Crazy to say, but my recent trip to Puerto Rico totally changed me.
I know I didn’t backpack through Europe. Or leave behind my state and family for months on end. But there’s just something about visiting an entirely new place, unique to where you call home, and experiencing it as whole-heartedly as possible that changes you. Especially when on that trip, all you have with you is what you can carry on your back!
30 pounds is NOT a lot of possessions, and yet, I got along just fine. Fantastic, even. Coming home to a big home, FILLED with things almost made me feel guilty. Like why in the world do I need all the things that I have? Why do I need decorative throw pillows, and craft supplies that largely go untouched, and kitchen gadgets that I use once a year? It’s not like I was even in an impoverished area. Puerto Rico is a first world country, so it had nothing to do with that. But the mere fact that life was just fine, even sort of fantastic, experiencing it with just the 30 pounds I had in my backpack. I can only imagine how people feel when they visit a 3rd world country, or live away from home for 2+ years (like an LDS missionary) living out of their suitcases…the feeling must be 100-fold for these individuals! And I was only in Puerto Rico for 7 days!
So lesson #1, I will reevaluate my life, my possessions, and my time in order to simplify, experience, and appreciate. To get rid of the things I don’t need, whether it’s unnecessary emotional feelings, or unnecessary waffle irons. Life’s too short to carry any baggage! And, I will appreciate and also love the things I decide to keep around in my life and in my home.
The next thing that Puerto Rico changed for me was HOW to vacation! My friend Tracy taught me of the world of hostels, and of NOT planning a vacation. Both were very hard for me to do…I was scared about hostels (there was nothing to worry about, though, I’ll write more about that experience at a later time), and NOT planning was the hardest. I had to keep training my brain to just enjoy the vacation and adventure, and not worry about planning. I mean, we HAD to plan some stuff, especially since it was Memorial Day Weekend, and we didn’t want to be left without tickets for some things. However, we didn’t specifically plan anything until AFTER we arrived, had time to talk to the locals, and got our bearings!
It was SO much better not planning the vacation beforehand! If we had, we would have missed out on a LOT of the amazing things about PR, and would have done it less effectively! For example, we decided to do the bioluminescent bay tour on Culebra because we talked to the locals, who ALL said it’s better than the experience on Fajardo, which is on Puerto Rico. And it was LIFE CHANGING. And then, we knew how much of a headache ferries are, but we wanted to visit a second island, but there is no ferry between the two islands. Which meant we COULD have spend a full day taking the ferry back to PR from Culebra, and then taking the next ferry to the other island, Vieques, and waste our entire day waiting in ferry lines, and sitting on a slow-moving ferry. However, because we talked to a local, we learned about a plane ride that was just $45 between the islands, would only take an hour in total (since we had to walk to the airport and get there early). So, we did THAT instead. And oh boy, the views in that 10 minute plane ride were some of the best views I’ve ever had. WOW. And none of that would have happened if we had planned the trip beforehand. Plus, we saved an entire day! See what I mean?
So, lesson #2 is that I will NOT plan ahead (I can’t even believe I’m hearing myself say that! Guys, I’m a huge planner!!!) Talking to the locals makes all the difference with a vacation. It completely changed the trip, and for the better! We experienced PR like a local would, and that’s the RIGHT way to do a vacation like that. BUT, you SHOULD go into the vacation having a good idea of what you wanna do when you get there, and have some LOOSE plans on how long you wanna be in each place. Otherwise, how will you know when to book your return flight?? You still gotta do your research (that will help get you excited for the trip anyway!), but I will not have anything specifically planned on vacations from here on out. Crazy.
Lastly, I really learned to SLOW DOWN and soak up all the pretty moments. It’s kind of tied to lesson #2 of not planning, because, when I usually plan a vacation, I do everything I can to stuff every single 15-minute increment with something amazing. But then you come home kind of exhausted and NOT rejuvenated because you’ve been running around trying to stuff everything in! Has anyone else had a vacation like that? Honestly, that’s the only way I’ve ever really vacationed, so I didn’t realize there was any other way!
But this time around, it was loosey goosey, and relaxed. We ate when we were hungry, we walked slow, we hung out with new friends, and followed the roughest adjenda every day. It was so nice, and relaxing. I got to soak up every moment I could, and feel inspired.
Lesson #3 is to go SLOW on vacations from here on out. Soak up the culture, keep an adjenda, but be okay with letting it morph. If you’re really enjoying a particular moment, don’t cut it short because you have a schedule to keep. Go with the flow, and relax on vacation, or you’ll come home needing a break from your vacation!