Vancouver - LA in a Ford Focus ('The Things I Learn' series)

This time last year I was spending a few days exploring Vancouver, before meeting up with a friend to start our road-trip south on the Pacific Coast Highway headed for Los Angeles.  I’ve been thinking about that time a lot recently.  I could have started writing something on that trip as soon as the plane touched down on that grey London morning, but a year’s worth of hindsight is a useful thing.  I’ve had a year to digest that experience and those memories.  A year to think about the lessons I learnt and the ways in which that journey shaped me as only travel and new experiences often can.  Here’s what came out of 2000 miles and near on 2000 cups of coffee…


1)     Go stare at the mountains.  There’s a lot to be said for being out in nature and the effect this can have on our consciousness.  The days I spent hiking through Vancouver’s forests in the shadow of the ever-present mountains were full of ideas, of hope and of clarity.  I still remember so vividly how transformative those few days felt.  We’re designed to be out in nature, not in an office cubicle, so find time to make it happen.

2)     Let days unfold as they will.  A plan is sometimes useful but if I think back, the most memorable days were the ones where we just let it flow.  It’s important to sometimes let the day’s narrative play out scene by scene instead of trying to construct it all beforehand.  That way you’ll always exceed your expectations.

3)     Be mindful of life’s ebbs and flows – stay humble when it’s good and be at peace when it’s not.  One day, lost, whilst out hiking, we managed to flag a ride up the Hollywood Hills and were taken to a pool party by our new friend.  The next evening we were lost at 2am, tired, in the back end of nowhere, wondering where all the motels had disappeared to.  Life tends to balance things out, so always keep that long-view in your head.

4)     Be your (true) self.  It’s one of my favourite things about travel; being able to meet people and experience life without any pre-conceptions and limitations.  I’ll find that I act differently than I may do back home, in new surroundings and without my past on my shoulders.  We should all strive to be the real versions of ourselves and not what someone else might expect.

5)     A change of scenery can work wonders for creative folk.  Take your writing/designing/creating to a neutral location or a place you’ve never been before. Ideas are bound to pop up that simply would not have appeared in your original workspace/office.

6)     Make time to find some perspective.  It was amazing how minuscule certain ‘problems’ seemed on the other side of the world, distanced from my normal surroundings and routine.  I’m not saying that we all need to jet off to escape our problems, merely that we have to pro-actively challenge our perspectives and the way we frame certain difficulties in our lives.  It’s probably not as bad as we think it is.

7)    Ask for help.  Being shy, I’ve always struggled with this one, but travelling alone forces you to speak up every now and again.  99.9% of people will be happy to help out, so lean on a stranger if you’re stuck.

8)     Wear sunscreen.