How to Be A Free Spirit

A while back someone said to me “I see what you’re doing, and I’d love for my daughter to go travel, but how do you be a free spirit? Is it safe? How do you meet people?”

I wanted to answer this, becuase I think the biggest misconception people have about traveling is that people who travel are just like the people at home. Boy is this wrong.  Because in general, in cities and suburbs, people are busy, pre-occupied by their lives, caught up in their routines, and there is a lot of space between everyone.

When you’re traveling, everyone is in nomad land, plans are up in the air, and you’re in flow with the space of adventure. Time after time I am blown away by the generosity of the human spirit, and how total strangers become friends in less than 2 minutes. How others welcome you not only to a meal, but sometimes to a bed and breakfast in the morning, an adventure around town, or getting invited to a gem of a local restaurant, simply because you hit it off in a bus terminal.

I believe we all have a free spirit within us. Over years of being raised in a society of schools and jobs, we often forget this, the adventure of life gets lost amongst the hum drum of daily living. There is truly nothing to re-kindle the adventurous human spirit like booking a one way ticket, packing a backpack, and heading to the road to remind you what it truly is to be human.

You only need a few things to be to be a Free Spirit

A Willingness to Explore

We all have an innate curiosity. Before my first international trip, I had no idea how people in other countries lived. I basically thought that the entire world looked like the suburb I had grown up in. Boy was I in for a surprise. My first trip was a working holiday to Australia at 20, and I chose it because it was close enough culturally to my home in Canada that I figured I would stretch, but not have to learn a new language, and work if I needed to. I never looked back.

Get your Bag and Ditch the Stuff
You’re going to need a backpack, although you’re going to want to bring a ton of stuff, if you’re truly going on an ADVENTURE, the less you bring, the more freedom you’ll have, and the deeper you’ll move into realizing you can find anything you need wherever you are, and that you don’t need very much at all to travel in the world.

The Very Basics
3-6 outfits of tropical weather clothes, a light sweater, a pair of tights, 5 bikini’s and 2 pairs of underwear, toothbrush, toothpaste, bar of soap, hairbrush and a couple of elastics, tweezers, nail clippers, medical tape, a band aid or two, tea tree, lavender and ceaderwood essential oils, Tylenol and an antihistamine. Laptop/phone/chargers/travel adapter, a favorite crystals, journal and pen, a sarong/light blanket. That’s truly all you need.

Because I’m a creative type, I also bring my flute, a couple of sharpies/pens for drawing with, and index cards to make thank you notes/drawings when I feel like it. I also have a small bag with a few crystals/rocks/coins/mementos that have been traveling with me for decades they each have a memory along with them. I also have a decorative sarong I got from a friend, these things get setup whenever I’m in one place for more than 3 days. It’s part of what makes anywhere feel like home instantly.

But I need more stuff than that!!

You might think so, at first. But a lot of time that’s just a comfort of “I have this stuff it makes me feel safe” or “I have this need to super self express myself by wearing different clothes every day”. That’s cool, my first trip my bag was 80L and 50lbs. Within a few weeks, I had seen what I was carrying around and never used, and got rid of it. The longer you travel, the more you will value the freedom that a light bag brings you, and most people who have been traveling for a while have moved to something around the size of a 32L bag, which as a bonus, is carry on size. That means you don’t have to wait for baggage to off load off planes, and never have to worry about connections missing your bags.

Once you’re on the road, you’re going to have to master a few traits

Be Friendly

Remember, strangers are only friends you haven’t met yet. So how do you know who to talk to? I always say “follow the shiny people” That means anyone who catches your eye, or you just can’t stop looking at, is probably someone who has something valuable to share with you. How do you start a conversation? A compliment or a question about something you notice about someone is enough to start a connection and, once you’ve done that, extend your hand, or as if you can give them a hug. Introduce yourself, and ask their name. It’s really simple, and that act of touch builds trust and connection. Remember to be friendly with locals too, not just other travelers.

