213 life lessons learned, while speaking Trini across the world …

It’s been 16 years since I left Trinidad. That’s a long time to leave home … but I still get compliments about how fresh my accent is. I always get comments such as :

“You don’t sound like you’re from Trinidad at all”
“Your Trini accent is made up, right?”
“Is that what Trinidadians sound like? I have another friend from Trinidad and he doesn’t sound anything like you”

I go back to Trinidad quite frequently in relative terms. At least twice a year for the last 7 years. You only “lose” an accent, if you actually want to. I’ve managed to create two somewhat different linguistic identities. One for business and one for friends and family back in Trinidad. Anyway, this post isn’t really about my accent but rather a couple life lessons I learned, while keeping my accent.

1. Putting your happiness on lay away … is stupid.

Friends and strangers who read my blog always wonder why I shouldn’t wait till I’m retired or have all the bill paid off to wander around the world or do what I want.My response is always the same … those people have made a critical assumption : Everything will remain the same as it is NOW!

This is a delusion. They assume that they can follow their parents or grand parents and work towards that “one thing” they want for years, then everything will be great and fine. My question is always, “What if, what you got in the end, isn’t what you wanted?” … then what the fuck do you do? Well you can’t really do anything … because by then it usually too late for most people to make a change.

There will always be some new priority, emergency or just a change in perspective. I truly believe that this search for some esoteric “long-term pure happiness” from one particular situation or achievement is a marketing and TV movie dream. If you’re content with what you have, live in the now, all while enjoying the progress and changes, you’re making, then you’ll always be happy. Work towards a dream but don’t let it define your happiness.

2. I’m not waiting on my ship or someone else’s ship

Many people have this strange concept that there are “mysterious” forces at work in the universe. That you’re somehow destined to be lucky or not. How some deity/karma/rabbit’s foot/horseshoe/lucky underwear will force things to magically fall in place for them. You are “due” to win the lottery or will get swept away by prince charming any day now. “You deserve it” (as if others don’t).

I don’t believe in the flying spaghetti monster, monotheistic religion or beings with a goat’s head and human body. I don’t disparage people’s beliefs, but I do get a little crazy when they want to apply their belief to others who don’t believe as such. The happiest people I know are those who got up off their asses and did something about their own happiness. Happiness takes tons of work and it takes tons of work to remain happy. True Story!

As a practical person, I see the world as a very logical place with physical and social rules and understanding this has helped me live well in it. The universe owes you nothing, you owe it to yourself to be the master of where your life ends up.

3. Travelling isn’t that hard … seriously. And it’s not expensive either.

Look at this ad.

It’s everything that is wrong about the idea of travelling. White sands, white people, indentured servants … I wish I was a white plantation owner in the 1700’s looking at this ad … my thoughts would have been … “What’s the big deal? This is Tuesday afternoon with the other plantation owners … these people are damn fools!!”

People get up every day and go out the door to travel the world. They live, work, survive and thrive. In fact, the travel industry has made it very easy – but they have also created the perception that while it’s easy to get out … that getting out should be very expensive, and if you’re not spending a lot of money, then you’re just having a fucking shitty time in comparison to everyone else.

My advice … just get on that plane or train or bus … have enough money to eat, and everything else will work itself out. You’re not going to be first person to attempt travelling or the first person to do it.

4. Destiny is a stripper in Montreal. That’s the extent of what Destiny is. There is no such thing as Destiny.

There you go. I’ve freed you. I’ve saved you tons of money in therapy. Thank me anytime with a scotch.

I hate when people attribute the good or bad of a situation to Destiny. This is a standard excuse by most people for why they’re not happy or haven’t done something with their lives. Yes, I know that you’re cursing, thinking about kids born in war or the slums of Brazil/Trinidad/Sierra Leone … those circumstances suck! However, I believe that your limitations are not set by who you know, where you were born, what genes you have, how much money you have, how old you are right now, what you did before or other things that you can claim are your stamp of failure for life.

If you are determined enough there is a shitload of opportunities in life that are totally achievable with minimal cash, regardless of who you are.

5. You will actually learn how to interact with people

I’ve always been a loud, brash, somewhat obnoxious person in public. That’s not a bad thing, but it does put you at odds with certain personality types. Roaming around the planet has taught me to how to be more social, adapt, be more flexible, and, most importantly, understand non-verbal communication a lot better. It has helped me figure out situations even when I don’t speak the language or can’t understand the situation. It has made more independent, more open, and just a better person. There’s no reason to be scared that you might not have “it” in you. You’d be surprised how often you can surprise yourself.

6. Don’t spend time trying to impress people … live your life and being happy is the best way to convince people

Enough words and enough arguing. Just live by example and soon you’ll have people on your side when they see your results and how passionate you are. No need to “convince” them. Just show them that you are there, tell them how you got there, and they will start to realize that maybe you aren’t that crazy after all.

7. Always ask for directions
You don’t know everything. Full Stop!!!

In many cultures, there is a stigma that asking for help makes you look weak and ignorant. Well I have news; nothing makes you look weaker and more ignorant than pontificating about things you have no clue about. Don’t dance around the issue – just say I don’t know. Honesty is way smarter. Remember no one has it all figured out. No one!!!

8. Possessions own you, not the other way around
I admit, I’ve bought a lot of useless, unnecessary crap. I’ve spent a lot of money on clothes I don’t wear, shoes I don’t walk in and liquor I don’t drink. (Well I’ll eventually find some great use for all my scotch). The real reason that we buy expensive useless shit, is because there is a certain validation that comes with expensive crap from other sheep/people/consumers. The need to buy new crap dictates your life – it fixes you in one location with that house and furniture, and it governs how much money you need to earn. And it almost never actually enriches your life in any way. The less you own the better.

9. People aren’t the stereotype unless you’ve wandered along in their country
Not all Irish people are drunks, not all Americans are stupid, not all Brazilians samba and play football, most Germans hate Hitler. You get the idea. Go out, see the world and deconstruct your stereotypes without even trying. Look and respect people’s differences, try to adapt to them yourself and realise that to them you might seem backwards in many ways.

10. Making mistakes is ok and trying to please everyone is pointless, stupid and tiring.
NO words necessary there.

11. Don’t be cheap on the road.
It’s one thing to be frugal or thrifty on the road, especially if you finally mustered the courage to live that dream. When you travel on a budget and need to make your money last, it’s easy to be cheap. however, always to use the following question to prioritize an expense …

Will I come back here again, in my lifetime?

Be honest with yourself in answering that question in your mind. If you lie to yourself and you could not eat the food in Italy, drink the wine in France, or have sushi in Japan, you’re going to regret it for a long time. Being frugal is good, but it’s also important to splurge and not miss out on doing once-in-a-lifetime things. Who knows, for example, when you will get another chance to sail the Maldives or see a man hanging from hooks in Sri Lanka?! Being cheap only fills you with regret.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at rishi@rishiray.com

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