There’s no doubt that travel is part of this idea of exploration. Tsh has already outlined many of the benefits of travel-based exploration, but my greater hope for us this month is that we’ll cultivate an attitude or posture of exploration in our everyday lives, no matter where we are.
With that in mind, here are a few ways you can explore the world without going anywhere at all:
1. Open your eyes and ears. How often do we miss something incredible simply because we’re not paying attention?
The other night I sat on the couch as a storm rolled through. It was a typical “dark and stormy night,” which I actually really love during the warm months, but I wasn’t looking for anything more than that. Then, our 5-year-old came downstairs for just one more kiss before bed and said, “Mom, the sunset is beautiful! Do you want me to take a picture so you can see it?” Sure enough, it was just outside of my view, but the sunset was pretty spectacular, breaking through between heavy storm clouds.
It’s not just sunsets or other natural works of art that we miss, of course. When our focus is just on the demands of everyday living and the next step that we need to take, we miss opportunities to meet new people, to appreciate the skills and talents of other people, to think about something in a new way. But when we intentionally cultivate a mindset of exploration, we start to notice all of the things we’ve been missing.
2. Be willing to try new things. Trying new things can be scary (and we’ll talk more about this fear later), but discovering is really what exploring is all about. Try a new food—you’ll probably find a few you don’t care for, but you might stumble upon something you really love. Try a new experience—even if it gives you butterflies. Meet new people—once you get through the awkward small talk, your perspective might shift as you hear from someone new.
There is nothing wrong with the familiar and comfortable, and as Tsh has said, being able to retreat into those things really does make it easier to explore outside of your comfort zone. But if we never leave that zone, we miss out on the chance to truly appreciate it as well as the chance to discover something new, something we didn’t even know to look for.
3. Embrace wonder. As a mom, wonder is one of the gifts I most hope to give my children. Whether it’s stopping on the side of the road to watch a hot air balloon rise into the sky (almost magically!) or getting down on our hands and knees to watch an ant drag a treasure back to his nest, I try to live a life of wonder so that they too will be on the lookout for the smallest miracles around them. Wonder automatically leads to exploration and learning and discovery because as you stand in awe of anything, you want to know more.
4. Let the kids lead. That said, because I am an adult with all the stresses and busyness and distraction that comes from that title, I sometimes forget to practice what I preach. When I do, the children around me (the ones I call my own, others that I know, and even strangers out and about) remind me that life is all about exploring and discovering. Watch a kid in a new place for just a few minutes and you’ll see them try to take it all in before zeroing in on one little thing to explore at a time. Give them the freedom to explore, and most kids can stay busy for hours discovering the ins and outs of a new park, watching the people around them, or observing a bug.
5. Be willing to listen to other people. I’ve often heard it implied that to respect other people’s beliefs is to water down your own. But I disagree. You can believe in absolute truth and still respect the rights of others to come to a different conclusion. And you can listen to them and their stories to see how they got to that place in order to better understand their unique perspective. It doesn’t mean you’re going to change your mind about what you believe; it just means you’re willing to see the people behind different issues and beliefs rather than letting them build walls between you.
Of course, sometimes listening to others does lead to your beliefs growing and changing over time, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s okay to say, “I thought this was a black-and-white issue, but after getting to know the people who hold different beliefs than mine, I’m able to see that there’s a lot more grey area, and what we really need to focus on is the people.”
6. Read books. While it’s not a substitute for exploring in “real life,” reading is a great way to discover the world without having to leave your comfort zone, book a trip, or even get dressed for the day! 🙂
A mindset of exploration isn’t hard to cultivate—it’s simply being open to new things, new places, new people, and new ideas. It’s waking up each morning not just with a goal to survive until bedtime but with excitement about all that you’ll encounter along the way.
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
1. Keep a journal and write down all of the things you encounter or discover for a week. Keep track of discoveries big and small, and practice looking for new things and approaching them with wonder!