I am not one who likes to travel . . . anywhere. Foreign or domestic, travel does not appeal to me. I like to stay put where I know where my next Coca-Cola is coming from, and I know where I’m sleeping at night.
I tend to be a nervous person, so when you combine my frazzled nerves with exploring unknown places, it does not go smoothly for me.
This past summer was different for me. I challenged my status-quo and took a vacation to sunny Tampa, Florida. The results were unbelievable.
I learned some valuable life lessons that I can use, not just on vacation, but also to my life beyond the sandy beach.
Life Lesson 1: Make the best of a difficult situation.
My life lessons started before I ever flew to Tampa for my 12-day vacation with my mother-in-law.
My uncle Jimmy had many plans and excursions set up for us. One day before leaving for Tampa, we received the devastating news that Uncle Jimmy was sick and his desire to be a hospitable host exceeded his capacity.
First, I was upset that Uncle Jimmy’s health had deteriorated so quickly. Secondly, I knew given my Uncle Jimmy’s health that we would not be able to do anything except sit around the house and vegetate all day. I knew with my nerves I would feel panicked and trapped, and my anxiety would thrive.
So my mother-in-law and I were left with the dilemma of whether to go to Tampa for the planned 12 days or just cancel the trip.
We decided to make the best of a difficult situation. We planned to rent a car in Tampa so I could still visit Uncle Jimmy, but also go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, so my anxiety and nerves might be placated.
As a result, I learned a valuable lesson about being flexible and making the best of a difficult situation. I’m glad I did because my visit turned into a great vacation with cruises, museums, bicycle tours, and more.
Life Lesson 2: Take a risk. Do what scares you.
Since Uncle Jimmy was in no shape to go touring and my mother-in-law is elderly, neither of them could do all the things in which I was interested. So I took a risk and went on some excursions by myself.
First, I was so scared to drive anywhere in the unfamiliar city of Tampa, but I soon learned it was pretty much the Autobahn, an anything-goes interstate. It didn’t take long before I soon adjusted to the fast pace of the traffic (after all, I am from Atlanta) and started enjoying darting around cars and trying to break the sound barrier with speed. It scared me at first, but driving in Tampa soon became a highlight.
Secondly, I had scheduled a “Tampa by Bike” tour by myself. My family wasn’t able to manipulate a bicycle, so I had to go alone. Finding the location was difficult and the unfamiliar place scared me, but I persevered and made it to my destination.
Well, little did I know that the other family on the bike tour canceled, so it was just me and my tour guide Todd. I was so apprehensive and anxious about going on a three-hour tour of Tampa with only me and Todd. But I took a risk and went on the bike tour anyway.
Taking those risks, driving into the city and going on the bike tour, was actually the most enjoyable times of my trip, and I would have missed out if I had not taken a risk.
Life Lesson 3: Experiment. Play. Try new things.
I am not one who likes change or trying new things. It scares me, and I’ll typically avoid the situation. So when Uncle Jimmy felt well enough to take us out on an airboat river ride, I was not too thrilled. I don’t necessarily mind being on boats, but our captain had a reputation for fast rides and swift turns. He was also known for sneaking up on alligators sunning on the bank or peering sneakily above the water. The captain said an alligator could jump two feet, indicating one could jump into our airboat. I don’t know if he was serious, but I wasn’t ready to find out. Regardless, I wanted the experience, so I went on the boat anyway.
The lesson? I tried something new, and I actually enjoyed myself more than I thought I might. Don’t get me wrong. I was happy to be back on land and kissing the ground, but experimenting and trying new things ultimately made me feel confident and strong.
Will I ever plan another airboat trip? Doubtful.
But I played, I tried something new, I experimented, and that made all the difference.
Life Lesson 4: Respect and admire diversity.
I am very inclusive in whom I consider my friends. I consider everyone, no matter background, customs, race, culture, etc, my friend. I try to be like my late mom who never met a stranger and always had the gift of gab. So when I saw a different culture, seemingly Asian, on the beach, replete with full coverage and conical hats, I watched in admiration. I observed the good time they were having, which enhanced the good time I was having.
They played in the water, danced on the sand, and took pictures. They enjoyed themselves so much that it seemed as if they had never seen a beach before. I loved watching them.
I respect their humanity. They simply wanted what I wanted: a good time on the beach. And that same love for the beach is what drew me to them.
Never judge, and always respect diversity. People are always just people.
The wrapper might be different, but we are all the same inside.
Life Lesson 5: It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Get out of your safe zone.
My entire trip to Tampa ended up being more about personal growth than seeing a fever of stingrays or going on a sunset cruise or eating at seedy restaurants with delicious devil crab.
I learned a valuable lesson that amazing things can result from being uncomfortable, taking calculated risks, and stepping out of the safety zone.
I grew up on this trip. I started to realize my potential. Adventures I thought I could never do on my own, I did by myself and even enjoyed.
Where there once was a lack of self-confidence, there is now strong determination. Where there once was hiding on the sidelines, there is a desire to get in the game.
I walked away from my vacation with something better than a souvenir t-shirt or a kitchen magnet. I took with me five wonderful life lessons from a trip that might never have happened.