You’ll Never Have This Day Again. Make it Matter.

I was very shy growing up. Like many kids, I imagined I’d live next door to my parents and I can’t remember if I thought about travel much. I remember coloring on St. Patrick’s Day and thinking I’d like to live in Ireland because St. Patrick had chased out all the snakes, or in England, where the children drank tea and sounded more civilized. 

But overall, I was a very sensitive and introverted kid who liked to read and enjoyed hanging out by myself as much as with friends, if not more. I still like my alone time. Having said that, at a certain point in my life, the thought of doing something like going to the movies by myself sounded insane. But why? Are we worried strangers might think we don’t have friends? 

Why do we care what they think? I mean we do care, usually, but why? Do we think they are doubting our self worth? That they are feeling sorry for us? 

Hello from Hvar, Croatia.

Hello from Hvar, Croatia.

Some people might feel sorry for a solo traveler eating alone. And they’re also feeling sorry for the couple glued to their phones and not talking to each other. And for the mom who’s screaming at her four kids running around. But most people who we think are worrying about us or judging us, they are not paying any attention to us at all. We are creating this drama in our heads. 

When you’re 20, you care what everyone thinks. When you’re 40 you stop caring what everyone thinks. When you’re 60, you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place. — falsely attributed to Winston Churchill but still a brilliant quote

Our lives will be over soon. Sooner than you think. Maybe even tomorrow. Do we want to spend our final days hiding because someone we don’t know ‘might not like the sound of our voice on a podcast?’ I hear that fear a lot. ‘What would people say if I left this comfortable job to go work at a cafe in Mexico? They’d think I was crazy.’ ‘I want to date this person but I’m afraid of what people will say because of xyz.’ 

Other people don’t have a vote on how we live our lives. We can’t live for them because the adage is true: Our biggest regrets in life are not going after what might have been. 

A number of years ago, a woman named Bonnie Ware nursed patients in the final weeks of their lives. In the brief time she had with her patients, she connected with them on a very powerful level. Facing death is obviously a very complicated and emotional transition. 

Bonnie talked to her patients about their biggest regrets and what they’d do over if they could and she published their responses in an article and, later, a book called Regrets of the Dying

Here are the five most common regrets 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Bonnie ends her article by saying, “Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”

Did this give you chills? Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be brave. 

Changing how you act changes who you are. 

You will never have this day again. Make it matter. 

Do something this week that scares you a little. It doesn’t have to be solo travel but something that stretches you out of your comfort zone.

Let yourself be happy. Call a friend. Express your feelings. Stop working so hard — none of it will matter in the end. Be true to yourself, and don’t worry about what other people expect. 

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If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 8 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.