COVID-19 had us all locked up in our homes. The last year of our lives was mostly spent in lockdowns. Leaving us all to wish for a time when COVID was over and we could resume our normal lives. Well, I was in the same boat until recently when travel was opened for tourists in the mountains up north. I didn’t go as soon as travel was allowed since everyone was so desperate to travel that it caused a lot of problems like traffic getting stuck and people who felt anxious during the lockdown ended up acting in all sorts of ways causing fights and what not. And the hotels and people of tourist destinations were unable to cope with such a huge surge of demand and tourists. A local jeep driver told us that he was stuck for 4 days on a road that usually takes 2 hours to travel.
Well that was a little bit of story of why I kept my plans of traveling on hold for such a long while. And being stuck in our homes for a whole year changed the way I used to look at the world. I started getting comfortable in my home and the outside world started to look weird and uncomfortable because of all the uncertainty of the well being my family and I. But we finally decided to bite the bullet and leave the comfort of our home and begin our journey. And the stuff I learned, realized and remembered was priceless. So I thought this week’s post will be about sharing all my realizations that Travel helped me with.
1- Don’t Let Fear Control You
Let me begin with my biggest mistake. The mistake I almost made even before the journey started. Even though I have wanted to travel towards the mountains of Naran and beyond. Since the first time I traveled that area 5 years back. I always wished to drive on those roads one day when I would own a car. Back then I didn’t. But now that I did, I was so afraid to drive on those roads which looked so dangerous in my imagination plus the social media posts didn’t help me get motivated either. Mostly because I was looking in the wrong places to begin with.
So my fear took control of my decisions and I decided to sacrifice my dreams and go to Nathia Gali instead as that was a easier goal to achieve but I wasn’t really pumped about my decision. As luck would have it, the day before we left for Murree/Nathiagali, my cousin/bestfriend who had recently traveled to Naran with friends showed up at my home out of nowhere. Which was a pleasant surprise in itself but as we started talking about my plans, he encouraged me to travel to Naran and told me how easy and simple it was to drive on those roads and how it’s so safe and ridiculously simple. Well he lied a bit, but he told me exactly the lies I needed to hear to dare to attempt on realizing my dreams.
If he hadn’t showed up that day and if I hadn’t dared to travel to the place I actually wanted to travel to, I wouldn’t be writing this post today. I wouldn’t have dared to step out of my comfort zone and I wouldn’t have learned so many amazing lessons to share with you.
So lesson number one, don’t be afraid to go for your dreams every once in a while. Playing it too safe and too close to your comfort zone can make you feel numb and trap you in a false sense of safety. Don’t make the same mistake that I almost did. If you have a dream that you really want to go for and have all the resources to go for it, take this post as the motivation & encouragement you’re looking for and go do it!
2- Be Very Careful of Who you Listen to
While my cousin was the reason I was so motivated to leave for the tour. There were so many other voices that told me not to do it. People told me it’s so dangerous. So many accidents happen on those roads. It’s really dangerous and especially if you’re traveling alone with your wife. They told me all the ways it could’ve gone wrong.
This happens with all of us in our lives. We want to do something and even though we have a plan for it and aren’t being silly about what we want to do. People will still tell us all the ways we can fail in. They would want you to stay right where you are because that’s what they believe. By the way, they aren’t wrong & they aren’t telling lies to keep us from doing what we want to do. It’s the silliest little thing, they are just afraid of the unknown. They don’t know why we want to do what we want to do. They don’t know us the way we do, so it’s quite rare that someone else can tell us what would be best for us. After all, who knows what we Need to do and what we Want from our lives, more than Us.
In this case, most of the people who told me not to do it didn’t know any better themselves, they had traveled to that area some 30 years age and they were telling me about all the dangers from their personal experience that didn’t even matter 30 years later. They just very conveniently forgot to share that their experiences are from 30 years ago and that things might have changed in the meanwhile. And what happened once I came back safe and sound from my journey? It’s only then that they mentioned that their experiences were outdated and since we had already done it, they were also fine with it.
This reminds me of a pretty similar situation I was in when I had left my “Safe Government Job” as a 18th Grade lecturer. Everyone told me how wrong I was to do so. But later on everyone agreed that was the right thing to do. No one knew what my plans were and why I was leaving that job and no one really even asked at that point. But when I had done it and had proven them all wrong, then they got to see the whole picture and praised me for what I had done. So always Trust Your Gut. And be VERY careful to who you listen to. What have they done with own lives? How is their experience similar to your situation? Is their experience recent or outdated? Not all advice is for everyone, and its your duty to yourself to know what kind of life you want and who do you want to listen to.
3- Knowing my Destination Helped Me Push my Limits
According to Google Maps, a 5 hour drive from Islamabad to Naran sounded like the worst thing ever when I was gathering data for my travel to Naran and Batakundi. But it wasn’t so bad once I had gotten over my initial doubts, had stepped out of my comfort zone and was on the road. Because I knew where I wanted to go, because I had set a destination and a goal for myself, it was easier to push myself beyond my limits.
A 5 hour drive sounded like such a bad thing before I had left my home. But it turned out that it takes 7 hours to travel from Islamabad to Naran instead of 5 like Google said. But it was all fine, when I’m already on the road, it matters not if it’s 5 hours or 7. If I’m motivated and excited for my destination, it doesn’t matter if it takes 2 extra hours than I had initially thought.
