This is a funny question I found myself asking during a moment of self-reflection recently.
Now I do love to hop on a plane or a train or get in the back seat of a car and go some place I’ve never been before and explore. I normally keep a trip booked and penciled into my calendar all year long. So I can definitely say I thought I was a certified adventurer who loves traveling and truly living.
But just a week ago, I came back from an amazing, enlightening trip in South Africa that changed my whole way of thinking about travel. This trip had me pondering if of all the past trips and vacations I took, was I really living or just traveling?
To answer the question, I have to look back and compare ALL of the past adventures against this mystical and magical immersive experience through Travel Noire where I journeyed to South Africa. This adventure was curated to allow us to live like a local, learn about new cultures and make meaningful connections with fellow travelers. We were able to understand the importance of the culture, people and history of South Africa from those who lived it first-hand. This was truly the start of my journey to truly living and being present in every moment. This trip helped me to begin to decipher the differences between simply traveling and really living.
Just Visiting vs. Really Living
- When you are just traveling, you focus a lot of time and energy on checking off the boxes. You make sure you hit all the spots of historical importance, places frequented based on previous tourists reviews or your travel buddies references to get the best selfie for confirmation that you were physically present for proof of life (in my case when I travel solo) or to show off to your friends back home.
- You spend most of your time seeing your beautiful new surroundings through the lens of you camera or phone. You work hard to get that perfect shot at the perfect angle to get the glorified praise from your social media fans.
- You either interact with the locals just like you would at home. You ask them surface level questions that you could get the answers to from a travel guide or an online review just for conversation. Maybe you have a drink or go out on the town with them, but you don’t really interact on a personal level to get to know them and let them get to know you.
- You have a set itinerary, boundaries you won’t cross and are partially inflexible and not open to veering too far off the path already previously created for you. Not to say that you aren’t adventurous or spontaneous at all, but you hope to not expect to encounter any unplanned experiences or surprises.
- When you are truly living, you are present physically and mentally. You seek the honest truth however real and raw it may be. You are drawn into immersing yourself into the people, culture, perspectives and their concerns to help enrich your life and hopefully find a way to enrich theirs as well.
- You breath in deep to see what the air smells like, you ask the locals how they feel about their hopes and dreams and the reality of truly manifesting their dreams. Your most precious reminder from the experience is the knowledge you gained from listening versus the photos captured.
- You seek to find the hidden truths buried in everything and everyone. You want to venture off to see what living is like for all the people in the land you’re visiting both rich and poor. Why things are the way they are? Is there hope for changes that could positively impact the people or way of being? How do they really feel about life? How can you help?
- You are open to whatever the day brings, triumphs and obstacles included. You will throw all caution to the wind and truly be present in every moment. Your only required plans are to see the sun rise, eat, see the sun set. For everything else in the middle, you are ready for whatever and where ever the road takes you.
South Africa is amazing
I can say I truly loved my trip to South Africa over any of my other traveling adventures because it was the first time I felt like I was living. But even though South Africa was pretty big deal for me compared to the other trips, as this was my first time stepping foot on this continent, this was only a small piece of the reason this trip was so magical.
South Africa has a rich history filled with hardships, prejudices, redemption and hope similar to America. The land was beautiful, its people treated me like long-lost family and along with its mixture of cultures, South Africa really weaves a wondrous story to share with the world with pages still yet to be written. I would have never learned any of this if I wasn’t challenged to not be just a tours, but to really look beyond the surface.
Be present and live
In addition to hitting this key milestone, and that thousands of reasons people flock to South Africa, I still find this trip to be my most favorite experience because it wasn’t about just visiting a new location, but living in the moment while there. This idea of living and being present was a vocal mantra from some of the fellow travelers I explored with and from Travel Noire, the company that curated my adventure.
On this trip I was reminded that this point of focusing on living in the moment is was not only important while on vacation, but in our everyday lives. We only have one life to live so we need to make every moment count. In doing this is the only way to truly feel happy and at peace when you know you have no regrets. So take this lesson and remember to be present and live everyday where you at home or away to the fullest.