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Don’t Miss Out on Your Own Story: On the Road with Christy Campbell

This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

As a stated “recovering conformist,” Christy is now convinced that living a comparison-free, mindful life is as non-conformist as it gets in today’s world. Here’s her story.

Tell us about yourself.  

I’m a story-teller at heart. I love telling mine, as well as other people’s. But I’ve noticed something: those who only dream of a lifestyle that includes soaking up experiences in foreign lands – and even those who live that life – are constantly looking at others and want more. By doing so, we feel we are not “achieving” enough, that we could be doing something cooler or be living a story that had more color, more pizzazz. Too often we wish we could be more like that person, have their experiences, live their story, take their journey.

Can you tell about a time when you’ve felt that way, and how you overcame it?

I think a lot of us, if not all of us, battle with the monsters of comparison at some point. But comparison is a funny thing because it’s multi-directional. I have a few friends who are living in places I’ve only ever dreamed of going or are doing work that I dub as “epic.”

I’ll see a Facebook post or get an email update from them and all of the sudden the fact that my day consisted of me sitting on my couch, answering emails and surfing the web seems so un-grand and unimportant. But then I go home for a visit and hear over and over, “Wow, you’re so brave! You’re so adventurous! I could never live your life.”

And I laugh because it reminds me that the minute I start comparing my trip, my day, my current situation with someone else’s, I’m missing out on how great my own story is, simply because it’s mine.

I want to find a way to break through that misconception and skewed belief. I want people to know that their story is amazing. Whether they’re sitting in the same farmhouse in the Midwest where they grew up (hello, family!) and planning a trip to the State capital or they just gained their 50th passport stamp, their journey is amazing, valuable and worth telling.

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What makes any  journey “amazing, valuable and worth telling?”

I love the way A Deeper Story put this: “It’s easy to tell someone your opinion. It’s hard work telling them your story.” I’m really good at spouting my opinions but it can be a much more humbling experience to tell my story instead. And not the blow-your-mind kind of tale (although I love those too) but the full story. You know, the stories that contain details we’d rather leave off Instagram.

But I’m an avid reader and have found so much inspiration, encouragement and empathy in the pages and posts of those willing to share their stories in all their gritty glory. At the end of the day, regardless of what our resume or Instagram feed projects, we’re all human and there can be a lot of encouragement in talking about that. But to borrow the wise words of Donald Miller, “Change the world around you by living, not just talking about, a better story.”

Tell us a memorable story:

I tagged along on a trip to Malaysia with my boyfriend, who was attending a conference. I had no agenda other than to explore, do a little work from a local coffee shop and eat a lot of good food. He, on the other hand, was going to be meeting with his company’s top management, attending a lot of workshops, and planning his department’s future. Our trip there was rather harried, and while we miraculously made our final flight, my boyfriend’s luggage did not.

With his meetings starting early the next morning, my boyfriend realized that he’d be either wearing his now disheveled shorts and t-shirt or a hotel bathrobe to his conference the next morning unless he didn’t find something fast. Our driver gave us the news: there was one late-night shopping option in a rough neighborhood. We told him to hit the gas, and he got us to the store with a mere eight minutes til closing.

Enlisting the help of the entire floor’s staff, we rushed around the store pulling belts, socks, pants, undershirts, shoes and ties from various areas of the men’s department. The security guard produced the “winning” shirt (of course, this ultimately became a competition for all of us) and the rest of the outfit came together with help from a gaggle of giggling clerks who morphed from shy sales assistants to pro outfitters within minutes. They even called up the store’s seamstress to hem up some pants while we checked out.

For that moment in time, language and culture didn’t matter in a city where our skin color alone heralded us as tourists and our backgrounds varied drastically from those who helped us. The security guards opened up the now gated entrance as the staff escorted us out and waved goodbye. We found our taxi driver waiting outside and we loaded up his trunk, still laughing at how all of these people had come together to save the day. No bathrobes needed.

Looking back, we both agreed it was a great trip. But our favorite part? Late night speed shopping and our own edition of “What Not to Wear: Conference in a Foreign Land.”

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Have you learned anything from your time abroad?

I never thought I’d own up to this, but I love a good bus tour. I discovered them in the UK, and I won’t lie: at the time, a bus tour sounded rather lame. As it turned out, it was one of my favorite trips to date: I didn’t have to do any of the planning, I didn’t have to find places to eat or stay, and I saw WAY more than I would have on my own.

I also met some great people (I’m still friends with the girl that I bunked with) and our guide (who doubled as a bus driver and full time entertainer) not only gave us an amazing tour, but he’d done the route so many times he’s actually compiled a CD with perfectly timed songs to serenade us as we mounted a spectacular vista or to feature an artist as we rolled into their hometown.

The great debate: aisle or window?

Window! Seriously, this is a debate?

Best travel tips. Go:

1) Skip the guide book and grab a novel set in or about the place you’re going.

2) Check out the tipping situation in the country before you go. I can’t tell you how many times I’m sitting in a taxi or at a restaurant, ready to pay my tab and unsure of correct tipping protocol.

3) Speaking of tipping: leave a tip for the housekeeping staff. They’re some of the hardest working folks and possibly the most under-appreciated, as you rarely interact with them.

4) Try an app like Postagram and send your own pictures as postcards.

5) If you can, learn the language basics (like ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ and ‘Hello’) for the country you’re visiting. Use them with your award-winning smile and you’ll be amazed at how much better your trip will be.

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Anything else we should know?

Want to know a secret? I have a bizarre personal aspiration to grab a flag and see if I can look/sound convincing enough to hijack someone’s tour group and lead them astray. I mean, around. Lead them around, of course.

Where are you headed next?

I’m en route to Mexico as I write this and plan to stay for a while, so I’m guessing there will be lots of salsa–on my chips and with my hips–in my near future. I haven’t seen much of Latin America yet, so I’m pretty stoked to learn the language and go explore!

Follow Christy’s journey on her blog, Lane Letters  or via Instagram @lane_letters

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