8 Reasons Why Exploration is the Best Education + My Real Life “Survivor” Experience

Written by Chelsea Dinsmore June 1, 2016

Live Your Legend: * Reasons Why Exploration is Best Education

Tavarua Island, Fiji

Over the past few months, we’ve talked about overcoming fear, the dirty little secrets about failure and being vulnerable. Now those are all nice topics to master in theory, but how do you actually practice the skills we’ve discussed?

Well, it comes down to two simple words:

Show Up!

And that is why today we are going to talk about one of my favorite topics of all time—travel. Because here at Live Your Legend, we are all about practical learning. What does that mean? Well, simply put, that experience is the best education! Because experience is execution in action… 

If you want to learn to cook, you can read a cookbook or you can get your hands dirty in the kitchen. If you want to learn how to speak another language, you can take a class or you can put yourself in a situation where you have no other choice but to figure it out! And for me, travel has been the epitome of “showing up” and gaining experience. 

And I know some of you are already thinking “Oh, the luxury of travel.” But I’ve got good news… it doesn’t have to be that way! You can travel in ways that might cost less than what you spend in your own backyard.

Last month, I flew from San Francisco to Sydney business class. Normally that ticket would cost somewhere in the multiple thousands of dollars. I paid a whopping $27.00 for my ticket!

And because this has been such an important part of my personal journey, I will be hosting a special Q&A this Thursday, June 2, just for you guys—with my personal travel guru, Travis Sherry from Extra Pack of Peanuts. Travis is the guy who initially helped me make stuff like that $27.00 ticket happen.

So if you are interested in learning more about how absolutely anyone can travel, check out the live free Q&A Session that we held.

Listen to the Live Q&A 

Exploration Is Not about What You Do, It’s about Who You Become

Okay, so what’s the deal with travel? I actually prefer the word exploration, because you really can explore anywhere, which we will touch upon next week.

But why do I love to travel? Yes, I love the novelty, the newness, the possibility of a foreign space. I love tasting the freshness, the tradition and the culture behind a cuisine. I love the beautiful landscapes I see and the sights that I witness that no picture can ever fully capture.

But mostly, I love not what I do, but who I become when I travel. That happens through experiences, usually the ones you cannot plan or expect. Through the people you connect with and the things that they teach you. Through the adventures that go wrong, the forced uncertainty and discomfort, and through the small impossibilities to overcome.

Travel tests you (which is why some people hate it—or only stay in a very safe space) but in my opinion, it also shapes you. Because it’s what you do when you are tested that shows your true character.

And what are life lessons if you can’t apply them when you need them?

That’s also why I consider exploring to be directly tied to doing work you love. Because in learning what you love and what you don’t, in overcoming small impossibilities and in surrounding yourself with people who show you that things can be different—you take steps closer to that goal.

My Real Life Survivor Experience

A few weeks ago, as I was publishing an article about fear, I found myself in quite an interesting (and, no surprise, fearful) situation.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the year, one of my goals is to complete the trip Scott and I set out to do. I am doing it in bits and pieces and that quest brought me out to Australia and Fiji last month. Partly to attend the LYL Local Meet-up in Sydney and work on our new course, 21 Days to Discover Your Passion, but also because my and Scott’s dear friend Mike went to Fiji on his honeymoon a few years back and highly recommended a placed called Tavarua. When a recommendation comes that highly from someone we know so well, it’s a no-brainer!

We had it in our budget from last year to go there so having done little additional research, I booked a spot and was told I could only do a week at a time. A week on an island? Tough right?! Little did I know what I was walking into…

Now, I have gotten pretty comfortable traveling on my own. It’s one of those things that if you practice enough it gets more comfortable. Nine months ago going to dinner on my own felt horrible but I have done it so many times since then that I’ve broken past that barrier.

And I actually find a sense of safety in traveling alone because I can chose to do what I want, when I want and generally don’t always have to fully explain why I’m alone—usually because people don’t ask or I don’t get deep enough in conversation to share that detail. Sometimes I get there, but not always.

However, that was not the case when I showed up to spend a week on an island with what I like to consider my real-life survivor experience.

Live Your Legend: Tavarua Island

I showed up to Tavarua at sunset, got settled in and hopped in the spa before heading to dinner. I was immediately greeted: “Welcome, you must be the girl who is here alone!”, “Thanks. Yeah, uh, I guess that’s me… (and how did you know that?!)”

