This article is in memory of my Uncle Richard.
On 21 November, 1991, my Uncle Richard died of cancer. He was 25 at the time and I was just 4 months old. Today would have been his 49th Birthday. Through out my life, I heard great stories about my Uncle. He was kind, funny and worked hard. At 25, he was a Charted Physiotherapist in Manchester, England and had his whole life ahead of him.
Despite undergoing treatment for months, leukemia got the best of him. Because he passed away at such a young age, there was so much in his life that he didn’t get to see and experience. I grew up thinking about this a lot, which was why I decided that I was going to try to live my life to the fullest…for the both of us.
When I was a teenager and people asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up”, I would always reply with, “I want to travel the world”. Despite not knowing much about what was out there, I knew that life was short and that I wanted to experience as much of it as I can. I know I can’t bring Richard back, but what I can do is live my life to the fullest in memory of him. In my 20’s I have chosen to do this through traveling and here are a few reasons why.
Traveling Makes You Humble
One of the most important lessons that I have learned from traveling is that it makes you humble. When you’re on the road, you quickly realize how little you know about this world and that life doesn’t revolve around you. All of a sudden, the problems that you think you had are so much smaller compared to the problems of the rest of the world, such as the lack of access to basic things like water, food and proper shelter for many people.
Traveling will make you realize that the world is so much bigger than your perception of it. I wanted to see how other people lived and to be able to experience a way of life that was completely unlike mine. I wanted to become a more grateful person.
Traveling Pushes You to Your Limits and Empowers You
I wanted to travel because I wanted to get to know my personal limits and challenge myself on a daily basis. Every day, you are challenged with the task of trying to find accommodation, food, transport and someone who can understand or speak the same language as you.
You deal with challenges that you normally wouldn’t in your everyday life. Why is this a good thing? Because you realize that you can do things that you never imagined you could do. When I first set off to travel, in less than 6 months I had ridden a motorbike all over a country, became a certified open water diver, climbed multiple mountains, hiked through 2 jungles and survived traveling through places which had no English speaking signs or people. I then moved on to join a tech start up company in the Philippines, and later on ended up starting my own company all because I took the initial first leap.
Before traveling, I was okay at riding motorbikes but I never would have imagined ending up riding a motorbike across Vietnam (over 3000km in total!). Before traveling, I could swim but didn’t think I could dive with sharks and live to talk about it. You learn how to believe in your strengths, and look at ways to improve your weaknesses. You become a stronger person that is able to adapt to situations, no matter what they are.
Traveling Is the Best Way to Learn
Up to this day, I believe that traveling is the best education that anyone can have. In school, I hated history and wasn’t a huge fan of geography. They were just things that didn’t stand out to me because I didn’t feel that I could relate to them. However, once I started traveling, my mind was opened to new things.
I marveled at the temples of Bagan in Myanmar and almost broke down in tears while walking around the killing fields in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I have learned more about the locals in the Philippines, Indonesia, China and other countries than I ever could have in a classroom. What better way to learn to cook a Thai dish than taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand?
Is there a better way to learn about finances than constantly having to manage your money in different currencies and trying to cut costs wherever you can? I fell in love with geography after traveling around what I believe is paradise on earth!
Life is Short and Time “Flies”
In other articles, I have mentioned a TedXTalk by Dustin Garis, who talks about pursuing a memorable life.
Life is short and you don’t know if this day will be your last. Dustin asks in the video, “Do you remember what you did two weeks ago?” he then prods further by asking, “Do you remember what you did 2 months ago?” I don’t know about you, but I struggled with the question. My days became a blur of working, going to school, and everything got lost in the daily routines. Now if you ask someone who has traveled, they will probably be able to answer a lot quicker.
I’m not assuming anything; I’m simply saying I think it is easier to remember things when you are doing something memorable. I can remember traveling through China, like it was yesterday because every day was filled with new memories and experiences.
You Might Not Reach Retirement
I started this very personal post talking about my Uncle. He had no idea when his last day would be. When he was growing up, he didn’t expect to get cancer. The fact is nothing is certain. I could have waited till my 30’s or 50’s to travel but I had no idea if I would even reach those ages. I had to do it now. So I set a date/ age when I would leave and spent the next 4 years saving up money. One of my least favorite phrases is “one day”. People say this all the time. “One day I will go traveling” “One day, I will start my own business”.
The reason I dislike these words is cause usually they don’t have a plan behind them. I understand a lot of people want to go traveling and simply can’t right now, due to family commitments, work or money. However, people use these words so carelessly when in fact, you never know if you will even have a chance to fulfill your “one day” plans. Life is short, and just like my Uncles, it could be taken away from us at any time.
Stop putting things off to the future and act on the things that you want to pursue. To me, it was traveling.
For others, it may be to start a family or establishing their own business.
Of course, whatever you do in your 20’s or life is obviously completely up to you.
I love traveling therefore, I’m always trying to encourage people to do it but I know traveling isn’t for everyone. Whatever you want in life I simply hope you go for it and live your life to the fullest in whatever way you feel is best. Despite the painful loss of a great man in my life, because of him, I am reminded that life is short and it can be taken away from you at any time.