Ask Questions About Others

People LOVE to talk about themselves (it’s true). When you meet someone new there are a ton of “standard” questions that people always ask when traveling. Where are you from, how long have you been here? Where are you going? What’s it like where you’re from? What’s your favorite part about being here? Where have you traveled to? Oh! I’ve been there what did you like about it? Etc. Before long you’re just off on a conversation about all the things you have in common. Conversation is one of the best ways to pass 15 hours on a flight or a train, or waiting for a connection. These connections can be as deep, meaningful and profound as some of the longest friendships you’ve had. There is much to be learned.

Ask Questions About Yourself

Traveling is a never ending exercise in your own growth. Why am I scared of that? What would be the most fun for me? How can I have that happen? How do I want to grow as a person? What kind of experiences do I want to have? What do I need to feel safe? What is it that defines home for me? What biases and limitations do I have that I didn’t even know about? Do I trust people? Am I racist? Do I have judgments about how other people live? Can it be okay for people to be different then me? Who do I connect with? How do I want to spend my life?

All of these questions and more will be raised by your travels. Look forward to it with an open mind and heart. Growth is a part of life, and self exploration is as important to a Free Spirit as the next tropical adventure.

Know That Plans Will Change

On my first trip, I planned out exactly how long I was going to be in 15 different cities in Australia. I’ll be here for 3 months working, here for 2 days, here for 4 weeks exploring, here for… etc. Within 3 days of landing, that entire plan had been scrapped, and replaced with a 72 hour train ride across the entire country to Western Australia, where I had never even planned to go. From there, things just unfolded as inspiration, desire and the opportunity to work led me.

While some people like to make travel plans, the true Free Spirit knows that the coolest connections, and the best magic happens when you follow the impulse that says “Go this way, now.” You’ll get used to it.

Help is only ever a phone call or a question away.

There’s always someone around to help. You’ll get comfortable approaching total strangers asking for help with things, or calling for help from a friend. From our smart devices, a wifi connection and a skype account can make mom, dad, best friends and family easily accessible in case of homesickness, loneliness or emergency.

Traveling solo is WAY different than traveling with a friend. By and far, traveling solo you will meet more people, and have some wilder adventures than you will traveling with a friend.

The dyad is a secure and stable space of 2 people who are there to support each other, and you’ll have the opportunity to create memories together that only you share. This is a special space as well.

Know You Are Always Safe

As non travelers, there is sometimes this idea that if you leave your home nest, you won’t be able to organize what you need. Truly traveling shows you the basics of human necessity, food, shelter, clothing, and companionship. You can be safe in the knowledge that everywhere you go, the local people also need these things. You may not always recognize the food when you travel but you can rest assured that you will have access to 1000’s of restaurants, small shops, grocery stores, hotels, hostels, campgrounds, B&B’s and other stores that serve the people of wherever you are, and they will be happy to supply your needs in exchange for their local currency.

Most travelers have at least one scare story of an adventure that didn’t go as planned. These experiences can’t be predicted, and are something that can only be dealt with in the present moment. They often teach you about yourself, change you for the better, and make GREAT stories.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from traveling, is the warm heart of the human soul. Traveling has shown me the true goodness of the stranger, and helped me understand that whatever happens in the world, I am always safe. Reading about it will only get you so far, your first real trip will teach you more than I ever could through words.

So what are you waiting for?

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Elena

Elena Harder. Courage Catalyst, LifeStyle Artist and Joy Hacker. Elena created JoyGasm to heal her experience of postpartum depression, self sabotage, overworking, people pleasing, and an abusive alcoholic relationship. Since then she’s helped hundreds of others meet their JoyGasmic Self to heal broken hearts, remove negative self talk, eliminate stress, fear and depression, and bring immense joy into daily life. Her current personal records for longest standing greeting hug is 22 minutes, longest continuous solo laugh 26 minutes, and longest collaborative laugh at 1 hour 45 minutes!