I soon learned that the group on the island that week has been coming together for 30 years. They are from all over the world and all met on the island, having picked people up over the years who, like myself, happen to share the week with them if they haven’t booked out the whole island themselves. They all choose to come back at the same time of year and have become a really close group through that process. So, I basically walked into a family reunion all alone on an island in the middle of nowhere, for a week…

However, I also learned that, while rare, there was a time or two that someone was not asked back with their group. So, no joke, I was in a real-life get voted on or off the island situation!

And I only began to get more intimidated as I sat down to dinner to some of the most serious surfing talk I have ever heard. I mean, I’ve seen a few waves in my day, but it was clear pretty quickly that this was a whole different ballgame and I was definitely out of my league.

I went to bed that night feeling a little unsettled. But I had a choice: to hide away in my “safe space,” or to show up and embrace my new home and my new future friends.

It would take a novel to explain the in’s and out’s of all that happened over the course of the week, but you can imagine that there were some questions about why a girl who is not a serious surfer showed up alone to a surfer’s paradise… And I’m sure it’s no surprise that word travels fast around an island with a circumference that can be walked in 20 minutes.

I showed up expecting to meet a few people, as I normally do when I travel, but to mostly be on my own, in the water and with my thoughts. However, within a matter of a few days, I was sharing and receiving stories of love and loss with these people, acting as dance party DJ and once again being reminded why exploration is the best education…

Oh, and the best news of all, I don’t think I got voted off the island! 🙂

8 Reasons Why Exploration Is the Best Education

1. Daily Discomfort Is Good for the Soul 

We’ve written posts on moving through discomfort, reframing fear and doing the impossible daily. However, it’s not always easy to test these waters when you are in the comfort of your own home.

But when you are out of your normal routine, you are forced to get out of your comfort zone. Routines get shaken up; your rules about “how things have to be” get tested; you do, see, taste and try things you perhaps otherwise would not have. You don’t know what is going to come next. Heck, you may not even know where you are sleeping next, depending on what kind of traveler you are!

And it is these moments of discomfort where growth happens. You get bits and pieces of new data—about what you do and don’t like—and gathering that data is where discovery begins.

2. There Is Space to Reflect, Think, and Be

I had a moment on this past trip where I was on a stand-up paddle board (SUP) out in the middle of the ocean. I happened to look up and notice that the clouds were really beautiful, so I decided to lay down on my board and simply stare up at the sky. I wore no watch, so I have no idea how long I was out there…

Now, I have mentioned many times over that I am all about scheduling stillness, because I think it is an important skill to have for many reasons. But that being said, I can tell you I have never sat in San Francisco for an unknown amount of time staring at the clouds!

Because there’s something about being out, away, in nature and out of your normal space that causes you to stop and think. And when you do, that inspires inspiration (a focus of our latest course 21 Days to Discover Your Passion).

As strange as it sounds, having the space to be with your thoughts creates even more thoughts. It was on that SUP session that I came up with the idea for this post! I came home and jotted down my thoughts and wrote out the full article later. And as you can see from this lengthy post and the one I wrote after my trip to Costa Rica, every time I travel, I seem to have a lot to say… 🙂

3. The People You Meet Enhance You

I always see meeting new people as an opportunity to be seized because I truly think you can learn something from everyone. We all have our own stories, our own unique experiences and our own perspectives. And in hearing that from others you get a window into a new world with every person you meet—how cool is that?  

I also have a deeply rooted belief that people are really, really kind. But for those less optimistic, I’ve always said: if you want to restore your faith in humanity, travel!

Yes, anywhere you go you’re likely to run across the grumpy person—or perhaps even an act of evil—but for every act of evil there are a million acts of kindness. And I am always reminded of this when I travel.

From the local people you meet to fellow travelers, people are kind, they are caring, they want to help. And to me that is such a beautiful reminder of the power of our connection to one another.

I showed up on an island as a stranger and these people welcomed me; they felt for me. They inquired, they encouraged, they shared experiences that gave me perspective and hope—and in that, they provided me healing in a way that I never could have predicted nor prepared for. And I am incredibly thankful.

Which is yet another reason why “showing up” is so important. Because you never know what you unknowingly might give to someone else…

4. It Forces Creativity

When you travel, you don’t have all your normal things. There is no doubt I have been tested in some way, shape or form on every single trip I have been on. Whether that is literally figuring out how to get from point A to point B, realizing that you can say a lot without actually speaking a language, or trying to maneuver machinery (everything from cars to washing machines to coffee pots!) in foreign lands.

When you don’t have all you your normal stuff, you are forced to get creative with what you have. And that is a skill that can be applied anywhere. Check out my recent experience launching our latest course from Fiji.

