Best Traveler

Best Traveler

When I was growing up, my parents devised a tactic for getting my brother and sister and I to behave on a trip. At the beginning of every excursion, my parents would announce that whoever behaved the best would win the “Best Traveler Award.” I don’t know how this affected my brother and sister’s attitudes during the trip, as I recall, they were often pretty difficult travelers, but I took this award seriously. Very seriously. I wanted to get my hands on that prize (editorial note: there was never an actual “prize” associated with best traveler, it was just the honor of being labeled best traveler). Martha Beck wrote an article a few years ago for Oprah Magazine about her need for praise and I can’t help but feel this may have been the start of my own unrequited love for those proverbial gold stars.

This hedonistic desire for appreciation, gratitude, and praise can stem from any number of factors. Being a straight-A student, a teacher’s pet, a parent’s favorite, a star athlete. Any way in which you can receive unadulterated praise can cause you to strive for it even more. ┬áBeing “the best” becomes part of your identity. It makes you who you are and without it you feel you have failed. It also makes you competitive, controlling and prone to comparing your life to others (which we already know is a bad idea).

I remember on those family trips long ago, I would work so hard to be best traveler, taking mental notes every time I bit my tongue about an ugly hotel room, a less than stellar meal, or a hogged arm rest. My sister was much more relaxed about the award. In all honesty, she didn’t care one bit about winning. (Probably because she knew there was no actual prize involved). So she would freely complain, roll her eyes, send food back and whine. However, I remember one trip in particular, when our travels were coming to an end and for whatever reason (because I know it wasn’t honestly deserved), my mom decided to award my sister with best traveler. I was flabbergasted! I knew she didn’t earn it. There was no way she had been better than me! I had worked so hard for that award and I was absolutely crushed to find it slipping from my grasp.

Looking back on this crushing defeat as an adult, I can begin to understand how much I was hurting myself. I had put my entire definition of self into the praise I received and when I wasn’t the recipient of that praise, I felt lost and unsure of myself. My sister, on the other hand, put no weight in labels or awards, she just lived her life, freely and with abandon. There wasn’t an unequal balance of weight on one characteristic over another. So she could handle getting yelled at with the same attitude as getting praised. They were all equal parts of who she was, not the sole definition. I learned, at a young age, and am still learning now, that to define ourselves by the praise and acceptance of others is to never really know our true self. Stop defining, stop setting boundaries and start living.

Relax and Enjoy the Trip


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