Insights from the Pavement: Keeping a Record

Throughout our travels, it’s not uncommon to want to jot down our amazing memories, our new, insightful inspirations and our glimpses into a foreign world. These tableaus may find their way into a journal, a diary or even a blog or newspaper travel column. Or they may wind up being plot points on a chronological record used later to share with friends and family.

However they’re used, it may also benefit us to begin to create a pattern of keeping records in our settled lives as well. Paying close enough attention to our interests and goals to track our successes and failures will keep us on task, allow us to see end dates to our objectives and form patters of organization that contribute to a continuum of exponential success.

Having kept a dream journal of the last eight years, I have found that I can look back upon my mind’s creations and recognize many truly amazing patterns in my life. Through a marvel of symbolism and staggering pallet of imagery, I have been able to analyze my current challenges, dissect the complexity and impact of remnant childhood issues, and even understand how I have been host to some of my greatest failures.

These have helped me recognize paths I’d like to create for myself as well as paths I’d rather not take again. And this is a hugely beneficial resource that we all have at our disposal – the answers to all our problems, laid out in a script that was designed for us, by us. But this is not the only record that can be kept, and not the only way to keep it.

The more scholarly of us like to journal, blog and publish books. The illustrators among us doodle and pen our ideas in squiggles and sketches. The musically inclined have an unmatched ability to place our trials into song. And the visually gifted of us sculpt, build and shape a world of similes which depict the nature of their experiences as well.

But, while using life’s encounters to create something artistic to give back to the world is great, each insight we record doesn’t have to be an earth shattering realization of fine art. We can keep a small note pad with us. Cameras offer a great vehicle for keeping visual records. I, myself, have kept a handheld recorder on my nightstand to easily awake and immediately record my dreams, transcribing them later into a Word files on a thumb drive.

No matter what avenue we take to keeping track of our lives, we should make a concerted effort at doing so. Then, once we have a few months worth of information, we should be sure to pour over it with an analytic eye, looking creatively for the best practices that we can enact to form patterns of success.

Are you doing this already? Tell me how in the comments.

Insights from the Pavement: Assessing time

Time means many different things, depending on where one might find themselves around the world.


There’s no denying that many of us have felt the impact of that very statement while lazing away in a hammock as waves crash down on the nearby beach.  Time, in that way, is only measured in terms of the piña coladas that separate the day into more of a detached sequence of sonatas playing out a in a grander symphony of relaxation.

On the other hand, those of us who’ve missed our bus to get to our downtown jobs know the very essence of even a single minute that passes through time.  Each minute, in this case, is more akin to a measure of frustration that shapes our realization that tardiness may cost us much more than the sip of a tropical drink.

These two extremes mark the very fringes of our expectation of time.  And most of us reside somewhere in the middle.  But when we visit a new place, we should be sure to pay close attention to what time might mean in the current location.

In the west, being punctual shows others that we are professional, dedicated and that others’ time is important to us.  In the east, however, being late might actually work in your favor, as it can also be seen to mean that a person knows his level of importance and therefore his lateness is the expression of that concept.

More times than not, our expectation of time while traveling abroad simply relates to the ability to catch a bus or that a train will arrive on the scheduled time.  But it is important to be mindful that this may not be a frivolous matter when dealing interpersonally with those who expect certain things of us.

Being invited to ceremonial events such as weddings, family feasts or annual celebrations hold a completely different prospect for those who did the inviting.  When in doubt of how to handle these occasions, it’s always best to show up early.  Having this in mind will keep us from looking as though we are either too humble and self-conscious, or too egotistical and feel that others should wait on us.

Developing this pattern while abroad may well be the catalyst for continuing this beneficial trend at home as well.

Follow me on twitter: @cyleodonnell

Like the photo from this journal?  Click HERE to visit the album of photography from the Samchoek, South Korea market where I took it.

Insights from the pavement: Know you know what’s best

We are the only experts on our own lives.  And we are the only ones who know us as uniquely and as intimately as “us.”  But while there is no shortage of people that will tell us what’s best, no one has the qualifications necessary to tell us what we’re most suited for in this life.


