Humans have always been fearful of the unknown. When it comes to travel, it’s one of the main reasons that people decide to stay home in their comfort zone instead of taking a chance on an adventure of a lifetime.
These five mental models will help you take the leap…
1. Your Thoughts Are Not Your Reality
Mindfulness is a trendy word these days. Yet, I can honestly say this is crucial to dealing with an uncertain situation on the road.
I’ve racked up over 600 meditation sessions over the last two and a half years while on the road. The uses and applications have been endless.
The airline loses your bags, your flight gets canceled, your laptop gets stolen. These are some of the more unfortunate situations that could happen to you on your travels.
Common thoughts that might pass through your mind are:
- I’ll have to cancel my trip.
- I’ll be stuck here forever.
- I suck.
Yet, when you unpackage these situations and their actual likely outcomes, it looks something like this:
- You won’t have to go home, your bags will probably get to you within a couple days. You’ll earn a bunch of sweet new airline miles for the mistake and you may have to apply extra deodorant for a couple days.
- You get an extra day to explore and enjoy the city you’re in. Also, if you’ve purchased travel insurance (which I highly recommend), or have a great credit card it’s more than likely you’ll be reimbursed for toiletry replacements, a new laptop, and your extra night’s stay.
- You don’t suck.
Each of these situations is obviously unfortunate, but remaining calm and realizing emotional thoughts deceive you is the first step to finding a solution.
Easier said than done right?
So how to actually accomplish this? Well, this is where those meditation sessions come in handy.
I highly recommend the Calm App. This is how I started meditating, and the habit has stuck for almost three years now. You can start with a simple 2 minute guided session all you have to do is plug in your headphones.
You don’t need meditation to accomplish this, but it will build the habit of calm proactivity both in life and in travel.
Meditation and mindful awareness helps you monitor your self-talk, catch yourself when you’re in a negative thought pattern, and re-frame thoughts that aren’t useful.
Ultimately, remember that your thoughts are not your reality, you are in control of how you perceive each situation.
2. There Is Always A Solution
This is one of the most important lessons I learned from the co-founder of Under30Experiences, the travel company for millennials that I work with.
When I first began traveling, he always hammered home the point that there is always a solution.
No matter how big or how small the problem, if you look hard enough, you will find a solution.
So how to start actually buying into this line of thinking?
Well, the easiest way is to look at your own life experiences. Think of the countless examples where you encountered a problem that you thought would drown you, only for you to come out better and stronger in the end.
Here are a couple examples from my own life:
- Problem: I got bit by a stray dog in Costa Rica & it drew blood.
- Solution: I went to the local clinic, got a preventative shot, paid for the visit out of pocket, and was later reimbursed for the cost by my health insurance. No biggie. Today, the local doctor and I are pals. He remembers me as the dude that was sent to the clinic by a 10-pound dog.
- Problem: I hesitated to book a flight for a week, and the price of where I was going to meet a friend had doubled.
- Solution: I used the handy “search for flights to everywhere” function on Skyscanner and booked an impromptu solo trip to Poland with no plan and no expectations. It turned into a fantastic experience.
Think back to all the times in your life where a problem eventually turned into a solution or an opportunity. It will change the way you perceive obstacles.
This has been one of the most important life and travel lessons I’ve learned.
3. This Has Been Done Before
In many countries around the world, it’s customary for young people to take a gap year after high school, after college, or both. This means that there are 18-year-olds out there traveling the world on their own.
If they can figure it out, you can too.
This mindset can also extend to many other areas of life too.
Humans have been around for thousands of years. Our species has been dealing with fear, uncertainty, and much worse for millennia.
As much as we like to believe our emotions and situations are unique, there have been millions of people throughout history that have dealt with similar situations.
If they can, why can’t you?
4. If You’re Uncomfortable, it Means You’re Growing
This is one of my favorite mental models to carry with me in my day to day life. Author of four #1 NYT/WSJ bestsellers Tim Ferriss explains it best:
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
Being uncomfortable means you’re outside your comfort zone, and that’s where the magic happens.
Talk to that girl you think is out of your league, have that uncomfortable conversation with your boss about salary or vacation days, and take that solo trip to a place you’ve always dreamed of visiting.
You’ll be uncomfortable, and in the end, you’ll be stronger and happier for it.
5. Control What You Can, Accept What You Can’t
What do Roman emperors, U.S. Presidents from George Washington to Bill Clinton, and NFL coaches have in common?
Each of them used the principles of Stoic philosophy in their lives. One of those foundational principles is: control what you can, and accept what you cannot.
This is one of my favorite mental models from the stoic philosophy.
Focus on the things that you can control.
You’re in control of who you surround yourself with, the places you travel to, and the route you take. You’re not in control of the weather, people’s opinions of you, a flight delay.
Minutes after I snapped the picture below, a thunderstorm hit the national park I was standing in. Many people started cursing at the skies in frustration.
Instead, I decided to take a nice leisurely stroll through the rain while feeling grateful for the opportunity to experience the park with fewer people.
Embrace the fear of the unknown with faith instead of fear and you’ll find yourself greeting these moments of discomfort with excitement.
Trust that wherever your travels (or your life) take you, you’ll find a solution and an adventure you never could’ve imagined.