That’s what our dreams and goals do in our lives. If we are floating through time aimlessly and with no exciting destination to arrive to, even a 1 hour journey sounds like such a daunting task and we find it difficult to motivate ourselves to even get started. Then we look for hacks and try to trick ourselves to force us into getting that work done. But that’s not how the human mind works. And if you don’t have your mind and your psychology on your side, you’re in for a very tough fight.
Before I had left my house, a 5 hour drive seemed like outside of my abilities, but on my way back from Batakundi to Islamabad, I drove for 9 straight hours and I was totally fine with it. It turns out that I had given myself a lot less credit than I deserved and the biggest limiting factor was what I believed. And it had nothing to do with what I was physically capable of doing.
4- The Curse of Technology & Social Media
I absolutely love the idea behind Minimalism. Islam encourages us to strive for it. But in our day-to-day lives, we forget how important the pursuit of minimalism really is. I had this realization when I was in my Yurt on a Mountain Top Resort and I looked at my phone and there were no signals. No signals meant no internet. And I consider myself someone who already is quite conscious about my relationship with technology and social media addiction. But I was still surprised to see how utterly Empty and Lightheaded I felt when there were no signals and I could not use the internet at all. Not even for anything productive. I felt truly liberated in that moment. I was staring outside the window and was looking at nature and the feeling of nothingness washed over me. I hadn’t felt like that since forever.
That’s when it hit me. Even though I thought my relationship with technology was in my control. It turned out that in the battle between my conscious actions and my unconscious decisions, my unconscious always won. I have gotten pretty good at catching myself whenever I’m mindlessly scrolling. But it took the complete absence of the internet to realize how much I was paying for the facility of being connected to the world 24/7. I found myself switching apps refreshing for notifications to see what my friends had to say about the recent travel images and videos I had shared with them. It’s in human nature to want to share and to connect to our close ones.
But that’s the same trap that technology is exploiting. Instead of calling each other like old times or even sending direct messages, we have opted to use social medias as our primary way of interacting with each other which always keeps us guessing when they might see, like and comment what we posted. And that traps keeps us going back to the social apps again and again to see what our friends are saying to us. But it’s a very twisted way of interaction. One that I couldn’t have caught without my recent experience.
Now, I’ve made it a point to not only stop scrolling but to also limit the number of times I check for notifications, for emails or even the number of times I pick up my phone because I’m just bored. Now, every time I try to pick the phone, I ask myself consciously, what it is that I want to do? It’s totally fine if I decide that I consciously want to scroll social media or want to check up on notifications. But only once I have made the decision. Not the decision that my unconscious habit has made for me without my knowing and I end up doing stuff on autopilot. That ain’t no fun!
5- It’s the Little Things that Count
We’ve all heard it over and over again. Like so much stuff we hear over and over again. Some of it is pure junk, like try try again? What the heck? Sometimes its makes more sense to just give up. We might realize we were doing the wrong thing to begin with and we don’t want to do it anymore. Not because we can’t but because we don’t want to. Without the right context, these messages that we hear all the time can be even dangerous. Like giving up on something is always looked down upon but it’s not all bad all the time. Or we’re told that the secret to success is working hard. Bulls***! If you’re working hard on digging your own grave and you even realize it, these messages don’t help much. And some of us swear by these out of context messages our whole lives.
But there are some good messages as well that we might end up taking for granted. We do so because we hear them from everyone all the time. And we think that it’s so common knowledge that we know all there is to know about that particular topic. One of those common sayings is that “It’s the little things that count”. Really useful advice but we rarely stop to think about such common messages. I only realized that when I was cut off from the outside world and was forced to live in the moment.
I ordered some Tea and Pakoras while I was sitting in the lawn on the mountain top resort. And it was the best tea and pakoras I ever had. Not because they were special. Because I had the attention to give them that would be divided among so many things otherwise. Just because we have access to everything and everything has access to us, doesn’t mean that we have to give in to that. It’s absolutely okay to disconnect every once in a while. Leave your phone in your tv lounge when going to bed and take a book instead. Turn on the airplane mode on your phone and force yourself to the same experience of disconnection I had to travel 12+ hours to reach the mountain top resort. Yes the view and the nature definitely help. But it’s not too bad around us and we all have a park around us that we can go to and disconnect ourselves from the always connected world for a short while to reconnect with ourselves.
The outside noise, the constant todo list, the ongoing list of requests from others. Put a pause to all that. You don’t have to travel far far away to the mountains where you don’t get any phone reception to relax every once in a while. Just to justify to others that you had no signals to give them attention? Why not turn off your phones intentionally and just tell the others that you were having a Me Time and too bad they didn’t own you so much that they could get into your head anytime they wanted to.
Let’s Wrap This Up!
This is perhaps the longest post I’ve written on this blog but I had to write all of this stuff down not just to share with my readers. But also as a reminder to my future self. That is what this blog is all about. It’s not yet another business effort to try to make more money. This blog is much more important to me than money. There are billion other ways I can make money. This blog is a journey for me to get to know myself. I share my deepest and most intimate realizations on this blog so that if I lose my way in the future, I always have these posts as footprints and reminders to guide myself back on the correct path again.
I want you the readers to really feel these words as these are not the words that sell you something. But these words can help you get into the mind of a person with a moderate amount of success and almost 29 years of experience of Life. I hope these words help you in the same way they help me in my journey to connect with myself.
And I would really appreciate if you connect with me and share anything, literally anything at all that comes to your mind or the feeling you’re left with at the end of this blog post. Feel free to share what you learned or just say a quick hello at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on my Instagram or Facebook.
See you guys in the next one! Here are some crispy fries for making you read such a long post 🙂