I Started Travelling like a Child
During a turning point in my teens, I felt it was time to “grow up”. You know what I mean… that age when you pretend to be unimpressed by things that secretly delight you. That age when you start mimicking adult behaviour.
Sometime between 14 and 16, you didn’t want to be “cute” anymore. You wanted to be taken seriously. So you acted like you knew it all. You started expecting bigger and better things from yourself, other people, and from the world around you. Everything became carefully categorized into “lame” and “not lame”.
My question is… when did we stop doing this?
When asked about our recent holidays, most of us answer in a list of bad and good. The plane was on time, but the flight was long and cold and the food was tasteless. The hotel was nice but the room was small. The view was good but the air was smoggy. The transportation was slow and the lines were long, but the museum at the end was wonderful… it would have been more wonderful if less people were there. Stuff was expensive and there was a lot of garbage on the streets, but the local food was to die for.
And after listing all this stuff, we rush to assure the listener that it was still a lovely experience, a great holiday away.
We try so hard to enjoy our travel experiences, but sometimes the “adult” gets in the way.
Lately, I’ve been trying to travel through the eyes of a child. Try it out! It’s simple. The only rule is that when you feel a very “adult” frustration coming on, ask yourself: “What would a child be seeing and feeling right now?” If there is a child nearby, take inspiration from them. They are probably enjoying the novelty and wonder of exploring a new space and seeing new people.
This is what I’ve discovered:
• Have a specific idea of what this experience should (and will!) be like. We don’t want anything to go wrong, and if something ruins our high expectations, the whole thing goes to shit.
• Expect to be entertained. (“I thought the Eiffel Tower would be bigger, and there were so many people!” We yawn.) Paris really blew this opportunity to impress us. • Already know everything. Ok, we don’t, but we’ve been pretending since we were teens, so we have a lot of practice in nodding along as if we already know.
• Go out seeking solutions and answers. We’re anxious from work, we want calm, we’re hungry, we’re bored, and we have a camera ready. Hopefully the world will provide solutions to all these things.
• Measure ourselves against other people to decide if we’re competent, good enough, or acting the appropriate way. How exhausting! The Critic makes a special appearance on holiday as we judge everyone around us, locals and travelers alike.
• Tend to assume the worst from strangers and gradually come to accept the good if we spend enough time in their presence.
But what if approached travel (and life in general, but let’s start with travel) as if we were children?
• Don’t have any expectations of a holiday. Kids live in the present. Delays, difficulties translating, unexpected twists, and huge crowds don’t ruin the experience, but become part of it.
• Entertain themselves, or rather, find entertainment in everything. We think it’s cute, but we
secretly wish we could spend that much time climbing on the same rock for an hour in the pouring rain rather than grumbling about the rain. (To her dad as he complained about the Parisian crowds, my friend’s little sister said, “Dad, we are the crowd.”)
• Ask a billion questions. Children don’t know a lot of stuff, but rather than this being a source of self-consciousness, they are unabashedly curious. We can learn how to revel in learning from them.
• Seek novelty. Children aren’t hoping for a holiday to be the magic elixir, they just let it be. Granted, they don’t have as much stress as adults do– but they hold the key to letting it all go. Create the feelings you want rather than expecting them to appear because your setting has changed.
• Don’t measure themselves against anyone. If they are overjoyed, or excited, or upset, they are all those things. Children are less afraid of making mistakes or coming off a certain way.
• Tend to assume the best from strangers, or at least see everyone on a fairly even playing field. Children are more likely to smile at strangers, connect with them, or ask them questions. Yes, this can be a source of danger for them, but wouldn’t it be good if we arrived in a new place with the goal to connect rather than to “keep safe at all costs”, even if that cost is never meeting a soul?
Find a child and go exploring in your own city to practice! Meanwhile, If you are yearning to escape winter this year, take the dive and visiting Bali with Discover Your Bali in 2020, the travel experience for women who want to travel solo but not alone, Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.