown into a world of radical thinkers
around the age of 19 dramatically changed my moral compass. I’ve learned that “having enough
” is closely tied to our sense of “security”, which is actually ephemeral. Gratitude for what we do have is the best way to counterbalance this sobering realisation. Practicing gratitude also teaches us how to value ourselves and our experiences.
The most common wisdom of travel is the wisdom that there is no better investment than experience
, compared to hoarding, grasping, obsessing over property, money, the past, prestige and etc.
All of these lessons are fundamentally interconnected and can otherwise be summed up as “be yourself”, in that you must know and love yourself. It’s easy to write about these lessons, but it’s another thing entirely to embody them. For me and for everyone, this is an ongoing, lifelong learning process.
By Bradley Stone
December 7, 2015
Broome, WA 6725, Australia