My Ultimate Travel Inspiration: How to Get Inspired to Travel
Beautiful words, right? I only came across this Dawna Markova quote recently but it struck a chord with me instantly. Every time I repeat it something reverberates and rumbles around inside me. I feel a deep affinity with everything expressed in those words.
The entire quote packs a punch, but it’s the first line that especially resonates with me: “I will not die an unlived life”. Markova somehow crams my entire life philosophy into those eight syllables. I’ve held similar aspirations for a while now: not to let my life be normal; to live fully and well and to embrace all that it has to offer; to make it remarkable, intense and memory-laden; not to let it drift by limply and pointlessly...not to die an unlived life.
The word ‘normal’ is a trigger word for me and the thought of living a ‘normal life’ is particularly distressing. I don’t really know what a ‘normal life’ is- I haven’t defined it in my head. I just know I don’t want it. Reflecting on it now though, I think I simply perceive a ‘normal life’ to equate to everything I don’t want my life to be: passive, apathetic, purposeless, devoid of meaning, idle and static.
I see life like a fire. It has the potential to burn with intensity and ferocity, spitting flames and providing powerful heat for anyone in its vicinity. Or, if we leave it untended it will glow and smoulder tamely, serving little purpose and eventually petering out into nothing but ash and dust.
Holding a mindset of living life to the full isn’t always possible. After all, we’re only human and naturally there are good days and bad ones. That’s normal. But if possible, the intent should always be there: the absolute, indisputable, unrelenting determination to ensure that life is lived fully; not to waste this one chance at it. I don’t believe in an afterlife, so for me there are no second chances. This is it.
I haven’t always operated in this way. In fact, I only started to realise how I want to live relatively recently. Equally, I’m not entirely sure what brought about the change. In the past I’d be all too happy to spend days waking up late, watching films, eating pizza and lying on a sofa. This may well sound like heaven and equate to a day well spent for you! And, of course, that’s absolutely fine. However, it isn’t for me. I need more.
I feel a long way away now from those pizza and movie days. Now I prefer to wake up as early as possible, begin my day actively trying to establish what I want from it, manage my diet and eat healthily, ensure I do at least some form of exercise, some form of learning and work hard at whatever task is at hand. It doesn’t always happen. But the intent is always there.
What brought about that change? How do we cultivate a life-embracing mindset? How do we develop the inspiration to make the most out of life? I’d be lying if I said I have the answers. I really don’t. Here are some thoughts that might help though.
Somewhat counter-intuitively, a sure-fire way to cultivate a lived-life is to embrace death. If you’re a fan of Alan Watts, as I am, you might have heard him talk about this: to make the most of life we should accept with absolute finality that we and all our loved ones will soon be dead...Have I lost you yet?
Bear with me.
I know it sounds a little backwards. How can it be possibly be helpful to embrace the thought of something so dark and scary? Well, remember that in the West we’re a ‘death defying society’. When was the last time you had a frank discussion with someone about death? We don’t talk about it at all. Instead, we hush it up and pretend it isn’t going to happen. As a result, we’ve learned to be terrified of dying and so now, it’s difficult to confront the thought of it. Death in and of itself isn’t necessarily, objectively, a scary prospect. We’ve just been brought up to see it this way.
And, how better to underscore the importance of life than to acknowledge, with absolute finality, that we are going to die? Like any commodity, when something is in short supply it becomes automatically far more valuable. With money, when we’re down to our final pennies every purchase becomes important. With time the effect is magnified 100 times. After all, we can’t replenish time as we can money.
Understand this fact and bang! Those little (and big) worries and troubles that we bother ourselves with on a daily basis suddenly don’t matter. Priorities shift. Irvin Yalom, a well-known psychotherapist, wrote a whole book about it called “Staring at the Sun”. He states that:
It’s comparable to staring into a starry sky at night and realising how small you are in relation to the universe. Suddenly, stuff matters less and more- in equal intensity. It’s a powerful practice. Embrace death and live life. Or, at the very least, be inspired to do so.
This was a game changer for me. I don’t necessarily think I ‘embrace death’ at all times- far from it. But, the rationale makes sense to me and since I’ve understood the premise, I’ve been able to put things into perspective. Importantly, I’ve been filled with the inspiration to live my life well and fully. You never know when you’re going to get some bad news and so I’m in a total rush to make my life great; to make a difference and to contribute to something. There’s no time like the present to make your life amazing.
I hope all this is somewhat inspiring. I invite you to take these ideas and inspiration, and implement them into your life in whatever form. How do we do it though? How do we transform the inspiration to live fully into actually making it happen? What makes a full life and how do we create it?
These are questions that could be answered in hundreds of ways, depending on who you ask. Everyone is different and a well-lived life will be truly relative to who you are. Like so many things, I think it’s about finding what works for you. However, again, allow me to offer some of my own thoughts.
Firstly, I think it comes down to actually acting on that inspiration: to truly want a full life means we should strive to do so and live accordingly- no more movie and pizza days for me (...or, at least not as frequently). Without direct action, inspiration is nothing but a nice feeling.
Secondly, it’s interesting to note that men who fought in the world wars reported later in life that they’d never felt as fully alive as when they were soldiers. As they aged, they never again experienced life as intensely as when they had bullets flying at them; never again was it as rich, vibrant or intense. It’s an extreme example, but the take home message for me is that extra-ordinary experiences that push you in extreme and novel ways, especially where a risk to self is involved, enable life to be felt in full.
And this is where travel comes in. One reason I travel is because it makes me feel like I’m living life fully. Unlike those soldiers, I (fingers crossed) will never have to dodge bullets or fire a gun at anyone when I travel. But, like their experiences, travel involves intensity, risk, vulnerability and novelty, which combine to destroy apathy and imbue life with a special felt quality (that I’ve called the travel feeling in my blog). Travel is a fundamental way I make my life anything but normal and I hope it will do the same for you.
If you’re seeking some travel inspiration, repeat the quote I included at the beginning. Then say it again: “I will not die an unlived life”. Use it as a mantra to take with you into the coming days, weeks, months and years. Learn to consider life with the knowledge that death is never too far away and in so doing, find the will to make the absolute most of everything available to you.
Acting on this inspiration, dedicate your days to an existence that burns with intensity. If you’re considering travel as a means of doing this, know that it's a sure fire way of ensuring a life that’s fully lived.