So you have some free time in your life. Maybe you have retired. Maybe you are taking a gap year. Maybe you just asked for an extra-long vacation. Do you have any idea how you are going to fill that time?
If not, it may be the perfect opportunity to plan the next adventure in your life. Life is short and many opportunities only come once. You never know what you could gain from doing something new or unexpected.
Free time is valuable, but too much can sometimes get the best of you. That’s where the adventure comes in. Now, there is a fine line between a vacation and an adventure- you may disagree, but my take is that the former is leisurely while the latter is action-based. You can lie by the beach for a week and call it a vacation, but where is the adventure in that? I want my adventures to involve some sort of productivity. (And I mean that in the most appealing way possible).
Sure, productivity involves work, but not necessarily in the traditional sense. Work can be with others. Work can be on yourself. It can be tangible, but maybe it won’t be. It is your journey, and it’s up to you to “choose your own adventure“. Determine what that will look like in your life.
Part of why an adventure is so great is that it gives you a chance to learn, grow, and change. You are taking a break from the daily grind. You are encountering new places and perhaps new people. You are gaining new perspective. This isn’t valuable just to adolescents, but also to adults of all ages.
There are a few key elements that I look for when planning trips like these.
1. Inexpensive: Although I am a big proponent of paying for experience (rather than material possessions), I would rather save my money when possible. I mean, who wouldn’t? Luckily, there are many ways to save when traveling. Couch-surfing is very commonplace among travelers on a budget. Air Bnb can direct you to rooms or whole homes for rent (long term or short term) in any city and within any price range. Some hotels and retreat centers will offer discounted or free accomodations under the condition of a work exchange.
2. Limited social media access: I can’t fully participate in life when I am distracted by electronics, yet I find that this happens far too often. On most trips that I take, I incidentally end up ditching my phone and laptop for one reason or another. And you know what? I don’t even miss them. Taking a social media cleanse can be almost cathartic- not to mention the fact that it allows you to fully engage in the present moment. If you’re on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, you won’t want to miss out on a thing.
3. (Slightly) outside of my comfort zone: I want to be challenged in some way: mentally, emotionally, physically (all within reason, of course). Pushing myself in these ways is what allows me to grow and change. So when I am embarking on a journey, I often seek one that may make me uncomfortable at points but will ultimately benefit me in the long run.
For example: When I received my yoga certification last summer, I knew absolutely no one. I was living completely alone in an unfamiliar city at a time when I was experiencing pretty intense social anxiety. But I can now say that jumping into that situation was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It helped me to push through discomfort, establish strong connections, and learn a lot about myself.
If you’re on board to venture into a new expedition, here are some ideas for how you could do so:
1. Visit an Ashram- If yoga is your thing, then this is great for you. When staying at an ashram, you participate in a strict schedule of meditation, asana, meals, classes, and sometimes voluntary work (karma yoga). This ashram as well as several others offers a work-study program for long-term visitors.
2. Go backpacking- You can backpack just about anywhere, but my current destination of choice is the Appalachian trail (or a similar hiking trail). It ranges all the way from Maine through Georgia, so you can hike for anywhere from a few days to a few months.
3. WWOOF– World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is exactly what it sounds like- a way to volunteer on a farm (in the destination of your choice) in exchange for food and housing.
4. Work on a cruise ship- You get to travel all over the world for much cheaper than it would cost otherwise- you get paid plus room and board is included. The downside is that you can’t explore the ports as much as you would if you didn’t have to work.
These options are available all around the world- so whether you want to fulfill your wanderlust or stay local, there is an adventure waiting for you!
Photo: Moyan_Brenn via Flickr and Quincy Malesovas