Remember the time you were stuck at the side of the road all night, trying to hitchhike your way to Andorra? Then there’s the time you spent four hours in a Madrid train station, trying to buy tickets, only to be thrown out by the ticket seller because you were a weeping wreck. Or how about the time you somehow lost your money and tube pass and had to hike four hours across drizzly London, using an A-Z to find your way back to your squat?
(No, not that kind of squat!) This life-sized artwork graced the wall of a cat piss-drenched room in Amsterdam. It was too big to remove & hide.
These lowlights of our trips can be excruciating in the moment, but later prove to be some of the best things that happened to you. Why are lowlights (as opposed to highlights) so great for the adventurous traveler? Here are five reasons the lowlights can be the real reason we leave home.
1) Lowlights give us great stories to tell once we get home. The drama and the tension make for the kind of tales that have people on the edge of their seats, listening for the next juicy tidbit. There’s only so much zest in a story about how you enjoyed the perfect setting in a villa in Italy, but the story of your all-night trek in Istanbul makes you a hero.
2) The lowlights of life show us who we are. They push us past our comfort zones and reveal us to ourselves in ways that highlights don’t. Maybe you don’t want to discover that you’re not capable of keeping your act together when faced with difficult circumstances, but at least you’ll know that.
3) Lowlights grow us. Being revealed to ourselves, we’re given an opportunity to grow. We can see our faults and foibles in high relief, and perhaps by the next lowlight we’ll be a better version of ourselves.
4) Lowlights give us the kind of thrill we often seek when we travel. Many frequent travelers are the types who veer toward, rather than away from challenges. If we admit it, the lowlights are what prompt us to leave home in the first place – seeking gritty, uncomfortable situations.
5) Lowlights let us appreciate life more. There’s nothing like being without housing, food or shelter to remind us that our cozy life back home isn’t the way everyone lives. Being forced to endure difficult scenarios can help remove us from our normal comfort and safety zone, and give us more empathy for the less fortunate.
What lowlights have you experienced on your trips and how have they impacted you? Take some time to jot a few lowlights in your journal, along with their accompanying lessons. You’ll get more from your adventures and transform those painful experiences into something of value.
You can find these and other tips for making the most of your trip in Cynthia Morris’ e-book The Graceful Return: Relish Your Journey After You’ve Come Home. Cynthia has experienced the lowlights mentioned above and many others, and she continues to travel and write about it. She also offers coaching and workshops on writing, arts and creativity. You can find her creativity guides and more at www.originalimpulse.com.