Today is my 34th birthday. Two months ago, my plan was to spend today in Thailand. It would’ve been yet another trip in my already-busy-rather-crazy schedule.

And now that April, May, and early summer are wiped clean of flights and plans, I’ve settled into a much needed, perhaps healthier routine: Reflection.

I’ve spent my life chasing answers, only to realize that life is really about the questions. And though I will spend my whole life learning, these are the things on this special day that I know to be true:

1. It’s a waste of time to worry about getting older. Life just gets better with age, experience, and expression. Turning 31 taught me that.

2. How we experience life is up to us. The best thing we can do is question absolutely everything, especially the systems in place, the governing bodies, and the status quo. Meeting people the world over taught me that.

3. We are truly insignificant, spinning around one star in a vast universe, alive for the blink of an eye. So how big of a mistake can we ever really make? Looking at the stars taught me that.

4. We are all driven by instinct, with a primitive mind that evolved to survive. Every animal on Earth shares this with us. Just because we are human doesn’t mean we are not animals, and just one part of the fabric of the earth. Time spent in the Galapagos taught me that.

5. Most of us judge ourselves much more harshly than anyone else does. A retreat in Mexico taught me that. 

6. Mother Nature does not need us, but we need her. Backpacking in the Alaskan backcountry taught me that.

34 Things I Know to Be True on my 34th Birthday
Nobody and nothing but nature for 8 days

7. Failure is only real when we refuse to see it as a learning experience and opportunity. Eight years of travel bogging taught me that.

8. Terrible things may happen to us, but letting it define our future keeps us in pain. The 12 steps taught me that.

9. People are mostly good. Solo travel taught me that.

10. When we let go of the need to be right, we can stop caring what other people believe, what religion they practice, and how they vote. What a wonderful world we would live in if nobody needed to be right or wrong. Spending time in quite different cultures taught me that.

train in sri lanka
It can change everything

11. We are not just similar, we are the same. On the atomic level, we are one. Meditation taught me that.

12. Being humble, acknowledging that I know almost nothing, and remaining open are the most important things I can do to enrich my life. Being alive taught me that. 

13. We don’t need a lot. When we have everything we need, anything beyond that is just grasping, greed, and societal pressure. Being almost broke taught me that.

14. Caring what other people think and making life choices based on the perception of others is the road to misery. Isolation taught me that.

15. There may be no greater gift you can give to another person than your pure, undivided attention. Being an auntie taught me that. 

16. Curiosity is one of the most beautiful human traits. When we let it drive us, there’s almost no end to the adventures that could unfold. Traveling in South Africa taught me that.

34 Things I Know to Be True on my 34th Birthday
Where my heart opened

17. There are plenty of misfits, people who want the world to be better, people who want to share and who don’t want more than they need. There can be a world without corporate greed, and it would work if we gave it power. It’s not naive, and it’s not unrealistic. Burning Man taught me that. 

18. True power is not about money, controlling others, or having more. It’s about being in full control of your energy, your thoughts, and your actions. Tantra taught me that.

19. Hospitality, beautiful moments shared with strangers, and a good meal are all we really need to be happy. Italy taught me that.

20. Contemplating our own death can help us to fully live. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, so are we happy with the life we are living now? Are we truly at peace at the end of each day? This is a question worth asking often. Getting caught in a flash flood in Tanzania taught me that.

Lushoto, Tanzania guide
I still love Tanzania, though

21. Everything is always changing. Becoming attached to things just the way they are is the recipe for suffering. Looking at even the down times as an opportunity can set us free. Buddhism taught me that.

22. Life is too short to wear clothes that are uncomfortable. Why not be comfortable? Lots of long-haul flights taught me that.

23. Fashion magazines and ads have us chasing perfection, but this body is the only one I will ever have, and it deserves my love and appreciation. Loads of work on self-love taught me that. 

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I almost didn’t post this photo because I felt like I didn’t look good enough. I was sucking it in, bloated from my period coming the next day, you know the drill. For most of my life, even when I weighed 10 pounds less than I do now, I have wasted energy on not feeling thin, beautiful, or ‘enough’. And you know what? Fuck that. This body has taken me on six 8+ day backpacking trips, down past 60 feet in the ocean on one breath, and so much more. I refuse to let anything make me feel inadequate anymore. I commit to this body, the only one I will ever have. I commit to loving it and seeing its uniqueness as beauty. We’re not all meant to look the same. And I cannot, just as everyone cannot, ever be an airbrushed image.

A post shared by Kristin Addis (@bemytravelmuse) on

24. Self-love is a voyage rather than a destination, and it requires constant gentleness and understanding. Self-care practices taught me that.

25. Stranger danger was a damaging thing to learn. Trusting strangers when our intuition tells us it’s alright to leads to the most wonderful adventures. Hitchhiking taught me that.

truck hitchhiking
The crew in the truck

26. It’s really important to get dirty. To remember we are creatures of the earth. We can’t love the earth if we don’t make an effort to know her. Backpacking taught me that.

27. Fear is crippling, and it’s pointless. We can learn to do it anyway. We can learn to do it all afraid. Taking off to the other side of the world alone with a one-way ticket taught me that.

28. It’s pointless to just dip one’s toe in. What’s the point of living if we don’t remind ourselves that we’re alive? The ocean taught me that.

34 Things I Know to Be True on my 34th Birthday
Beautiful Humpbacks, photo by Matthew Reichel

29. It’s not right that some people have so much and most people have nothing. Everyone deserves to be seen and treated like an equal. Confronting my privilege taught me that.

30. If I don’t take action to shape the world in the way I want it to be, then why am I here? Quitting my old job taught me that.

31. Negative things others say are really about them, and even if they seem like it, are rarely personal. It only hurts me if I believe them. Being on the Internet in this day and age taught me that.

32. Everything I experience is up to me. Life is perception. Perception is reality. My first months without alcohol taught me that.

33. Gratitude every damn day helps me see how lucky I am, and let go of what I don’t have. Days spent in hammocks in Mozambique taught me that.

34. I will never have concrete proof as to why I am here, and I will never have answers to most of my questions. That’s OK. I can flow with the not-knowing. It keeps it all interesting. It keeps me hungry and foolish.

Life taught me that.

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