You can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on what you do want – Jim Carrey 

Almost 3 years ago I graduated from University and came extremely close to accepting a career as an Investment Banker by default. I believed it was meant to be the role I played in society, and it was certainly what my family and friends expected too…

But something wasn’t right.

In the back on my mind there was always an urge for more - something that would challenge me and push my boundaries. With not a penny to my name, I lent off a friend and booked a one-way ticket to Australia. 

Ever since that day, I haven’t turned back and have been living my life, adventuring the world in unconventional ways. It quickly became apparent that travel was the medium I needed to reap to collect the kind of real life experiences I was always longing for. 

Unexpectedly, my latest trip across North America turned out to be the most memorable and life changing experience yet.

What originally started off as a hitchhike to a wedding of a couple I met trekking Nepal, turned into a 20,000km (12,000 miles) hitchhike and CouchSurfing adventure looping North America. It took 185 days from start to finish. In that time, I CouchSurfed 82 times and hitchhiked 175 times. To mention several highlights, I roadtripped in a 1989 shagged out Lincoln limousine to a wedding, participated in two nude CouchSurfs, hitchhiked with a policeman, hiked alongside Humpback Whales on Vancouver Island, celebrated my 24th birthday in Las Vegas, volunteered on a tomato farm, helped build a Hostel and hiked erratic peaks in the Rocky Mountains.

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A Map of my Route (Start: Montreal, End: New York City).

One crucial point... this adventure was different to all of my others.

This time, I made a conscious effort to travel through people. It turned out to be a philosophical journey in which I video interviewed 24 people I met along the way, asking them life’s tough questions such as what makes people happy, what advice would you give to your younger self, and, if money was no object, how would you spend you day.

The people I met were very willing to pass on their wisdom. Now I want share that wisdom with YOU in the form of 6 life lessons – one for every month of my trip. 

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Six Life Lessons from Inspiring People I Met Hitchhiking America

1. Everyday is a good day, but some are better than others. (Russ, California, USA)

There’s no such thing as a bad day. Actually, as Russ pointed out, there is if you think there is. I came to realise that this game called life is all about my mindset and how I viewed the world.

Before travelling, I would automatically focus on what was going wrong when I was having a bad day.

But what if I focused on what went right instead? What if I managed to find that blessing that’s always hidden under all the negativity?

It definitely was always there.

After Russ told brought this to my attention, I began to accept that life had its ups and downs. Yes, the external environment may well make life tough for me from time to time. But even when events are out of my control, I still, and always will control ownership of my reaction to any situation.

The easy thing to do is pass off the chance to acknowledge the problem in hope that the situation will solve itself. Alternatively, I can regain power of any situation as soon as I take 100% responsibility for everything that happens in my life, even if it is not my fault. Now that’s hard, very hard indeed… but give it a go and see what happens.

2. Drop Judgement and comparison. (Jesse, Oregon, USA)

This was a biggie for me. I had this urgency to judge and measure everything. Comparing myself with others – my wealth, reputation, technology, grades at school, and my clothes. The good, the bad and the ugly; I wanted to classify everything.

I eventually came to realise that this type of thinking made me angry and served no purpose. A friend would always have better technology, clothes or grades. It did nothing, but create deep feelings of animosity. As a result, I decided to work on reconditioning my mind to drop judgement and just let things be. After all, it’s strikingly clear to me that we’re all unique and on different paths in life so any comparison is fundamentally flawed. 

3. Want to know what chocolate ice cream’s like? Taste it then. (Michael, Asheville, USA)

I had many people foolishly assume that hitchhiking was unsafe. I’d regularly be asked the question “What if you get murdered Dan?” to which I’d usually reply, “What if I have a really good time?”

Such perceptions were based on scarcity – things they’d heard on the grapevine, in the news or movies they had watched.

Seriously though, how can one speculate about something one has never tried before? 

Experiential learning is powerful, very powerful indeed my friend. Michael made me realise how important it was to practice what I preached before formulating an opinion on anything. It became very clear that if I really wanted to know what chocolate ice cream’s like, I had to taste it.

4. Don’t plan too much; you’ll always get it wrong. (Paul, Nevada, USA)

Human beings thrive off planning and setting out routines. For me, it became clear that too much certainty was detrimental for my mind and diminished any chance of spontaneous things happening in my life.

From hitchhiking I quickly realised that I could plan every little detail and try to anticipate the future, but I was never going to get it right. Things would ALWAYS crop up that I hadn’t envisaged in my master plan. I soon realised I had to just let it be and stop trying to plan my life. Let’s get realistic though, of course it was good to have a vague plan, but I learned to let the gaps fill in themselves. Life is meant to be an adventure, not a predetermined script. And in my experience, a journey full of misadventure is always the best adventure of all.

5. Small steps, intentional incremental progress (Richard, North Carolina, USA)

Two steps backwards; one step forward is still progress.

When I was hitchhiking, I knew that it was one car, one town and one subway sandwich at a time that would eventually get me to my end goal of reaching New York City. I acknowledged the bigger picture but knew that it would be a cumulative collection of small progressions that would get me there in the end. However, if I looked at the enorornimty of this task on the whole, then I would’ve been easily overwhelmed. With small intentional incremental steps, I realised I would get there… and I did.

Think big, Start small. 

6. It’s all about Relationships (Tony, Raleigh, USA)

Success in business, with girls, friends, with anything. I quickly realised that it all boiled down to the quality of my relationships and how well I could form meaningful and lasting relationships with people. 

I knew that to make things happen in life, I had to appreciate the importance of good relationships with people. But for so long I was spreading myself thin. I focused on people pleasing and trying to be liked by everybody rather than nurturing lifelong relationships with the few people that actually mattered to me.

Thank you for reminding me about this Tony. I’m now working on rationalising my friend group and focusing on building lasting relationships with people who want to help themselves and others around them.

Conclusion

1. Finishing picture in NYC

WE MADE IT TO NEW YORK CITY

 

Overall my North American adventure has shown that it’s not necessarily the place that makes an experience rich; it’s always about the people. My most memorable travel experiences are those that have involved people with their own amazingly unique story, who have broadened my horizons and made me reconsider and question my own belief system.

Thank you to the hundreds of wonderful people who made this trip happen – you will never be forgotten.

Keep smiling and having fun, 

Daniel Beaumont, on behalf of Podstel, 22nd Jan 2015.