A couple of years ago, I decided to train to be a counsellor, it came from years of being a fascinated by the way people think and my unwavering (and probably unhealthy) need to help people. But after 2 years of counsellor training, lots of “how does, that make you feel?”, peoples childhood horror stories, broken hearts and tears of joy – I decided to defer my last year.
The course was crazy. Both in terms of the amazing people I met and their stories, but crazy because of the amount of things I learnt and the places it took me. The more I think about what I learnt, the more I realise it is the perfect advice for travelling.
1. Be vulnerable. In other words, talk about how you feel. Talking is good. Talking makes you feel better. Talk about real things, about difficult things, scary things and happy things. But mostly be brave enough to be vulnerable and say how you feel.
2. You can tell a room full of strangers anything. When you are training to be a counsellor you have to be willing to talk. There is a lot of listening involved too, but you have you walk into a room full of 13 strangers and bare your soul. It’s ok to share your secret hopes and dreams and worries and sometimes it’s even easier to share these with a stranger.
3. Life is really hard for so many people. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they’re having a really bad day or if they’spent the morning crying before they came into work. You have no idea what someone has been through. So just be kind.
4. It doesn’t matter how ‘big’ the hurt is. Ever heard about the straw that broke the camels back? It doesn’t really matter what has upset someone, the pain is real. The emotional hurt could be the same for a small off-hand comment as a decade of emotional abuse. It’s not our decision to make and if someone is hurting they need help.
5. Everyone needs to be heard. Everyone has a story. Give them the chance to be heard. It’s powerful and empowering. Try it.
6. Life is really about the people you meet. Spending my Saturdays with a room full of trainee counsellors was pretty epic. It’s the people we spend time with that shape us, make sure you are spending time with the people you want shaping your life.
7. What do you need? How often do you stop and think actually, this isn’t for me. Ask yourself what do you need more often and you will be surprised by the outcome. Learn to listen to what you actually want and need. Trust this feeling.
8. It’s ok to quit. Learning to be a counsellor taught me about quitting and not finishing, leaving things undone. *Spoiler* I didn’t qualify, I’ve still got just one year left. But there is beauty in a pause. I battle every September with the voice in my head which says, ‘do it, just finish its only one year, an academic year, you’ll be done in 9 months‘. But then I reflect on my reasons why and remind myself that a pause and an ending of my own choosing is powerful. Sometimes you need to tell yourself it’s ok to quit. Quit a country, a job, a bad habit or even a person. It’s ok to quit.
9. Every day is a choice. You get to choose your life every morning when you wake up. That is your choice. Nobody gets to take it away from you. Will you be happy or sad? Or positive or excited? Sometimes our situations are difficult but the way we react to our situation is completely within our control.
How can all of these things help you be a better traveller?
Travel is about living the best life you can. To do that you have to live palms facing upwards. Honest, open and ready for all opportunities. Be vulnerable, tell the people you meet how you really feel, that you’re scared or tired. Ask them for what you need. A shoulder to cry on, a stranger to tell your deepest secrets or a new friend for the evening to laugh with until the sunrises. Remember every day is a choice, choose travel, choose conversations over silence. Choose sunsets of Ipads and choose people. Every time.
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