Each of our journeys through this life is unique.  That’s why they are called personal journeys.  And because of that, we are in the captain’s chairs of our own vehicles.  We may choose to have others along for this trip.  But just as they will experience an immensely different perspective under the exact same circumstances, we, too, will come away with a  completely different experience.

If we sit and think about it, we’ve always had a very unique sense of what it is like to be ourselves.  We felt a certain way as children.  We loved someone along the way.  We had interests and objectives that we pursued.  And in each of these instances, no one could have done them the way we did.

And it is from this very same source that we draw our inherent knowledge of how to navigate the waters of our own lives with our own sense of guidance.  And besides the comforts of shelter and clothing, the necessity of food and protection from the elements, the keys to survival were evolutionarily implanted within each of us as they were with the countless individuals that came before us.

On the road, this is an observation that is clear and abundant.  People farm the land and cultivate the food that we share.  They live in the rat race or they create the art that we enjoy in the world’s museums and galleries.  They build structures and make various forms of textiles and clothing.  And in each place it seems to happen a little differently than the next.

And if this is nothing else, it’s a perfect metaphor for the individual inclination to chart our own course and to make the notion of surviving look a lot more like thriving.

We should take the opportunity that everyday offers and look at the person that we are.  We should assess our strengths and weaknesses in terms of how they relate to our interests.  This will give us an accurate mold of what our true path should look like.  This can only be done by ourselves and it is imperative that brutal honesty be employed in analyzing the various facets that will go into this assessment.

But once we’ve made the effort of taking stock of our lives, we’ll be unendingly rewarded by a tangible draft of how our lives might be best served and by the best advice available to us – our own.

Follow me on twitter: @cyleodonnell

Like the photo from this journal?  Click HERE to see the album from Laos that I shot when I made my way through in 2010.

Insights from the Pavement: Embracing the process of emotional release

All too often we find ourselves denying our bodies and minds the peace and comfort of simply letting go of societal pressures and embracing our true emotions.  It’s apparent that travel seemingly forces us to do this at many turns.  But what about when we’re in our home lives?  Generally we’re expected to be emotionless unless that emotion happens to agree with the mood of the room.

Why is this?  Where did this start?  And why is it that sacrificing our natural inclination toward response and release for the good of the group is seen as the expected notion?


This can come from a variety of sources and for a variety of factors.  The most prominent is, oddly enough, our friends and family.  Those closest to us are the most effective vehicles for transmitting those unspoken messages specifically because they share such a deep and interactive relationship.

Generally speaking – and even without any spoken confirmation – we are expected to keep up a certain level of pretense with those around us.  Even our most intimate of friends may still have a deeply engrained sense of what we “should” act like or how we “ought to” react to given situations.  And this isn’t always the first, natural reaction that our bodies may feel the need to express.

Another source of this can be our profession.  At the workplace, it’s frowned upon to see an employee expressing themselves in a manner that is not ultimately adding to the productivity of their job.  And while this is understandable, it still doesn’t mean that we should deny our natural inclination to get out our feelings as they happen.

It is when we keep our emotions bottled up inside that we have the most trouble and this can lead to anxiety, sleep loss, unhealthy weight loss, bad eating habits and more.  And because of all these related health and personal risks, we miss work, over sleep and come to work late, can’t pay attention during working hours and on and on.  And that’s just on the productivity end.  So is it really the best thing to do to keep these items pent up inside?  How good for productivity is that, in the end?

There are many other instances where our need to express ourselves comes at times when others simply don’t want to hear it.  But we should always remember that when our friends find themselves facing emotionally heightened circumstances, they are sure to remember how we offered them an open and comfortable forum for expressing their emotions when it’s time for us to ask the same of them.

And this is a universal concern that faces every country in the world.  There’s no escaping it.  And because there is also no escaping our need for emotion release, it is wise to take time to find creative ways to express these emotions.

Traveling, itself, can be an amazing release of stress.  But even on the road, there needs to be a continuum of options for getting out our frustrations.  Journaling, meditating, exercising, running – even sleeping – can all be great ways to calm the mind and attain balance.

No matter if we find ourselves on the road or at the office, taking a moment or planning a future moment when the time is right to get that release is of the utmost importance.

