Admiring the Summer Palace, Beijing

It’s amazing how much travelling can put personal growth and self-discovery into warp-speed mode.

Being in a new place, whether it’s around the corner from your home or on the other side of the world, heightens your senses and forces you to live in the moment, taking in everything you possibly can.

I learnt a lot about myself recently when Mike and I spent a week in Beijing. Even though we’ve been living in China for seven months, this was our first real back packing adventure with just the two of us, and something we had wanted to do for years.

Even though I had an amazing time there and will always look back on it as one of my best adventures yet, I wasn’t really looking forward to it beforehand.

We had organised to stay in a hostel, something I’d never done before, and even though we had booked a private room, I was a bit anxious about it. I’m a pretty shy and quiet person, an introvert, so being in a place that constantly has such a huge social atmosphere is a little overwhelming.

The overnight train rides to and from Beijing had also been making me a bit anxious, as it requires being in a cabin with total strangers for twelve hours, spending most of your time trying not to invade each others’ space while you attempt to navigate the bunks or move around the halls.

The fact that I had been worrying about these little things for the days leading up to our Beijing adventure obviously didn’t help anything either, so I eventually found myself losing all excitement for it.

But, as usual, I soon discovered that my worries were complete fiction, a waste of time, complete an utter bull.

I have learnt, during my years overcoming anxiety, the only way to stop being afraid of something, is to just do it.

The anxious mind is a trickster, a heckler, and a brilliant illusionist. And, as with any other form of unnecessary and unconstructive criticism, the best way to handle it is to not let it stop you from living the life you want to live, to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’

And that is just what I did.

The train rides were actually pretty fun, and not at all as bad as my mind had made me believe it would be. The hostel, well, that was just plain AWESOME. The people we so cool and friendly, the room was great, the food was freaking delicious, and we were encouraged to grab some textas and write on the walls. That is every artists’ dream!

The 365 Inn, where we stayed.

The message Mike wrote on wall

It ended up being one of the best weeks of my entire life, full of adventure, risk-taking, meeting new people, seeing amazing places, and coming home with a thousand awesome memories and a new sense of confidence, accomplishment and self-awareness.

In a traditional Chinese dress.

At the Summer Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A moment I know I will never forget occurred on Chinese New Year, Mike and I were standing on the rooftop of the hostel, counting down to midnight, and being completely surrounded by fireworks. Explosions of sound, colour, and cheers erupted again and again for almost an hour as families and friends throughout Beijing celebrated the new year.

I felt so blessed to be there to witness it, and I knew in that moment that I had come so, so far… too far to ever go back to the person I used to be. I felt a wave of relief as I realised then that my fears would never get in the way of me living my life ever again.

I was reminded of that rooftop moment just the other night. I was walking through the snow on my way to meet Mike for dinner, when fireworks started exploding right in front of me, continuing the 15 day celebrations for Spring Festival.

Fireworks in Daqing

As I looked up at the amazing colours falling from the sky, and felt the sweet kisses of snowflakes as they touched my skin, I realised I was, in that moment, proving to myself that I can do anything.

You see, a year ago, I was too afraid to open my front door when the doorbell rang. Too anxious to walk down our short driveway just to check the mail. I even avoided going into the backyard alone, in case I was seen by a neighbour and forced into a potentially uncomfortable or awkward conversation.

I would never have admitted it then, in fact I wouldn’t have admitted it even six months ago, but I was so trapped by my own fears that I just avoided them altogether, until I couldn’t leave the house unless I was with someone.

So, imagine my pride when I suddenly realise that I am walking through the streets of a foreign city, in a foreign country, at night, completely alone, and with a freaking huge smile on my face! Thousands of miles away from my comfort zone, and not a single worry or fear on my mind.

That’s what travel can do for you.

Not long after that amazing moment on a rooftop in Beijing, but before that amazing moment in the snow, I was walking through some markets and found a stall that sold rings. I noticed one with four Chinese characters on it, and asked the woman working there what it meant.

“It mean… Peace… When you leave and when come back. Peace wherever you go.”

Peace wherever you go.

I wrote that on the wall of the 365 Inn, so that others can be inspired by it just as I was.

I’m wearing that ring now, as I write this. And I will always wear it, as a reminder of how far I’ve come, and how much I’ve overcome, in order to find my own peace, peace within myself, peace with my fears, and peace within the world.

Take some time now to look back and notice how far you have come, and what you have overcome in the process. Be proud of everything you have achieved, and how much you’ve grown! And be grateful for all the lessons you have learnt in between.

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

Written on the second floor staircase of the 365 Inn, Beijing.

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  • Lori Shuamber

    Wonderful blog, very inspiring! I really enjoyed it-thanks!

