On a recent cab ride to the airport the driver asked me where we were going, to which I replied ‘Iceland’. He looked at me through the rear view mirror and asked, ‘Why Iceland’. I paused and thought for a minute and said, ‘For the experience’. Although he seemed satisfied with my answer, it in turn caused me to reflect on how I defined experience, and why I believe that creating new experiences is important.

“Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.” — Ernest Hemingway

While in High School I was fortunate to be able to spend a week in an Outward Bound program learning how to canoe, kayak, rappel, etc. — which turned out to be an amazing experience. I also had an opportunity to take a week off to learn how to shear (sheep), which sounded like it would be a great experience — it was AND wasn’t! And when faced with a choice of going to college, or working and traveling, my father encouraged me to travel saying the experience would be good for me — and it was.

In contrast, when I began applying for work early in my career I was often told that I didn’t have any experience, or that I needed more experience — and I used to wonder how I was supposed to get experience if people aren’t willing to give me an opportunity to gain the experience. Later in my career I found it difficult to transition to new roles as companies saw value in leveraging my past experience.

But what is experience? What does it mean to have experience? What does it mean to experience the wonder of nature, architecture, food, or art? Is it simply enough to take some photos, join a tour, eat a meal, or visit a museum?

The word experience is derived from the Latin word experientia — the testing of possibilities, participation in events, skill gained by practice, which itself comes from experīrī — to put to the test, try or attempt. It seems experience is best used to describe the knowledge and/or perspective gained from having been personally engaged in a specific event or activity, with the key word being ‘engaged’.

“The only source of knowledge is experience” — Albert Einstein

Learning is not accomplished by reading but through the application of what we’ve read. Open books don’t always result in open minds. It’s possible to gain another perspective without achieving clarity of our own. Knowledge is gained through passionate curiosity — not passive observation. Although what we see, taste, and touch is largely the same — it is our experiences that are unique and personal.

“Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity 
 To seize everything you ever wanted 
 One moment 
 Would you capture it or just let it slip?” — Eminem

But why do I think it’s all about the experience? Because life is finite, and our time is limited. If we’re fortunate, at the end of our lives we will have the memories of our experiences to look back on fondly. We only one opportunity, one life to live, one moment at a time. Live for no regrets. Let your experiences be your legacy. Don’t just exist, live!

Don’t Just
 Don’t just learn, experience.
 Don’t just read, absorb.
 Don’t just change, transform.
 Don’t just relate, advocate.
 Don’t just promise, prove.
 Don’t just criticize, encourage.
 Don’t just think, ponder.
 Don’t just take, give.
 Don’t just see, feel.
 Don’t just dream, do. 
 Don’t just hear, listen.
 Don’t just talk, act.
 Don’t just tell, show.
 Don’t just exist, live.”

— Roy T. Bennett

Originally published at medium.com