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I love to travel! I’m pretty sure my husband thinks I’m a total nut job about it. Before we met, he hadn’t really traveled much. According to Facebook, we’ve now been to 41 places together — in just a few short years. He doesn’t understand why I love it so much and he smiles in amusement every time I start talking about a new trip.

We just got back from a trip to Paris. Rather than writing an entire novel about all the reasons I love to travel, or everything I loved about Paris, I thought I’d share just 4 concepts that were illustrated by my trip and that, if embraced and applied, can change your life.

  1. Life is 50/50

You’ll notice in this picture that we have rain coats and gloves on. When I imagined my pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower I wasn’t bundled up in so many layers that I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. But it was freezing the whole time we were there. And this particular day it rained almost the entire day.

We often have this picture in our head about what our life should be like. We think we should be happy all the time. And that if we aren’t… something has gone terribly wrong. But that’s not how life works.

Life is 50/50. Half the time, you’re going to have negative emotion. And that’s ok. Fighting against that negative emotion is where we cause ourselves problems. If I had spent my trip focusing on how awful the weather was, it could’ve easily ruined my trip. But hello, we’re in Paris. Who cares if it’s cold and rainy?

Look at all the amazing things in your life. And then apply this same principle to the parts you don’t love as much. You’re here on earth having this amazing human experience, so what that ______________?

This picture isn’t what imagined but I still think it turned out pretty great. And so did our trip. We bundled up and enjoyed the heck out of it. Where in your life can you figuratively bundle up and just enjoy the heck out of it?

2. Question Everything

Before my first trip to Europe, I thought an intersection was 4 streets coming together. That’s just what it was. No need to question it or think about it. But in Europe they have intersections where 5, 6, 7, or even 8 streets come together into one intersection. It’s crazy! My brain was freaking out trying to figure out how I would ever drive in such an intersection.

It was especially fun to listen to my Dad. This was his first trip to Europe and he was completely flabbergasted by the intersections. He’d count all the streets as his face was filled with child-like wonder.

There are a LOT of things in our brains that we don’t even realize we should question. You don’t know what you don’t know, right? Our brains have decided they are facts so it simply doesn’t occur to us to question whether they really are or not.

The world is full of endless possibilities. But you can’t see them when you’ve cemented ideas into your brain as facts. Question everything you know, everything you believe. What if you’re wrong? What if it could be different? How could your life change if that thing you believe is true, isn’t actually true?

3. Appreciate the Differences

It’s so fun to experience different cultures and see what’s different about the way we live. In the US, we tip our waiters/waitresses for good service. And because of that, they tend to check on you quite frequently to see if you need anything. The thing I like most about this is always having something to drink. I hate it when I spend half my meal with an empty glass.

Not only do they not tip in France, they don’t check on you. Ever. You can sit at your table for 3 hours just chatting away with your friends and they won’t stop by a single time to see if you need anything. They bring the food and then you’re on your own until you flag someone down for the check. The thing I like most about this is you can just sit back and enjoy time with your loved ones without feeling like you’re being pushed out because they want the table or without being interrupted every 10 minutes.

Neither way is right or wrong. They are just different. Both can be appreciated.

Most of us aren’t experiencing new cultures everyday so let’s apply this principle to everyday life.

My hubby and I have very different parenting styles. It’s so easy for my brain to think my way is right and his way is wrong. That’s just what human brains do. But what if neither way is right? What if neither way is wrong? What if they are just different and both can be appreciated? What if my kids actually need both to learn what they need to learn and turn into the beautiful humans they will be someday?

Look for situations in your life where someone else does something different from you and learn how to appreciate the difference.

4. Notice the Similarities

It’s pretty easy to see differences, especially when visiting other cultures. But I think we often overlook the fact that we are a lot more alike than we are different.

When I look around at home, everyone is playing on their phone. All the time. We no longer know how to just sit and wait. In the line at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, before a movie starts, etc. I thought it was extremely amusing that everyone on the Metro in Paris was playing on their phone. We’re not so different after all.

With the parenting style example I used above, the most important thing to remember is that my husband and I both love our kids. We both want what’s best for them. Just because it looks different, doesn’t mean it isn’t actually the same. If I listed out every way in which we’re different and every way in which we’re the same, our similarities would far outweigh our differences.

Think of a person or a relationship that you’re struggling with. It’s likely you’ve been focusing on all the ways in which in you’re different. Look for the ways in which you’re the same and you’ll find that you’re not that different after all.

At the end of the day, we’re all just humans, doing our very best with our human experience.

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