The following has been excerpted from Not Cut Out for the 9 to 5, in which author Megan (Mindy) Scraper writes about the life lessons she learned after leaving a full-time, corporate job to travel extensively and start her own online business.

Colouring inside the lines

As we make our way through elementary school and then high school, then university, and then enter the workforce, we spend the majority of our first 25 years of life learning how to obey: how to colour within the lines, how to follow deadlines; how to sit down, keep quiet, pay attention and do what we’re told. Some people thrive in this environment and others don’t, but either way, we learn that these are values of our society, and there’ll be consequences if we don’t comply.

When you grow up in a system like this, you learn pretty quickly that it’s easier to just follow the rules and do what you’re told than it is to go against the current and rock the boat. That’s not to say having rules is bad, though, like for reinforcing certain societal values and things like basic human rights, but when we’re continuously in an environment where things are regimented, and 90 percent of our lives are controlled and evaluated by someone else, our brains eventually become programmed to just fall into place and serve requirements bestowed upon us. We forget that we have the capacity to decide whether we want to be a part of this matrix at all.

“Shit disturbers” and success

This is why “shit disturbers” and ADHD kids grow up into revolutionary adults. I literally Googled “famous people + ADHD,” and these are some people who came up:

Will Smith, Bill Gates, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Albert Einstein, Emma Watson, Michael Jordan, John Lennon, Vince Vaughan, Stevie Wonder, John F. Kennedy, Leonardo da Vinci, Stephen Hawking, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Woody Harrelson, Mozart, Terry Bradshaw, Michael Phelps, Alfred Hitchcock, Beethoven, George Bernard Shaw, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Babe Ruth, Richard Branson, even Galileo.

I don’t know if this list is 100 percent accurate or if some of these people were only speculated to have ADHD, but my point stands either way: people who reach impeccable heights of personal and professional mastery, and evolve into some of the most unique and impactful minds that have ever come to be, don’t evolve this way from sitting still and “drinking the Kool-Aid.” They make their own rules and march to the beat of their own drum.

Reprogram your brain through travel (not a “vacation”!)

House with straw roof on grass - Travel and the mindset of 'I can'

From Brothers Bungalows resort in Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia

Searching for your own unique life path while mentally programmed to “conform-or-die” is really hard. The next step for anyone here is to reprogram your brain to think for yourself again, and one of the most powerful ways to do this is through foreign travel.

When I mention “travel,” I don’t mean spending seven days on an all-inclusive vacation. I used to think that travelling meant setting foot in another country, but my perspective completely changed after my first big trip to Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia when I was 22. It gave me a completely different point of reference and opened my eyes to why staying in hotels and doing “touristy” things—AKA vacationing—is a completely different experience from travelling.

  • Hotels and resorts are walled gardens, safe and controlled environments where guests are only supposed to see what they’re “supposed” to see. Raw authenticity is limited in an environment that’s consciously designed and managed to deploy a specific user experience.
  • All-inclusive vacation experiences take the system even further, as people are escorted on and off the resort property on a timely schedule according to systems in place by transport accommodation companies. Things are usually planned well ahead of time, and there isn’t much room for the natural or sporadic flow of human movement, aside from whatever happens among the people who’ve ended up at the same property at the same time. From activities to dining options and sometimes even curfew, there’s not a whole lot of active decision-making to do.

Staying at resorts or pre-planning a vacation to a tee is a wonderful thing for people who want to turn their brains off, chill out and unwind, but this isn’t the style of travel that’ll help you become an individual thinker again.

Vacationing simply extends the structure of our systematic lives to another location, where we continue living within a set routine or schedule that’s been put in place by some higher authority above. We’re all ushered along by guidelines and timelines, and our “free-thinking” is only useful concerning bacon or sausage.

When life doesn’t require our input, autopilot ensues. We turn on, we do what we must and then we turn off. Vacationing reinforces a similar system.

Travelling, on the other hand, dumps this system on its head and leaves you to your own devices. Your entire experience is curated on the fly. Everything requires a decision, and there are dozens of moving parts impacting each decision you make (as well as your decision-making skills) throughout each and every day. Travelling puts you in a position where you don’t have a choice but to make choices.

