Life lessons come in many forms, from many places, and from many people. We took a thirteen day road trip around the South, exploring small towns and taking the time to get to know people along the way. Each of them had something to teach us, if only we were willing to listen.
Here are thirteen life lessons from the Deep South, one learned in each town we visited.
Want to read more about where the lesson came from? Click on the title, and you'll be taken to the blog post for that specific travel destination!
We had no expectations going into our trip, only to experience. Experience what, we weren't sure. In our very first town, we found exactly what we were looking for, without looking. The world is speaking to you. You just have to stand still and be quiet long enough to hear it.
A woman we met is running a store in town that IS the town. SHE is the town. Her passion is evident, and the people of the town rally around her. Believing in yourself is the first step to getting others to believe in you.
It’s all just a matter of willingness. How willing are you to get out of your comfort zone? To take a chance? To do the thing that scares you? We all live in routines. Don’t be scared to break them. Take a risk, take the chance, do the thing that makes you nervous. And if you don’t try to control it, and you just take that leap, it’ll work out. Three quarters of life is just showing up. Show up, stay open minded, and the world will deliver.
Do what you want. Do what you feel in your heart. You’re never stuck. You always have a choice. Find the thing that inspires you, and go for it. Make it happen. Remember, Lesson #1 taught us that if you show up, and give the world the opportunity to deliver, it will.
If you don’t have the means yourself, find someone that will take you to try the new thing you want to do. There's a million excuses - too old, too weak, too poor, too lazy. At the end of the day, that's all they are - excuses. Brush them aside and try something new. You might surprise yourself.
Most of the towns we visited were incredibly poor. You know what else we noticed? All the people were incredibly happy. They were in their hometown, with friends and family. What mattered to them was not that they had money, or that they were in a big city, or a glamorous suburb. They were with the people that they loved.
Step back for a minute. Yes, maybe you really want that loft in the city, that new sports car, that McMansion in suburbia. But is it the most important thing? Is it still what you want if you have to go it alone?
7.Your time on earth is valuable. Make sure you spend it in a way that will leave this place better than when you got here.
I met a woman in Memphis, TN who had been protesting at the same location for over 28 years, day in and day out. Can you even imagine? At the end of the day, I just want to know that I spent my time in a way that helped someone else.
Sitting in one place for 28 years isn't helping anyone. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there and preach about the cause you believe in. Practice what you preach. Get out there and DO something.
Slow down and take a minute to get to know the man behind the counter, the woman behind the bar, the man behind the guitar. You never know what connections you’ll make or who you’ll meet. And in life, and especially today, we could all use a little more nice. Most people work hard for what they have and are happy to share their stories with you, if you’re just willing to listen.
Notice I didn’t say the people you love, but the people who love you. Hold them up, encourage them to keep going when they feel like they can’t, carry their weight without complaint when they lean on you, no matter how heavily. Encourage them to follow even the craziest of their dreams.
Because one day down the road, I can tell you with the utmost certainty that you will need to lean on them. Maybe not tomorrow, and maybe not next week, next month, or next year. But there’s an ebb and flow to life and to love -sometimes you’re the one doing the lifting, and sometimes you’re the one being lifted. Carry them through. They will remember it, and so will you. And what is life without love? Arguably, nothing.
Don’t automatically discount someone based on their sex, the color of their skin, their tattoos, their piercings, their costume, whatever. At a most basic level, we’re all human. Our time here is limited. Get to know someone before you judge them. Keep an open mind. Welcome them in.
You never know when the day is going to come that things are going to change, be turned upside down on their head. Stop for a minute and think about the world 100 years ago. Think about how much has changed.
We’ve got no idea what the world will look like 100 years from now. Just don’t forget to stop, take a look around once in awhile, and appreciate what’s around you. Ferris Bueller said it best: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and take a look around once in awhile, you might miss it.”
Jobs evolve. People change. Your interests change. Don’t do something just because it’s what you’ve always done. There’s adventure in the unknown. Sure, it’s scary. But most things in life that are worth it usually are.
Life changes. Your wants change, your needs change, the things you envision for yourself change. Never stop learning, and never tell yourself that something you want to do is nothing more than a pipe dream. Any dream is a real dream, as long as you take the action to make it real.
Take time to slow down, enjoy the time you have, and reflect on where you’re headed. Where you’re headed might change, and that’s ok. Adjust your sails and keep moving forward. You'll get there way faster than the person lying on their back staring at the clouds.