    • http://jensmilingheart.wordpress.com Jen ‘Smiling Heart’

      Hi Lori! Thank you! So happy to have connected with you on the fb fan page :D

  • http://mindfulsearcher.blogspot.com mindfulsearcher

    Yes! Travel is wonderfully liberating. It is so amazing to see that despite the differences in our cultures, languages, architecture, & art we are all so much alike. Ridding ourselves of the afflictive emotions that cause us to be fearful is a joyful experience. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • http://jensmilingheart.wordpress.com Jen ‘Smiling Heart’

      Thanks for such a wonderful comment! I really believe if everyone took the opportunities to travel, see the world, meet new people, and just leave their comfort zones, the world would be a much better place. Travel teaches us that there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, we are all in this together :) Thanks for reading :)

  • Renee

    Jen-
    Once again your words have touched my heart! The positive benefits that we receive from doing things that we fear is incredible! The confidence and strength we gain makes us that much braver to do the next scary thing we face! You HAVE come a long way in a short period of time….you are amazing!!! And you are helping me, personally see, that I’m pretty amazing too. :)

    • http://jensmilingheart.wordpress.com Jen ‘Smiling Heart’

      Hi Renee! :D I am SO happy to be able to help you see how amazing you are, that is the best thing I could ever hope to do! Reading your supportive and love-filled comments always help me see how amazing I am, too :) So thank YOU! Looking forward to facing many more fears in the future!

  • http://www.apeacefulpath.com Karen Mead

    might be your best post ever! I love how it encouraged me to see how very far I have come as well – thank you!

    • http://jensmilingheart.wordpress.com Jen ‘Smiling Heart’

      Woohoo! Thanks Karen! I’m glad you can see how far you’ve come, I think that’s the best motivation to go even further! Thanks so much for reading and leaving such happy comments :D

  • Diane

    All the comments before me are awesome and full of truth. I had the privilege to live in Japan for 3 years and loved it. Early on in my life I learned to overcome the fear of “new” things and since then I have moved 55 times in different places. Guess you can call me a gypsy LOL and “I still haven’t found what I am looking for.” (luv that song…I think U2 wrote that just for me) :)
    I am so happy you are finding that “awesome” part of your life early. Buckle up or not… keep riding YOUR PEACE TRAIN! ♥

    • http://jensmilingheart.wordpress.com Jen ‘Smiling Heart’

      Wow! I think you are living my dream life, Diane! I’ve always wanted to be a gypsy :D I guess I’m on the right track! Mike visited Japan for a solo adventure just over a year ago and fell in love with it, so we are hoping to live there too one day. It sounds like an amazing place! All aboard the PEACE TRAIN! Haha! Thanks for reading! :)

  • http://urbansoulretrieval.com Quinn W

    This is absolutely beautiful Jen, and I feel honored to read your story.

    I think physical travel is so important, but really what is physical travel other than an impulse to travel into the truth of our souls? Physical travel allows a certain state of blankness and anonymity in which we can dive dive dive into ourselves and discover the trenches within. Sometimes we find the pearls of experiences like yours when we travel, and then we are able to travel there again wherever we are, even if we are just at home. Peace peace to and with you wherever you go, yes!!

    Love,
    Q

    • http://jensmilingheart.wordpress.com Jen ‘Smiling Heart’

      Thank you so, so much Quinn! I love how you said ‘what is physical travel other than an impulse to travel into the truth of our souls?’ That is such a beautiful truth! You are so right, and I love how much being so far away from home is teaching me so much about myself, and how I’m sort of re-learning everything about life, the world and who I am. As much as I miss home, I know there are still some lessons I need to learn before I can go back.

      Thanks so much for another amazing and insightful comment, we really are on the same wavelength! :) xo

  • http://meandtheboss2011.wordpress.com Michael_e

    Awesome,
    life is but an incredible journey to be enjoyed.

    Nemaste

    • http://jensmilingheart.wordpress.com Jen ‘Smiling Heart’

      So true, Michael! Thank you so much for reading :)

  • http://daphnepurpus.blogspot.com Daphne Purpus

    As someone who has always lived in fear, I found your post to be very powerful indeed. It truly resonated with me and I thank you for it!

    • http://jensmilingheart.wordpress.com Jen ‘Smiling Heart’

      Hi Daphne, I am so glad my story resonated with you so much. After everything I’ve been through, overcome, and am still overcoming, I know that everything happens for a reason. I believe that I need to write about the lessons I’ve learned not just for my sake, but for anyone who is going through what I’ve been through. I hope you know that you are not alone :) Thank you so much for reading and commenting xo

  • Kristie Ryan

    Jen,

    What a great message this is. It’s really important to look back on how far you’ve come and sometimes it’s hard to forget to do that, especially when you feel you’ve got a lot more to work on.

    I used to have really bad anxiety issues, but I have come ridiculously far from where I used to be. I realized I was being ignorant and short sighted and living in the present moment as often as possible has really helped me. Along with the fact that I know how bad being anxious is for you and I simply don’t want to live my life that way.

    I’ll be thinking of Peace, Wherever I go, as often as possible :)

    Have a great day!
    Kristie

    • http://jensmilingheart.wordpress.com Jen ‘Smiling Heart’

      Hi Kristie! Thanks so much for your supportive comment, it’s so comforting to know that other people can so relate to my experiences and challenges. You are so right, living in the present moment is just so helpful to staying calm and gaining some clarity. It really helps me to get out of my head and into life :) I don’t do it as often as I would like, but I like to think I am at least aware of what’s going on in my head and how it affects me. I can see through the illusions now.

      And I can’t tell you how much wearing that ring helps! Whenever I start to worry about something, or if I’m getting frustrated when I’m out and being stared at or pushed etc, I see the ring and remember that peace starts with me.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)