5 Lessons we've Learnt from Travelling the World

Posted on February 12, 2014 by Jesse Schiller | 1 comment

Everyone knows great things come in fives. Ok, maybe I just made that up but I’d happily take 5 good things at a time so will just run with it.

Starting today, once a week we’ll be sharing a Top 5 list with you right here on The Feel Good Daily. The one commonality across all these top 5’s: each list will in some way bring kooshoo into your day. Translated, each list will bring some ‘feeling good’ to your day.

As we’re writing today from the lovely spiritual town of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia, we thought it appropriate to kick off our Top 5’s with the 5 lessons we’ve learnt from traveling the world.  

After all, as a wise person once said...

 Celebrating the last rays of sun on the peak of Mount Everest


1. It doesn't take much to be happy. 

We’ve been indelibly blessed to have traveled to about 50 countries in our dozen years as a couple. Over those years we’ve witnessed almost every facet of humanity and learnt volumes about ourselves in the process.

Though we continue to learn from every day spent abroad, our most important discovery was learned very early in this journey when we began travelling to developing countries. That discovery: despite what our media may want us to believe, what we have materially has zero bearing on our happiness as human beings.

You simply need see the authenticity behind the smile of a proud mother living in an Indian slum to know this truth.

A most beautiful location for some laundry - in the majestic countryside outside of Hampi, India

This is not to say that the material world can’t bring us comfort; of course it can. But with a few very important ingredients: shelter, food, clean water and love, happiness can abound in any human being on earth.

In fact, we’ve seen enough to conclude that it is often those with the least materially that wear the biggest smiles.


2. Enjoy the journey. 

We’re currently staying at the home of a Balinese man who works up to 20 hours a day. This is a reality we’ve witnessed in every culture of the world, including home in Canada.

His name is Nyoman (pronounced Yo-mann). By night Nyoman works as a mechanic/engineer in one of Bali’s fanciest hotels. By day he looks after his family, his compound and any number of other things.

He’s essentially a workaholic (as much out of need as out of love for what he does) but not in that bitter workaholic in the west way.  Looking at the crazy hours he spends working for the hotel you could conclude that he has every reason to be grumpy and disenchanted.

Instead, he laughs. One of those laughs that can’t help but make you smile from ear to ear. A genuine little kid’s laugh! And he laughs like that because he is happy. The real happy. He understands one of life’s great truths: life is hard work whether you like it or not so you may as well find the joy in it – because there is plenty to celebrate.

Everytime I see Nyoman chuckling away I think of this joy. That joy in the face of hardship is always my favorite souvenir that I return home with from my travels. It always helps me appreciate the journey that much more. 

Enjoying life's journey on the kooshoomobile


3. We waste too much. 

Here in Bali we’ve been going on long, meditative walks through the rice paddies. Along the edges of these rice paddies are slow moving streams, transporting the water that sustains the rice from one elevation to another. In the matter of a few hundred meters you will almost always see garbage – plastic or aluminum namely – floating in those waterways. And more often than not, the brand adorning said plastic will be from the West. Coca Cola. Marlboro. Heineken....

We created the culture of convenience and it certainly has its merits; but that culture has also created a mess. A massive mess! In the west we hide that mess in landfills – out of sight, out of mind! In the Indonesia’s and India’s of the world that convenience is simply left on the side of the road, in full sight.

Seeing this mess is one of the principle reasons that we pack all our yoga headbands, hairties and shawls in biodegradable shipping bags rather than the more conventional plastic.  

The stunningly beautiful rice terraces of Bali.

By contrast to the west, when we dine out here in Bali we are often given our takeaway wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s both beautiful and brilliant. Once we’ve eaten that takeaway back at home, the banana leaf returns to the world, from which it came. We've even come to learn that a banana leaf has natural antibacterial qualities to it! 

It's often said that the developing world has a lot to learn from the West. This may be true; but one of the main lessons travelling has taught me is that it's us in the West that still has so much to learn.  

4. Water. Beautiful, bountiful water!

We are so insanely blessed to have access to good clean drinking water.

Mmmmmm, delicious, drinkable river water. 

Though it might taste like metal in some cities of America, the fact is you can pour yourself a glass and not get sick. Drink it while you can because it’s one of the greatest luxuries we have.

As evidence, an insane stat I just read: lack of access to clean, safe drinking water kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every 4 hours. Just imagine if this tragedy received a proportionate amount of news coverage to what a jet crash receives!

Seeing the state of 3rd world waterways was one of the principle reasons that we chose to only work with organic crops.

It is estimated that 25% of the world’s pesticides are used on conventional (non-organic cotton). This, despite cotton accounting for just 2.5% of crop land worldwide!  In addition, the overwhelming majority of our world’s cotton comes from the developed world.

These pesticides have detrimental effects on so many levels though principle to this point is that pesticides eventually make their way into the water tables of the communities that are growing the crops. There have been whole towns decimated by life-threatening cancers and diseases directly care of pesticides in their water tables.

So love and respect your water while you can. It is like gold flowing from our taps! In other words, it is our greatest luxury.


5. The world is AMAZING. Every lesson you need in life is available to you on the road. 

On Superbowl Sunday I found the only place in town here in Ubud, Bali, that was showing the game. There I met Catherine, a wonderful new friend from Seattle who is in her 4th month of an 8 month round the world trip.

As the game was a bit of a laugher (on behalf of the good guys, thankfully #gohawks) we got into a long conversation about the importance in life of travel.

When I asked her about her travels she told me the most awesome story: every expense of her entire 8 month trip is care of a scholarship she received from the University of Washington. Apparently a billionaire alumn’s life was so altered care of his post-school travels that he now sends 14 students a year all expenses paid around the world for similar adventures.

Here’s how the scholarship boils down: in exchange for a handsome sum of money (enough to backpack, not live in luxury) the recipient must travel the world on their own (meeting up with friends from time to time is OK) for 8 months and touch base every few weeks to relay accounts of their adventures. At the end they must write a report on their experiences.

Essentially Catherine is the recipient of the coolest scholarship the world has ever known!

The fact is: no matter how those travels go – good or bad – they are guaranteed to forever alter the recipient’s path in life. And that’s because nothing in life will teach you as much about life as seeing the way others voyage through it. 

I can certainly attest to that.


We would love to hear what your greatest traveling lessons have been? Please share and let’s get a conversation going.

Another kooshoo top 5 list to come next week. Hope to see you there :) 

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  • Maré

    Beautiful!! Every time I read stuff about travel or see what you guys are up to I’m inspired all the more to continue traveling! I spent every penny I had to go to Europe in 2013 and when I get down about my financial situation I just re-live all those amazing moments I had! :)


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