Life is an adventure
Packing can be a pain. When we prepare for a long journey, we have to select the things from our lives that we can fit into a suitcase.
The things we pack determine what we can (or cannot) do and where we can (or cannot) go.
The same applies for the journey of life. Packing for the journey of life is a huge experience for people in their 20s, like me, who struggle to find purpose and direction.
How do I prepare for the journey ahead?
I wrestled with this question when I hit my “quarter life” crisis. Too many people were telling me what I needed to do.
In the spur of the moment, I bought a one-way ticket to Thailand to figure things out for a couple of weeks.
Here are five things I discovered on my solo trip which was worth carrying for the long haul:
1. A journal
A journal captures the highlights and insights of a journey. Have you ever had an epiphany while travelling? Were you inspired by an unbidden question?
Write it down in your journal. When you return to familiar ground, your journal becomes the novel for you to reflect on all that has happened.
Let your starting point for a journey, or a journal entry, be a question.
Here are some questions that I’ve found helpful:
- What energises me?
- What can I do with the strengths that I have?
- How do I want to spend the next few years in making as much impact as possible?
These are easier questions to tackle than to ask, “Why do I exist?”
When you accept that you are on a journey, then you value the quest and the questions that unfold.
We will see that the more questions we ask, the better we understand and accept ourselves. Questions no longer intimidate.
2. A mini medic kit
This is what you need to nurse your adventure wounds.
Scraped yourself while leaping from rock to rock? You’ll need to put on that plaster before you take another leap.
You might fall off a bike as you pedal along bumpy roads or bruise yourself as you surf a big wave in life.
Every journey needs a timeout for healing and recovery.
Your metaphorical medic kit, which may prove to be your salvation at these times, holds your sense of good judgment and courage. It prepares you to take risks and helps you with acceptance when mistakes are made.
Such a medic kit prepares us to accept the consequences of taking leaps of faith. Sometimes we may regret jumping; people may question our choices; and we may land facedown in mud.
Mistakes will be made. But we all know that some leaps are necessary for achieving breakthroughs.
Taking a leap requires assessing the risk, and then making a firm choice to go for it. The medic kit helps us to get over the way things are, especially when they don’t turn out the way we expected.
3. A photograph
As you venture into foreign lands, a snapshot of familiar faces can bring a rush of warmth and comfort, making the challenging journey bearable.
It’s really helpful to carry a photograph of the people who matter in our lives so that we remember that we’re never truly alone (even when we feel lonely).
We can also collect real-life snapshots by reaching out to people we meet along the way, who may help to guide us to understand ourselves better.
Who are the family members, friends, clients or bosses who are helping us grow into who we are becoming?
We can also be thankful for friends and family who become obstacles in our quest to find purpose in life. Their challenges and questions will (usually) make us stronger.
4. A map
Getting lost in the vibrant city of Ho Chi Minh or Jakarta can be an exhilarating experience. But once the sun sets and darkness settles in, we will long for home.
A map is a wonderful tool to help us wander afar, maybe even get lost, and then find our way home again.
One important thing we need to do is to map out our core values. It is important to know who you are and what you stand for.
For example, one of my core values is generosity, or giving back. When I feel lost, I turn to this core value as a marker point on the map.
What is the core value that defines you? Map that down.
With at least one core value in mind, you can now start searching for a cause, or a job, or a person, who resonates with your inner being.
To map your way in life, start with your core values.
A journey offers many opportunities for us to take off our shoes and socks, and start wearing sandals. Sandals give wiggle room for our toes.
They’re perfect for walking on shifting sand. Sandals heighten the sensations of the road beneath our feet yet protect us from sharp pebbles.
Yet, sandals may also slow us down.
Many of us want running shoes to speed ahead. But in times of transition, we need to experience the present moment and take things one day at a time.
Let’s be patient. Let’s not expect to find an answer to life’s purpose in just a blink of an eye. Instead, let’s choose to live in the moment and savour the little gifts that each ordinary day can bring.
Let’s praise the humble sandal that helps us experience the joy of each moment and each step we take.
5 quick tips for your journey
Journal down good questions on the journey.
Take a leap of faith, and take time to heal from bruises.
- Reach out
Walk in the company of friends, helpers and strangers.
Don’t forget your roots and values. They help to re-member you.
- Be patient
Take one step at a time, and savour the present moment.
Stephanie is embarking on a journey of self-discovery, carrying a backpack filled with big questions and a notebook to scribble down ‘aha’ moments. She hopes to find her true north some day and help other lost souls along the way. She is currently helping Alvin Ung, the author of Barefoot Leadership, facilitate workshops and write a book on purposeful leaders in Asia. To connect with her, email email@example.com or drop us a line or two in the comment box below. For more Starting Young articles, click here.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 14 February 2015