5 learnings from the trip of a lifetime 

By Sarah Cannata

From mid-May until the second week of June 2023, I’ve been overseas on holiday. Not the kind of trip you take each year. The type of holiday many people never get the opportunity to experience. I travelled from Australia to Amsterdam, where we enjoyed a river cruise along the Danube. I saw several locations in Germany, Austria, stopped over in Slovakia, ended the cruise in Budapest and finished with a few days in Prague. How lucky I am to be able to go on a trip like this at 35—before other things happen in my life—is not lost on me. I am privileged. I’m also a big fan of turning life upside down every now and again (in a good way) and seeing what happens.

The joy of travel

What I love most about travel is that it feels like an opportunity to ‘come as I’m not.’ Being a blank page in a completely different place is attractive to me. No expectations. No schedule. That said, the thought of going on a river cruise did not fill me with excitement. However, it’s a trip my mum wanted to take, and my dad doesn’t enjoy travelling. Plus, this holiday had been in the works since 2020. And then COVID-19 happened, and you don’t need me to tell you what that meant. I ended up having the time of my life, and so much of that was because of my approach. Early on, I concluded I’m never going to see most of the people on the boat again, so why not loosen up a little and lose the unnecessary baggage? I had nothing to lose. So, onto my learnings.

Learning #1: I’m not as introverted as I thought

In my daily life, I am relatively routine-driven, and I’d describe myself as a low-key person. I enjoy being disciplined because that’s how I get the best results out of myself. On holiday, all bets are off, and when I loosened the shackles, I realised I enjoy meeting new people and having long conversations. And I don’t mind being in front of people. One of the reasons I was dreading the cruise is because the idea of being trapped on a boat, without the ability to get off and have my own space, is confronting to me. I’ve realised this ‘feeling trapped’ sense hovers in the background of my psyche a lot. Making friends on the first evening of the cruise was a fortunate turn of events. Once I felt comfortable and safe, I was fine.

Learning #2: I also need a lot of space

I knew I crave space before the trip, but post-holiday, having been back for just under a week as I write this, I have a greater appreciation of everything. The ability to take myself off on long walks whenever I want. Sitting in my office in peace. Sleeping in my own bed. I feel a lightness now that simply wasn’t there before.

Learning #3: I don’t have a life I want to run away from

Full disclosure: given this trip had been ‘coming soon’ for years, I was concerned about how I would feel afterwards. Would I be depressed without anything tangible to look forward to? I enjoy working, so I wasn’t necessarily worried about returning to work or my business. The nature of the cruise was that there was quite a lot of sailing time (four or five hours sometimes) at stages. So between the sailing time spent on the boat and the ridiculous number of flying hours from Australia (about a day of travelling), I had a lot of thinking time. Not just thinking time, but thinking time outside of my comfort zone and away from everything familiar to me.

While life may not be perfect (it never is), I don’t have a life I feel I need to escape. As fantastic as the trip was, I’m happy to return to my life. What a blessing and realisation. Leaving when I did felt quite messy. I had several things going on with my business and personal life that I had to place on hold for a month, so it was hardly ideal. But the space and time away from my routine helped immensely. I was able to think a few important things through and realise what I truly want. (I had a ‘moment’ watching the sunset on the Danube, which was amazing.) Lots of change is ahead, but I believe (and hope) for the better.

Learning #4: I’m more confident than ever before that healing is possible

I understand ‘healing’ is a loaded word. For me, healing means having a deep understanding and inner knowing that regardless of what happens, I will be ok. Beyond that, I have the capacity to process any emotions I need to that surface. I’m just like anyone else (surprise). Life isn’t always easy. There have been some decent challenges along the way. But when you engage in personal development and do your own inner work, things can change for the better. You can develop the self-trust that will allow you to live a life of your choice. Not a life others want for you. 

Learning #5: I have no idea what’s ahead (do we ever really?)

And for one of the rare times in my life, not knowing feels ok. My gut feeling is that uncertainty is a necessary part of my experience. I can’t say I am a fan of uncertainty, but I won’t allow fear, overthinking and anxiety to hold me back. Life is short, and not everyone makes it to old age. Waking up and enjoying life—from my work to the people around me—is more important to me than ever. Money and material things are important too, don’t get me wrong. But inner peace and presence come from within and have nothing to do with what you own or how many zeroes are in the bank account.

I haven’t focused much on my trip itself. You can read plenty of amazing posts and watch YouTube videos about how amazing Amsterdam, Prague and all the places I visited are. While I enjoyed being a tourist and seeing everything that interests me in these amazing places, they didn’t ‘make’ my trip. I got so much out of this experience because I feel like I grew. We’ll see what’s ahead, but as they say, fortune favours the brave.

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