I make a point to take one trip overseas each year.
Travel has a way of expanding you in a way that nothing else can. As you discover other cultures and other languages, you also discover yourself in a brand new light. In a way, I don’t think you can really discover yourself or the world until you begin to travel.
At the last minute, I decided to make a change…
At the last minute, I decided to add a week in the Philippines to my itinerary. I had long been curious about the Philippines ever since I started hiring people there; Filipinos often speak perfect English, they are extremely polite, and the cost of living is extremely low. I decided that as long as I was “in the area,” (in Southeast Asia) I might as well check out that country…
What I didn’t know was that a week in the Philippines would rock my world…
Yes, the time in Turkey and Thailand was incredible – I saw the riots in Tasmin Square while political forces clashed in Istanbul, Turkey. I rode elephants and relaxed on beaches and ate far too much curry over the three weeks in Thailand. I experienced a Full Moon Party and had my biases challenged when I interacted with people whose gender was a mystery.
And of course, I rented a motor bike that I called “The Pink Flash.”
But the biggest breakthroughs and the greatest experiences occurred when I arrived in Cebu City, Philippines.
The reason I went to Cebu was because it came highly recommended by my customer service manager, Kirk, who lives there. Kirk has been a faithful member of Freedom Publishing Group for well over a year now, and I had the privilege of meeting him and spending time with him once I arrived.
Yes, I flew to the Philippines and met my employees that live there!
Yet no one seemed bothered by this. In fact, everyone was quite content with what they had.
The people that lived there felt no lack – they simply acknowledged what they had and did the best they could with the opportunities in front of them. In fact, when I asked them if they envied the rich or wished that they were like them, they responded it had simply never crossed their mind.
How refreshing. And how enlightening… to appreciate what you have.
They often lived in big families – sometimes eight to a small house – and they enjoyed this. Their sense of community and appreciation for life made them extremely happy. In America, we get so caught up… scratch that… *I* get so caught up in “getting more” that I often fail to stop and realize all that I have. And then I hear the voice of my two year old nephew, and I remember all that really matters.
But I digress…
Within seconds of my arrival, I was treated like a celebrity.
Girls blushed when I made eye contact with them. Hotel employees asked for my picture. Locals stopped at stared at me on the street. Female attendants would act professional to my face, and when I would turn, I’d see them giggling or high fiving a coworker.
I had NO IDEA what was going on, but I sure enjoyed it when the hotel employees would blush and get flustered every time that I would walk by!
It really hit me when, while on an island hopping tour, a group of eight beautiful Filipino models lined up to talk to me… something that would never happen in the states.
WHY was I so popular in the Philippines?
Simply put: I was different.
In the same way that we love British accents in America, I was popular because I had a beard and white skin. In fact, many people asked me if I was a celebrity… and when I said no, they encouraged me to move to the Philippines, because I would become one.
In fact, one very sweet hotel attendant posted a picture of me on her Facebook, and within hours had over a hundred likes and dozens and comments from other Filipinos.
And while I certainly enjoyed the temporary ego boost and the feeling of being a local celebrity for a short time… I learned an extremely valuable lesson.
I’m not sure when I realized it, but it hit me like a ton of bricks…
Being in that environment taught me that everything is relative.
In America, I am a simple man. I own very little, I make a decent living, and I experience as much of life as is humanly possible. And although I live a pretty unique life, no one looks up to see who just walked by.
But in the Philippines, I was a king. A celebrity. An honored guest. And very rich.
I didn’t understand this… until I boarded the plane to leave the Philippines. A woman who had lived in America for five years sat next to me, and I explained the situation. She agreed that I indeed looked like a celebrity and that I indeed was very handsome. But I asked her, “But no one reacts like this in America.”
Her answer blew me away.
She said, “Well, everyone is that way in America.”
All our brains know how to do is compare. We FORGET how blessed we are because all we know how to do is compare to those around us. We forget that half the world lives on $2 per day or less, because all we see is wealth and abundance. We whine about our problems because we are comparing ourselves to our neighbors, who are comparing THEMselves to another neighbor.
We think our problems are devastating because we compare our problems to our peers’. If we compare our problems to the parents who lost their children at Sandy Hook, our problems are non-existent. When we compare our incomes to those who have nothing, we suddenly realize how blessed we are… until we forget, and then return to comparing ourselves to what we see on TV.
Tony Robbins did a regular series for awhile in which he interviewed people who had gone through tragic experiences, but had remained happy and successful. At the end, Tony concluded that those of us who are average “have no problems.” We have no excuse to be unhappy. He is right. The only problems that we have are those that we create in our mind.
Upon making this realization in the Philippines, I whipped out my trusty journal, and I wrote this:
“Everything is relative. My wealth, my problems, and my emotions are all comparisons. Set it up to win.”
I realized that I am constantly comparing myself – my problems to other people’s, my wealth to others’, and even my emotions are comparisons to previous emotions (“This is better than I expected, therefore I am happy!”). Now I simply ask the question, “Who am I comparing myself to, and how can I set it up so that I can feel good now, be thankful now, and be excited now?”
Once I started asking that question, I felt myself expand. All of a sudden, I always have something to give. And when I live in that place, my work is better, I am kinder to my neighbor, I am more confident, and I share more.
Recently, I decided that the focus of my business would change from one that was always trying to GET, and instead focus on always trying to GIVE. This realization was part of that shift.
While I hope you get to experience the Philippines one day, my hope for you is that you don’t need to travel overseas to appreciate what you have.