After a much-needed nap, I woke up to my husband’s voice saying, “You’re going to wanna see this.” And with heavy eyes, I begrudgingly peeked out my window. To my surprise, outside were vibrant, blissful, cotton-candy skies as the sun rose over Tokyo. As I watched the sun slowly and gracefully illuminate the city, I thought, “This is exactly where I need to be.” I’ve always loved to travel and have always longed to be somewhere I’ve never been before. But, as I braved adulthood, that feeling slowly wilted away. Finally, after seeing countless travel photos on my Pinterest feed, I had an epiphany. Why not travel? After all, nothing can substitute for experience.

At first, the sole purpose of my travels was to make memories.   But little did I know, I was going to gain much more than that. Through travel I’ve learned three valuable lessons—the art of letting go, the beauty of simplicity, and most of all, the power of contentment.

The art of letting go is a lesson I’ve already learned, but also keep relearning each time I leave the comforts of my apartment in Salt Lake City. And the learning starts as soon as I lock the door. Travel teaches us how to let go by forcing us to leave most of our possessions behind. But I’ve learned not only to let go of possessions but also to let go of pain, worries, and other distractions so that I can fully enjoy each and every moment.

One particular memory that has come to mind was when my family and I were in the southern Philippines. I vividly remember that day—the gentle ocean breeze, the azure sky, the white fluffy clouds, and the soothing sounds of the sea. And the only thing I had with me, as we rode a glass-bottom boat to the middle of the ocean, was my iPod Touch. Even though the views were more spectacular than I ever imagined, I decided to leave all my gear on the shore. And what I found was that instead of being busy taking photos, I was able to fully savor each and every moment with my family on that boat. Having less allowed me to experience so much more.

The art of letting go has allowed me to see the beauty in simplicity. Letting go of the extra “luggage” has taught me how to appreciate the beauty of what’s actually there instead of longing for what’s missing. As we rode to the middle of the sea, all we had were our life jackets and each other. Freed from stuff, I saw the beauty of simply being together. We didn’t need anything fancy—just the sea, the view, and each other’s company.

That’s when I realized that travel has taught me to see the beauty in life’s simplest moments. It’s taught me that making memories greatly outweighs acquiring material possessions.

To me, letting things go and appreciating life’s simplest moments have paved the way for contentment. Prior to traveling extensively, I searched for contentment in the wrong places. “When I have this and that, or do this and that—then, I’ll be content.” But I never was. However, while on that boat—for the very first time in my life—without anything weighing me down, I was content. I had everything I ever needed. And that was enough for me.


How I’ve shared it

Though I’ve enjoyed all my destinations, perhaps my favorite part of travel is still the very act of traveling—the journey. I’m particularly fond of using different modes of transportation to do so—from airplanes, boats, and trains to segways, cable cars, aerial trams, and subways. And most of my photos reflect this fondness.

Inevitably, the more adventures I went on and the more lessons I learned, the more I wanted to share my photos with the world. That’s when I started using Instagram. It has helped me document and share my adventures. And I hope it does the same for you. Without further ado, below are some tips to help you succeed on the platform.

  • Post only your best photos. Quality trumps quantity every time. Always keep lighting and composition in mind. (Rule of thirds, anyone?)
  • Post only two or three times a day. With travel comes a whole lot of excitement, and it’s tempting to post every single photo you take. But try your hardest to fight that feeling and post only a few times a day. You can even use an app called latergramme to queue your posts.
  • Be consistent—in how often you post and in what you post.
  • Use relevant hashtags.
  • Engage by liking and leaving comments on other people’s profiles. After all, Instagram is a social media platform.
  • Participate in a photo challenge or two—or a few! This is a great way to get creative and also gain exposure.
  • Most importantly, learn to see ordinary things in extraordinary ways.

No matter what your reasons for travel are and no matter what you’ve learned, I sure hope that you share it all with the world.

—Rachel Rubio