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Is Adversity The Key To Growth?

Jacks Smack 03122023 1

I recently returned to the United States after spending five weeks outside the country.

I chose to embark on this journey, no one made me. Not only did I choose it, I worked diligently to make it happen. From finding the opportunity, negotiating the time away from family, saving and allocating financial resources towards this undertaking (by definition, away from others), and prepping for contingencies whilst away, it was a very intentional endeavor. 

Orchestrating a month in Vietnam, then a few days in Doha, Qatar, to be capped off with a vacation with my partner in the Caribbean took an enormous amount of effort. Little details — like first aid kits, headlamps (never know when you’re going to be stuck or lost in the dark), toilet paper, travel towels, and the like — took center stage in the planning. All of those things, that I ordinarily don’t consider or think about, needed to be thought of, purchased, and then strategically packed in a compact carry-on.

Vacation vs Travel:

Spending a full month with very little muscle memory at my disposal was exhausting.”

Some of you may be thinking, “Vacation with my partner, wasn’t the whole darn thing a vacation?” Absolutely not. At least not to me. I believe the two are quite distinct from one another. To me a vacation is mindless, relaxing, and indulgent. Travel, on the other hand, is challenging, painful, and scary at times. 

Spending a full month with very little muscle memory at my disposal was exhausting. If you are like me and are geographically challenged, you need to take precautions all the time to not get lost. That meant each and every time I went anywhere I had to pay the utmost attention to the details around me. I snapped photos of crossroads, dropped pins in Google maps and the like to make sure I could find my way back… from wherever.

Key To Growth:

When I travel, everything is novel, everything requires frontal lobe concentration. Travel requires ingenuity, patience, determination, acceptance, focus, and luck. There is nary a trip where I don’t make big mistakes. I’ve missed flights, misplaced passports, been lost — a lot — ordered inedible food, and so much more. Nothing is easy or routine, when I put myself in these ventures.

Having to rely on oneself entirely in completely foreign circumstances is exhausting. It actually reminds me a little bit of the years when I had a toddler as a single mother. No one was around to help me — with anything. So if my son had to be carried at the same time as all the grocery bags, guess what? If my washing machine started spewing out soapy water all over my condo’s floor at the same time my preschooler needed de-lousing, guess what? No one was coming to rescue me. No one. 

Internal Victory:

My contention is that in that exact same container that carries all of these adversities sits pride, awakening, surprise, delight, connection, and growth.”

Nothing fills me with pride and builds my confidence more than travel. Yes, it’s an internal victory, reminding me that I’m unshakable. That I can do hard things. But it’s also incredibly enriching to meet and befriend people from all over the world. People who travel, like I do, spend very little time at all on surface topics. Without fail, when I meet someone along the way the conversations go deep, immediately. The mutual curiosity and thirst for knowledge and growth is palpable, making small talk unacceptable. 

So why do it? Why leave the comfort of my very cushy Western lifestyle to be lost, hungry, scared, sleep-deprived, or anxious? Why sign -up to be intentionally taxed for weeks on end? And for goodness sake, why allocate the scarce resources of what’s left of one’s life — and bank account — to such an endeavor? Is this really the key to growth? For me there is nothing as rewarding — nothing. My contention is that in that exact same container that carries all of these adversities sits pride, awakening, surprise, delight, connection, and growth. I am smarter and richer after each and every travel experience. Albeit not rested — that’s what vacations are for.

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