10 Life Lessons Learned from Travels in 2013
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The reason I love t o t ravel is t hat I have an insat iable quest t o learn.
I’m drawn to places that I return from a little bit different. Perhaps a little bit wiser, or more likely, aware of how little I
actually know. When I reflect back on what travel has taught me in 2013, I am thankful for all that I have learned and how
much I still have to learn.
1) Wildlif e and Nat ure are Lif e’s Biggest Inspirat ions t o Me.
Without question, when I reflect back on what my biggest moment of 2013 was, it was observing mountain gorillas in
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. I had studied and worked with lowland gorillas in a z oo in Canada, but nothing
could have prepared for the overwhelming gratitude of actually observing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. I also
learned that they fart…a lot and get drunk on bamboo shoots, which tends to make the males fight.
A close second was tracking wild rhinos in Namibia. I’m talking about completely wild animals who overcompensate for
their poor eyesight by charging. Not even in a national park, but completely free where there are also wild lions and
guides who don’t carry guns. And yes I got out of the jeep and walked….among black rhinos and lions. Complete story
to come soon….And along those same lines
In 2012 my favorite moments involved elephants and diving with sharks. I learn so much simply by observing animals. I
often think I can learn more from animals than from people, even if the lessons that animals teach are a little more
2) There’s No Such Thing as a Boring Monkey.
On my Primate Safari in Rwanda I visited Colobus Monkeys. I was least looking forward to visiting these monkeys as
they’re known to be rather boring in the primatology world because they sleep so much. But still since I was already in
Nyungwe National Park I was fine to spend an hour with these boring monkeys, who it turns out are not boring at all.
Check out my photos of the white fluff ball babies playing and you’ll see what I mean.
3)You Can Do More Than You Think You Can.
I was recovering from surgery and some strong medication and still hadn’t ended up with the result I wanted, which
meant more surgery would be required. I felt out of control and wanted to prove to the world that while I couldn’t change
the results of my surgery, I could still do something epic. For me that was the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB), a 160km,
8000m elevation gain hike around the Mont Blanc massive. It’s normally recommended to do it in 10- 12 days. My
husband and I did it in 8. My doctor said I was craz y. Despite getting up at 6:30 everyday, on my vacation, I didn’t hate
it. Well most of it, I didn’t hate. The day we walked 14 1/2 hours in the rain and didn’t even catch a glimpse of Mont
Blanc? I hated parts of that day. But mostly I was grateful that I did it. The TMB had made me stronger, both physically
and emotionally, and had taught me the power of perseverance. That came in handy a couple of months later when I
4)Travel Will Kick Your But t When You Least Expect It .
It’s no secret that I love mountains, so I jumped at the chance to do a Via Verrata in Catalunya. I’ve done a few tough
ones in Germany so I assumed that being in Catalunya it would be an easy one and I would whistle right through it.
That’s SO not how it went. I almost quit. I cursed, a lot. But I did it. But I still didn’t learn my lesson. The next day I
jumped at the chance to go white- water rafting. It will be like a walk in the park, I reasoned since it was the end of
September and the water would be low. I mean, come on, who gets thrown out of a raft in Catalunya at the end of
September? Your truly, that’s who. I would like to think I handled it with style and grace, but I didn’t. Pride was the only
thing that stopped me from crying like a baby. Post coming soon…..
P h o to b y Lo u r i ka Re i n d e r s .
thought I would be really good at sand boarding in Namibia for no apparent reason. Instead, I was really awful, I mean
like face plant awful.
But while I learned a lot from taking a few deep breaths, regaining my composure, I also discovered that
5)I Learn t he Most When I Do Not hing.
I need to shut up more often and be still. To observe what is going on around me. Hiking the TMB silently, talking to no
one for hours at a time (my husband and I would hike sections of the trail a kilometre or so apart depending on who
was faster that day), taking in the wild flowers, I felt at peace. A peace that six months later, I can still feel when I channel
the TMB. I felt that same peace with a good chunk of awe and wonder thrown in observing animals at the waterholes in
Etosha. Although I was traveling with a group, I would sneak out of my room just to observe the animals by myself. No
one to share commentary with, just me, observing, watching, learning.
6) Travel Is No Excuse f or Sabot aging My Own Goals. I pride myself on being a lifelong learner, and despite the
promise to myself to continue improving my German, my efforts completely flatlined in 2013. I could easily use travel
as an excuse, I did travel a lot. B but at the end of the day, it boils down to one thing – lack of consistency. I didn’t even
read celebrity magaz ines in German consistently, which was my own language learning tip! Ryan O’Rourke of
Treksplorer wrote an excellent guest post on 5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Language Learning, but it also applies to
other goals as well. I’ve also used travel as an excuse to avoid other things I didn’t want to do for one reason or
another. Lesson learned, I’ve resolved to still travel, but to not let it get in my way of my other goals.
7) You Can Travel Too Much. As mentioned in #6, travel did get in the way of some of my non- travel related goals.
Shocker I know, but yes, I do have goals not related to travel ;). In 2014, I will still travel, but will aim to travel ~ a week
out of every month. Still a lot by most people’s standards, but a considerable reduction for me. Despite, my love of
travel, I also love being home. I often travel without my husband and I really miss him and our two cats, Fuego and
Coco named after Fuego Volcano in Guatemala and the Cocos Islands where my husband and I met shark diving. I
probably don’t look like the most obvious advocate for a stay- cation, but ask my husband who is dragged every
weekend to a new cute cafe and he will tell you that I’m very good at exploring my home base. I also learned that you
get out of your comfort z one in your own city. Try Laughter Yoga and you’ll see what I mean.
8) It ’s OK t o be a Mischung. Mischung is German for blending or mixing. After living in Germany for 3 1/2 years and
being married to a German that’s how I feel. I am not Bavarian, nor is that my aim, although I do want to be fully
integrated. But I also not the same person I was when I left Canada. I’m a Mischung and now proudly call myself a
9) The World Is Just Wait ing t o Wow You.
Entrance to the Franja Partisan Hospital, a secret WWII hospital in Slovenia.
Be open to new experiences and you may just be pleasantly surprised. When I was in Slovenia with Hedonistic Hiking,
a trip to the Franja Parisan Hospital was on the agenda. I wasn’t looking forward to it. I mumbled to myself that I’d rather
spend my time hiking than visiting a WWII hospital. Little did I know that it would turn out to be one of the highlights of my
time in Slovenia. Truly fascinating people behind the place.
Similarly, when you’re thinking of hiking destinations, Luxembourg probably doesn’t factor into your list, but I really
enjoyed hiking there.
In Namibia, when I think of the dangers of being alone in the bush, I think of being attacked by a lion, the though of
deadly trees hadn’t even crossed my mind. But it’s the trees that you have to watch out for!
I could go on, but I think you get my drift.
10) Some Friendships Made on t he Road Can Last a Lif et ime.
I am truly
I am truly
them, a few
we have fun
Me a n d Is a b e l fr o m Di a r o d e a B o r d o i n Ca ta l u n ya .
when we can
My life is much richer for having them in my life. I’ve learned that it isn’t always the quantity of time you spend with
someone, but the quality and the connection that you make. A couple of travel friends, were my biggest supporters
during difficult times this year, through something that had nothing to do with travel. I’m beyond grateful that travel brought
them into my life.
I don’t know what lif e lessons 2014 will bring, but I know I’m ready t o learn!