In order to be successful in my line of work, you need to be three things; outgoing. adventurous. And disgustingly passionate. Now, I’ve met my fair share of people who don’t fit into any of these categories and they’ve done fine. But those people, those Anthony Bourdains you see traveling the world, telling stories and writing books, they definitely are. But there’s another thing I’ve learned from the seasoned travelers I am lucky enough to travel with. The ones with creased wrinkles next to their eyes, weathered hair and tattered jeans, I’ve learned you also need to stop giving a f***.
I’m not, naturally, one of those people who can just let things roll off their shoulders. I’m a worrier. The best way to put it is that I fester. I stress about the things I can’t control and let it bother me until I burst into tears. When flights are delayed, I’m broke, my blog traffic sucks, I can’t let it go. I let it get me so down that I can’t focus on anything else. And you know what? That sucks. It’s not a way to live. I’m too busy comparing myself to other people, letting things I can’t control stress me out that I’m not living. I’m not looking out the window right beside me. I’m not focusing on what actually matters. And as a travel writer, that’s like seeing a new world through a black and white lens.
One of the most amazing people I met on my travels was an older guy. He had been to almost every single country and had a story to tell from every place he’d been. He had dusty brown hair with a few pieces of grey, a rugged face with scars and eyes that lit up anytime you asked him a question. It was our last night and I was stressing out about something. Money, the flight, life, who knows. I was staring at my phone, huffing and puffing, while the rest of them enjoyed their dinner. He turned to me and asked what was wrong. I told him, with so much determination in my voice, what was going on. My voice was trembling and, to me, it was the worst thing to ever happen to me. He looked me right in the eyes and said “I have four words for you. Stop giving a f***. You can’t control it, get over it.” I remember those words like they were stamped into my brain. I remember the way he looked at me when he said them. He turned back to his dinner and joined right back into the conversation he was having.
I went into this most recent trip feeling crappy. I’ve been stressed with work and I’ve just sort of let the things I love go by the wayside. Relationships, this blog, my job. I’ve been so focused on the things I can’t control, like internet traffic for example, I stopped caring about the ones that I can, like my success at work, my relationship, my self-esteem. In short, I stopped living. I was going through the motions of life, but not actually living it. I was breathing, eating, sleeping and blinking, but not enjoying any of it. I was a robot, void of any feelings, emotions and excitement.
Notice how most of this story was written in past tense? I did that for a reason. That robot, the girl looking through a black and white lens, was the girl I was yesterday. The girl I am today is the one I’ve always been but was just too damn ridiculous and self conscious to let myself be. I know I’ll never be perfect. Hell, I know there will be times I see flashes of the girl I used to be and I’ll have trouble trying to find my place, my comfort and my stand in stressful, crazy situations. But the most comforting part of all of this is that I know I can be now. I know I can live my life completely in the present. I know that I can let the things go that are supremely out of my control. And I know that I can be happy, easy going and excited again, and that’s a pretty awesome realization.
So how did I do that, you’re asking. How do you stop caring and learn to let it go? How do I stop comparing myself to others and base my self worth on their success? How did I learn to be happy, loving and completely in the present? It wasn’t easy, but I came up with a list. A list of ways to let those feelings go and a list of words to say when you’re feeling like shit. I’m not psychotherapist or self help guru, but it worked for me. Here’s hoping it can just work for someone else too.
How to Learn to Let it Go in 8 Super Easy Steps
- Ask yourself this question: Can you control this situation? If the answer is yes, then do something about it. If the answer is no, stop caring and focus on something you can control.
- Play with a pet. If you don’t have a dog, find a dog to play with. Or a cat. Or a hamster. When I’m starting to feel down, I immediately pet my puppy Oscar. Dogs don’t care about blog views, your bank account, how much you weigh. They just love you, unconditionally. They are just so happy to be near you, nothing else in the world matters. And that’s a good mentality to live your life with.
- Unplug. That means your computer, cell phone, iPad, iPod, tablet, beeper. Whatever you have that is connecting you with the interwebs, turn off and leave off for a few hours. Or hell, overnight. If you’re like me, seeing the success of others can somethings be overwhelming. Seeing the perfectly skinny girls with perfect hair and perfect makeup on Pinterest is enough to send me spiraling into a tunnel of self loathing. So, I turn it off. If you need a lesson on unplugging, check out my girl Kristin at Dine and Dish.
- Talk it out. When I’m feeling depressed, sad or bummed about something I can’t seem to let go, I talk to someone about it. Sometimes it’s my husband, sometimes its my best friend, sometimes it’s another food blogger I’ve never actually met. Sometimes all you need is to hear how you feel out loud before you can find a way to feel better.
- Travel. There’s no drug in this world that gives you a better high than stepping off an airplane into a new country, city or town. One of my favorite quotes about traveling is this one by Gustave Flaubart: “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” And that is so incredibly fitting for me and this post. When you’re hiking through the impoversihed worlds of Southeast Asia, your worries and problems feel a little smaller. It’s not even that, though. It’s hard not to be incredibly amazed and humbled when you see new cities in this incredible world. It’s hard not to feel lucky or happy if you get the chance to explore them.
- Exercise. In the words of one of my favorite movies “exercise makes you happy, and happy people just don’t kill their husbands.”
- Write. To me, writing can be incredibly therapeutic. I mean, where do you think this post came from? I was looking at another blog’s success on Facebook and, like a poision seeping through my veins, I started to feel down. I started to feel inadequate, pathetic, not as talented. And instead of festering, like I used to do so well, I wrote. I wrote this post. I wrote a chapter in my book. I just wrote, without care for anything else. And an hour later, I felt better.
- Love. This is probably the easiest, yet hardest, number on this list. I’ve always loved my family, my husband and my friends. And they’ve always loved me back. But I’ve never actually thought about the impact that love had on my life, when I really thought about. Love is one of the most powerful things in the world, and we don’t put as much credit on it as we should. It’s the love of my husband, who supports me through everything, the love of my family, who will always be my rocks and the love of my friends, who stand by me through thick and thin, that gets me through those situations I can’t handle. And when you sit back and realize you have the love of so many important people, it makes dealing with even the hardest things a little easier. You learn to let the stuff that doesn’t matter and focus on what does, the love in your life.
I’ll never have it all together, but at least I can say I’m truly living my life. And how many people can say that and really mean it?