Here’s why travel travel is different:

  • You’re not in a walled garden, you’re out in the world. Some places are beautiful and safe, and other places are raw and unforgiving. The only “user experience” is what you yourself decide to do, and then choose to make of the given situation.
  • You end up being exposed to people from all over the world, all at once: people at various points in their timeline of life, working within various budgets and ETAs; people heading in various directions, maybe coming from where you just came from or going somewhere you might not dare visit. You might hang out with a stranger for one single day or choose to stay with your new friend for weeks on end. Deadlines are in place by choice and fate.
  • Your day is full of decisions, and your travel experience is actively created by you and whomever you might be with, which evolves daily. What’s for breakfast? When are we getting lunch? Are you going to that thing? Where are we staying tonight? Yo, it’s that guy from Tuesday! Everything in your world is a mixture of do-it-yourself (DIY) and going with the flow, shaped by your own input and desires.

If this sounds stressful to you, or if it sounds like a lot of work, then you probably need it the most. Real travelling means making real life decisions all day, every day, everywhere; it forces you to tune in and figure out what you want, and then take action to make it happen.

It’s real life.

“Real” travel changes people for the better

Pool surrounded by brown building and foliage - Travel and the mindset of 'I can'

La Sultana hotel in Marrakech, Morrocco

This type of travelling changes people. It changes the way your brain is wired. You realize that you’re entirely in control of your own life experiences, and that you’re entirely in control of where you end up and what you have to deal with because of it.

If you want to go somewhere, you just go. If you’re late, nobody’s going to suspend you. If you want to spank an ass, spank an ass; just make sure it’s wanted in return, and know that even if it’s wanted, you still might have to throw down with someone bigger than you and then have your nose cracked back into place by a Thai bartender with a dart hanging out of his mouth. Nobody’s gonna get sued, and everyone involved will receive free buckets.

Travel opens up the door to impulsive decisions and wild situations. Familiar patterns dissolve and re-establish themselves in ways that would never happen under controlled, systematic circumstances, and each situation you’re in will be the direct result of your own desires and motives, whether you’re prepared to accept that or not.

Travel teaches you to have an idea of where you want to end up, but also that the zestiest experiences come from welcoming the flow of unforeseen attractions and taking the universe up on opportunities that unfold before you by sheer luck and divine timing.

You learn to connect with other people you vibe with, and part of the magic is intertwined with the odds that you might never see these people again—and certainly never in the here and now of that particular moment. You learn to engage and to strike up conversations. You learn to be brave, to say “yes” to things you might normally say “no” to, and you learn to love the rush of stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Travel is life-changing because you learn to embrace the world and participate in the creation of your own experiences.

It’s a beautiful thing, being forced to create, because you learn quite quickly the type of world you want to create. You learn what you like, what you don’t like, who you’re attracted to and what you’re repulsed by. You learn which challenges you’re willing to take on and how to observe your way towards challenge acceptance. You learn your turn-ons and your “hard nos.” You learn to shape your world according to whatever you want, while letting others do the same.

No expectations—cultivating happiness, confidence and self-knowledge

Author beside large statue in Thailand - Travel and the mindset of 'I can'

Koh Samui, Thailand

There are no expectations to be a certain kind of someone. The characters we play in our “real” lives fall to the wayside, because when you travel, you can be anybody—which means, sometimes for the first time in our lives, we can discover and be our own authentic selves.

Not only does this tint the lens through which we perceive the world, it changes the way we perceive ourselves. It shifts our minds into new dimensions of processing and connectivity that just aren’t required of us when we’re living on auto-pilot, doing our best to conform. Travel is life-changing because you learn who you are at your core and you learn how to present that person to the world.

I believe that anyone who can travel should, but the most wonderful thing about the lessons of travel is that you don’t actually need to explore foreign lands at all. The lessons wrapped up in travel are ultimately about buying into the state of mind that you create your own happiness by creating your own reality, based on who you are at your authentic core—and everyone has the ability to tap into that state of mind, regardless of where you are in the world.

What matters is that you increase the variety of experiences you have under your belt by trying new things and meeting new people. Increasing the number of experiences you have to draw upon will profoundly impact your capacity to perceive everything else in your life, and it’ll also enhance your own capabilities. When you discover that you’re a more capable human, you’ll find yourself gaining confidence as well.

Double down on your confidence with intuitive guidance, and there, you’ll have the internal foundation to navigate anything.

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Mindy (@mindythelion) spends six to eight months of the year travelling the world and creating social media content for luxury resorts. Storytelling is her passion, and the goal of every project she takes on is to identify that “je ne sais quoi” each genuine luxury resort has to offer and capture it through writing, photography and video to share these stories with the world.

Front cover of book - Travel and the mindset of "I can"Excerpted from Not Cut Out for the 9 to 5 with permission of Megan Scraper, © Megan Scraper 2017.
images 1-4: © Megan Scraper