Follow me on twitter: @cyleodonnell

Like the photo from this journal?  Click HERE to visit the album from Thailand’s Andaman coast.

Learning to Detach

One of the many pleasures of travel is that it takes us out of the daily grind, removes us from the office and whisks us away to a new and exciting place.  The joy that comes to us even before we leave is largely centered on that very idea.  And as our travel date approaches we often find ourselves lost in our thoughts of what this change from the norm will provide for us.


It is a naturally occurring phenomenon that we as a species need bouts of change in our routine.  For some, this change needs to be constant and continuous.  For others, a random smattering of island hopping over the course of a decade will do.  But for most of us, breaking up the routine is something best timed on a yearly basis.

This begs the question; how do we know what kind of change and in what quantity is good for us?  And as I have traveled I’ve found out that many of the times when I felt that change was needed, I resisted and stayed the course.  I started to feel unsettled, but when I voiced this concern people only told me that I needed to settle further – that all I needed was the safety and security of a good job, insurance and a nice credit score.

And who was I to question all these people who seemed to sing in unison the praise of a steady lifestyle?  But ultimately, this was not my path.  And once I left I found a kinship with the road that I had always known was there.  Because of that, I feel the most settled on the move.

I have always regretted not taking the initiative earlier in my life when I felt that draw to the nomadic lifestyle.  How many years of my life were wasted working in this job or that job only to see nothing more of my efforts than my closest neighbor? what could I have done if I’d taken the opportunity to go abroad?  How might my level of experience and personal wisdom have been influenced?

We can generally count on our friends and loved ones to have our best interests at heart.  And certainly it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that we reciprocate that notion.  But just because we receive advice from others it doesn’t mean that that’s what’s best for us — just like our well-meaning advice might not be the best for them.

Learning to quiet ourselves enough to receive the message that lies within is something that is just as important as assessing the guidance we receive from others.  And so it’s vital that we also separate ourselves from this inner information as well — giving ourselves the best chance at seeing this message clearly and applying it to our lives.

Looking at all the information that we have available to us from the perspective of objectivity will aid in coming to the right decision at the right time.  And in doing this, we also take the reins on our own path – another keepsake of the process of responsible detachment.

Join the discussion: When did you start traveling?  If you’ve never traveled, what do you think about focusing on your travel plans?  How will you be affected by your decision to listen to that inner travel lust?

Follow me on twitter: @cyleodonnell

Like the image from this journal?  Click HERE to visit the Naksan Temple photo album that I took in 2011.

Insights from the Pavement: Being Present

The world outside ourselves is sometimes hard to reach even in the most beautiful places.

Just because we’re in awe-inspiring locales, it doesn’t mean that we’re open to being awed.  And while it’s important to address the source of this distraction, it’s also important to remember that this moment is more important than what can immediately be gained by the worry attached to that distraction.

Having taken the necessary steps to put ourselves out in the world to experience each moment of adventure, we come to be more in tune with these moments as they present themselves.


Stopping to smell the flowers, Alaminos, Philippines.

The term, “stop and smell the roses,” takes on an illustrious, new meaning when we’re standing in front of flowers that we’ve never seen before and which don’t exist back home.  And every time we pass on the opportunity to take in the full flavor of each moment is an occasion that we may later regret.  In most cases, the only time that we’re able to fully conceive of what we’ve missed along our path is once that journey has ended.  And by then, it’s simply too late.

This is one of the amazing lessons that is engrained in our very core from our time abroad.  And for those of us who have exercised the option to take off and explore these intimate moments that make up the greater experience of travel, are the ones most likely to literally pause for just long enough to embrace and fully take in those moments.

The next time we find ourselves in a time and place where we realize that we may never have the opportunity to experience it again, we should always remember to be present in that moment, to notice the little details that brought that moment into being, and to simple be with the time that exists for us right then and there.

Like the photo from this journal?  Check out the album HERE.

My new book, Insights from the Pavement, is a collection of 101 Travel Oms just like this one. Look for it to be released soon.

Join the conversation, tell me what you think about this idea. Leave your comments below.