"A tourist is simply a person who is unashamed of being curious about the place he or she has landed in."
It's 2015, and my wife and I are on red rental bikes pedaling through downtown Denver. We are on our way to have lunch at a cool little place that we read about. Later on, we go to a brewery that just opened. The brewery is beautiful on a gigantic piece of property on a creek. We enjoy our day, then get a ride back downtown. Later on that night, we eat dinner outside at a Mexican restaurant before jumping on a train to go to a concert.
One week later, we find ourselves in suburban Minneapolis. Minneapolis offers many of the same offerings as Denver, but we don't take advantage of them. There are many cool little places to eat lunch that we've never been to. There are several breweries that we could visit that are on beautiful properties. We could eat outside at any number of restaurants, and there are concerts nearly every day of the weak. We don't do any of that, because we live here.
We find ourselves exploring more when we are not at home. When we're at home, we settle into the comfortable. We live our lives mostly on autopilot, falling into our same habits and routines. When we're not at home, we realize that we were only there for a short amount of time, so we feel like it's our obligation to explore.
But, if I look at my life from a bigger picture perspective, I realize that I'm not a tourist in Denver and a resident of Minneapolis. I am, in fact, a tourist on Earth.
Tourism and Enjoying Life
Have you ever noticed that you never seem to explore the city where you live the same way you explore cities you visit? Many people, upon hearing that counter by saying, of course, they don't explore their own city because they live there and have seen it all. However, they haven't seen it all. Have you ever had friends or family come to visit, and you end up going to places that you've never been before? This happens, in part, because we take the cities that we live in for granted.
When we visit a new city, we know that we're not going to be there long. We only have a few days or maybe a couple of weeks to explore. We're curious about how the locals live. We check out various landmarks and geological features. We try new restaurants. Sometimes we may simply unwind and not do anything, but we do it in a new location.
We do this because there's a certain urgency; we will have to leave in a short matter of time. As a result, we are more likely to savor our experiences when we are tourists in another city.
Be Curious About Life
What if we brought that same curiosity from being a tourist into our everyday life? We were born and are therefore lucky to exist. We were given the gift of life. And we ought to enjoy it while we're here. We do that by bringing the same level of curiosity that a tourist brings to a new town.
If we find ourselves stuck in our ways, we're going to find it very difficult to try new things and open ourselves up to new experiences. Similarly, floating around life on autopilot, reacting to everything that happens to us, keeps us in the dark about the experiences that we have available to us.
What It Means to Have a Life
You didn't choose to be born, but you were born nonetheless. Now that you exist, you get to have a life. But what does it mean to have a life?
Try this thought experiment. Imagine being able to talk to somebody who is not yet born. This future person asks you what it's like to live. How do you answer?
It's unlikely that you would answer by saying that everything is perfect and nothing bad ever happens. Instead, you will likely say something to the effect of expecting ups and downs. There will be good times, and there will be bad times. Within the realm of our finances, there will be unexpected expenses that spring up. It's possible, likely even, that we will lose a job at one point during our life. We will feel pressure to keep up appearances. Money troubles are guaranteed.
But that doesn't mean it's not worth it. All of the down experiences make the up experiences worth it. There may be some rough times, but those rough times are worth it to experience the good times. We don't have time to waste.
Don't Take Life for Granted
You savor your experiences when you go on a vacation because, as a tourist, you know that you will eventually have to leave. That urgency helps you be curious and enjoy your time while you are there.
In the same way, we are all tourists of Earth. We all must leave at some point, and therefore one can argue you ought to bring the same tourist urgency to our entire lives.
Practicing gratitude and savoring our experiences and relationships helps prevent us from taking our lives for granted. Often we don't realize how lucky we are until it's too late.
Live Life Intentionally
There's an old saying that we should not live the same day for 85 years and call it a life. Floating through life mindlessly is the equivalent of going on a vacation and playing video games in your hotel room.
Spend some time to figure out what kind of life you want and take steps to get that. Try to find ways to use your money as a tool to bring you closer to the sort of person you want to be. Practice living with intention instead of reactivity.
We are all tourists on Earth. We get to experience life on this planet. But we only get a few dozen trips around the Sun. After that, we must go.
You have the opportunity to experience all that life has to offer. You are reading this, which means that you have at least another day on Earth. Enjoy it.
You only have one life. Live intentionally.
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Related Money Health® Reading
References and Influences
Anthony, Mitch: The Daily Dose
Haidt, Jonathan: The Happiness Hypothesis
Hanson, Rick: Hardwiring Happiness
Harris, Sam: Waking Up
Lindsay, James: Life in Light of Death
Scott, S.J., and Barrie Davenport: Declutter Your Mind
Yalom, Irvin: Staring at the Sun
Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.
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