Live Your Legend: Bottoms Up Bar from Live Your Legend on Vimeo.

You see, often times the difference between those who do and those who don’t is not a difference of resources, but a difference in creativity with the resources available. And travel is a great way to test this muscle.

5. You Cultivate Curiosity

When you get out of your normal routine, it is easier to notice the simple things—the way people live, the way things work, cultural traditions, nature, languages, etc.

Every time I travel I notice myself wondering about different things. How the heck did they build that church all those years ago? How on earth does this plane fly, this boat float, etc.? How did all of this—something so beautiful, so spectacular—come to be?

This curiosity about the simple things, old and new, causes you to wonder, to appreciate and helps tap into a voice inside of you that you might not hear that often. And I think when we start to get curious, we start to get more creative. And we already talked about the importance of that!

6. You Are Reminded of the Fine Balance between Your Potential and Your Insignificance

I am hugely inspired by and connected to nature. I always have been, but have become even more so in the past nine months. To me, nature is a gift that many take for granted. As I mentioned in a podcast interview I did a few months ago, if you want the feeling of abundance, all you have to do is step outside!

I’ve seen sunrises and sunsets that have brought me to tears because I cannot believe that beauty is just part of what I get to experience by being on this planet. When I am in a vast space, like the ocean or the mountains, I am reminded of the insignificance of my little life—that I am one small person in this big ol’ world.

But at the same time, I also know through Scott’s life and his passing that one small person can have such a large impact. And I feel there is tremendous power in knowing that balance.

There’s a humility that comes from the awareness that you are seemingly insignificant. Yet, when you can recognize that alongside the fact that you also have the potential to move mountains, I believe that powers you in a way to genuinely and authentically go after your dreams and do all that you are meant to do.

7. You Realize That You Are Capable of So Much More Than You Could Ever Imagine

We are truly capable of so much more than we could ever imagine. I’ve experienced this first hand every day since the day my life changed so drastically. There are no words that will ever do this justice and that is why experiencing it for yourself is so important. And travel brings that out in you—because it forces you to do things you otherwise wouldn’t, it forces you to shed layers and stories that you’ve built up over the years, and many times it forces you to do things that you don’t think can be done.

Do you know that I recently learned that fear of heights and fear of loud noises are the only fears we are born with. All others are learned fears. That’s crazy, right?!

I’ve gone longer than I can count without eating, sleeping, washing, etc. I’ve gone shorter than I can count without being presented with yet another obstacle and I have done things on the road I would simply never do at home, because it’s the best choice out of a limited set of options.

But the reason this is important is because when you do the things you don’t think can be done, you prove to yourself what’s possible and when that ball starts to get rolling, your true potential arises. We are limitless in ways we can’t even imagine—and, as I’ve said before, when you start to say yes to the small things that you think are impossible, you’ll start to say yes to the big things that you think are impossible.

8. You Gain New Perspectives Which Inspires New Possibilities

I truly believe I can gain something from every conversation I have with someone. Especially when those conversations come from people with different ways of life and world views.

And you always get that when you travel! In meeting the locals and talking with other travelers, you learn so much about the world. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “problems” and “normalcies” of day-to-day life, but when you get outside of that, it brings things into perspective—and often reminds you of how good you have it!

This is hands down my favorite thing about traveling. After every trip I have been on, I am reminded of the myriad of ways that people exist in this world, the unimaginable circumstances that people deal with day in and day out and the beauty, resiliency and connectedness within all of us.

I am reminded to appreciate the simple joys in life and that the common factor among happy people is not a certain geographic area, a religion or a background—happy people are happy because they are able to focus on what they do have rather than what they do not.

So yes, I love sipping an umbrella-laden cocktail on a beautiful beach—but, to me, travel is so much more than that…

It is about the experiences that you have, the people you meet and the lessons that you take away—because in that, you grow. And it is my deeply rooted belief that we are all meant to grow and that we thrive when we are in the process of doing so. Feeling alive doesn’t coming from checking boxes or from “getting there.” We feel alive when we recognize that progress is being made, but at the same time realize there is still potential for so much more.

At least, that’s motivation enough for me…

So if you are interested in learning more about how to fit more travel into your life, Travis and I held a Q&A where we covered:

  • Tips to Travel Cheaper
  • The Truth Behind the Location-Independent Life
  • How to Start a Location-Independent Business Right Away
  • And much more!

Listen to the Live Q&A

Until next week, where we will share some practical tips on how to “travel” even in your hometown.

As they say in Fiji: Vinaka!

– Chelsea Dinsmore

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“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” - Jim Rohn