The toughest road you'll ever travel

Hitting the gym at 5am to get your workout in. Becoming an entrepreneur. Going vegan. The road less traveled is never an easy one. I realized that in a very literal sense years ago when I found myself crammed into an overnight train headed from Beijing to rural China.

There were three of us to each tiny, stiff bench; a few crates of clucking livestock to my right; and at the end of the car a bathroom—but it was basically just a hole in the floor. How did I get there?

Earlier that month I had been googling things to do on my vacation in Beijing. I clicked my way to a picture of a beautiful, fifth century temple. It was teetering on stilts and built high up into the side of a mountain.

It took my breath away.

I knew my less-traveled road to see it wasn’t going to be easy: it was a very long trip, I didn’t speak Mandarin, I’d be traveling solo. But I bought that third-class train ticket anyway.

If you’re headed down a road less traveled, perhaps some of these reflections that gave me comfort can take some of the bumps out of your journey too.

1/ Remember what stirs your soul.
Curiosity, spirituality, loving a good challenge and a million other things all kept me headed toward that cliffside temple. Maybe the thrill of learning to speak flawless French makes you want to live abroad in Paris. Or fitting into a dress that’s been snug for a while spurs you to order tea when everyone else is getting the molten chocolate cake for dessert. Keep your motivation top of mind so that—even if others do—you’ll never ask yourself, “Why the heck am I doing this?”

2/ Find your fellow travelers.
You may occasionally feel lonely when you’re going against the grain but know that you’re never alone. No matter what you’re pursuing, someone else is likely doing it too. Find the Facebook group where you can link up with other people who are exploring Transcendental Meditation. Click your way to the Reddit feed full of people who’ve sacrificed having a kitchen to get more room in their tiny urban apartments.

3/ Get ahold of your gratitude.
Chances are you’re not just doing something other people lack the bravery to do. You’re probably doing something other people lack the ability to do. Maybe they’d love to jump out of a plane but can’t swing the expensive skydiving fees. Or they’d give their all to finish a triathlon but can’t take time away from family members who need them so that they can train. When you’re griping to yourself about how hard this is, remember it’s an opportunity many people don’t have the chance to say yes to. But you do—and you did!

4/ Expect that this is going to be hard.
I said expect. Not dwell on the fact . . . or obsess over it. . . or become overwhelmed by it. Yes, there will be some discomfort to deal with when you decide to be different. So brace for the bumpy parts of your journey. But don’t forget to . . .

5/ Expect that this is going to be easy too.
Not only will your passion, enthusiasm and excitement carry you a fair amount of the way, you can also hitch a few rides on this road as well. No one says you have to prep every meal for the rest of your life as a vegan. There are meal prep services happy to cater to you and give you a rest every once in a while. Getting your side hustle on? You can take a course with other 5-to-9-ers who are doing the same and discover shortcuts to success.

6/ Know that other people’s reactions aren’t always about you.
When you don’t conform to what everyone else is doing it can sometimes make other people question their choices. Consider that any negative comments others toss your way might actually be self-doubt of their own. No need to reconsider your path—which you’ve likely already given plenty of thought. You’re fine staying in your lane.

7/ Go ahead, congratulate yourself.
What other people think of doing “someday,” you’re doing “today.” There’s real power, undeniable boldness and incredible beauty in that journey—no matter where it ends.

If you’d like to see pictures I took of that incredible temple, just click here or follow me on Instagram.

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