When traveling you will be put to tests from time to time. Life events seem to come in waves and are multiplied when traveling compared to when you are at home where there is a rhythm to life. On the road, you will have to rely on your gut to make decisions – sometimes quick decisions. I am a firm believer in preparation for all parts of life – exercise for the body, continuing education for the mind, prayer and meditation for the spirit. You have to stay on your game so when opportunities or conflict arise, you will be present to make the right decisions. Going with your gut will prove to be advantageous, and potentially save you in some tough situations. There have even been decades of research completed on the subject showing that the gut might actually be like a ‘second brain’.
We have had a few times in these 8 months that were borderline ‘gut calls’ but might be better classified as ‘changes in plans’. Making the last minute decision to travel to San Pedro de Atacama based on things we heard about it ended up being one of our highlights of the Journey so Far. We knew we would love the beautiful landscape and adventures that were offered in the region. Making that decision was an easy one.
We also made a similar change in Lisbon, Portugal staying in that beautiful city for 2.5 weeks when we originally planned 3 days. That ended up being a blast as we enjoyed the festivities that take place in June, roamed all parts of the scenic town, and made some cash doing the Lisbon Hustle.
When I am talking about ‘gut decisions’, I mean the idea of the last second decisions where you have to act now in order to get yourself out of a jam or take advantage of a rare opportunity. I recall a trip to New York City when Nikki and I were there with our moms for an extended weekend about 7 years ago. We were having a great time discovering Manhattan when we were put in a tough spot where we just could not get a cab and the ladies were done walking for the day.
A well-dressed man on the street noticed our problem and approached me letting me know he had a car available. We discussed a price, then he walked us to the alley where the very nice car was ready. I opened the door for the ladies to get in and as I was continuing to survey the situation, I didn’t like the way that the original guy was making eye contact with our driver who was still outside of the car.
It just didn’t sit right. My gut told me to bail. I immediately let the ladies know we were out of there. I didn’t tell them the reasons immediately but just told them we had to go. I have no idea if I was overreacting or if my intuition was spot on. But nothing bad happened by walking away at that moment.
Recently, while in Indore, India we had a similar ‘gut’ situation. As we were walking around the Rajwada celebration for preparation of Diwali, the action was vibrant. People crowding the streets, scooters and motorcycles everywhere, and noise coming from every angle. Not many Americans make it to this beautiful city so we were the center of attention. All eyes were on us and many children and young adults asked for selfies and photos.
We try to never let people down when asking for photos because it’s such a fun time and you never know if we will be the last American faces they see for a long time. It’s important that we share the love as we travel since we are guests in their country.
After a 20-minute session of photos with a pack of kids and teens, Nikki and I were able to make our way back to the path of vendor shopping and checking out the offerings of the Indore Market. I noticed that one of the young men continued to follow us. He wore a shirt that helped him stick out.
I told Nikki we should pause and look at a few things and told her to stay on ‘Yellow’. ‘Yellow’ is a great key phrase that we picked up from the book Spy Secrets that can Save Your Life which we use often. Staying on ‘Yellow’ means to be careful we might be in a weird situation. Not necessarily dangerous, just different. So after I told her about the guy and we remained cautious together, we changed our direction and proceeded on.
Well, after about 7 minutes, the young man was behind us again. It’s important in these situations, per Spy Secrets, that you make direct eye contact with anyone that is putting you in an awkward situation. It makes them aware that YOU are aware.
I turned, made eye contact, stopped, held Nikki behind me, and asked him why he was following us. He didn’t understand. At that moment, based on his response and body language, I did not feel threatened. We were also surrounded by hundreds of fun loving, kind people that only wanted us to have a good time. I felt safe but I still did not want to be followed.
I saw a teenager and grabbed his father. Most teenagers in India seem to speak some English. It’s better to ask the parents first before going to the kid, so I asked the father if he could speak English and he then turned to his son indicating his son could. I asked the teenager to translate to the young man “Why are you following us?”. The teenager asked me to repeat it because of the odd phrase. I told him that the guy had been following us and I needed to know why.
The teenager then translated into Hindi and the young man gave us an odd look (not threatening, just odd) and turned away quickly, like he was embarrassed, and went in the opposite direction. We never saw him again. I thanked the teenager and his father and we continued on. Shortly after this event, I was interviewed by the Regional News Station which brought more attention, selfies, and photos, but no odd situations.
I did feel bad in a way not knowing if the young guy was just in awe of seeing Americans for the first time. I have no idea if he had bad intentions or not. Regardless, it wasn’t worth it. The behavior was out of the ordinary for the situation and my gut told me it wasn’t right.
So many times people have their gut tell them something and they don’t listen only to regret it in the end. You have to listen when the time comes. I described negative situations in this post but there have also been several positive situations when listening to my gut turned into a great dinner with new friends, having wine with an older gentleman that needed an ear, or heading to a remote island for 2 days on a boat.
You have to prepare for those moments with constant education and practice so when the time does come you are calm enough to recognize it and react.
Whether it is in your profession, your sport, or your travels, practice and discipline will help you get to a place where you can be present in the moment. That presence will ‘feed’ your gut to make the right decisions.