Traveling Lessons – Russia

Five Things I Learned while Living in Russia for Two Months

Three years ago, I began describing the lessons that I’ve been learning on my annual trips abroad. The first article was about England, the second one about Greece. This year I went to Russia. Here is my annual update. Enjoy!

I have recently come back to the sunny and fabulous Las Vegas after spending two months with my family in Russia. I had left my motherland fourteen years ago and had been back only once before this trip – eight years ago. That trip was very brief and lasted only two weeks. This time I was able to carve out a much bigger chunk of time and stay at my parents’ place for almost two months.

These are the five things that I learned during my trip.

  1. First and foremost, there is nothing like family.

We may be very independent or not, successful or not, have a spouse and/or children or not, but there is nothing like spending time with the people we call “family,” whether we are actually related by blood or simply have developed a bond at some point in our lives.

Something gets nurtured, recharged and healed deep down in our hearts and souls when we share meals, speak our first language, go places together or just spend time making silly jokes and chatting about meaningless things.

The space created by the people who love you, care about you and root for you and your success and happiness is simply indescribable and absolutely priceless.

To get to my parents’ home, I had to travel more than 6,000 miles (about 10,000 kilometers), go through six different airports on the way to Russia and four on the way back, spend countless hours in cars and on planes, spend thousands of dollars and face severe jet lag, but I don’t regret any of it for a second. I would have done it all over again and I will soon.

  1. “No matter where you go, there you are.” – Confucius

If you travel to distant locations to run away from your problems back home, you will quickly discover that it’s impossible to run away from yourself.

The novelty, excitement and practical considerations of living in a new place will distract your mind for a while, but after a few weeks, the old thoughts patterns will be right back and you will find yourself worrying about exactly the same things and feeling exactly the same way you did at home.

Traveling is helpful for gaining a fresh perspective on your life situation and rebooting your whole system, but sooner or later, you will still have to take charge of your life and clean up any mess you might have created.

  1. “Reality is always kinder than the stories we tell about it.” – Byron Katie

Whatever happened in your past that you didn’t like is over.

All the horrible things that you’ve encountered don’t need to be part of your life anymore. All the pain and dramas that had hurt your feelings or maybe even your body don’t need to be relived again and again.

Byron Katie says that life is much kinder than we are – everything that happened to us, happened only once, while we are the ones who keep replaying the old movies in our minds and hurting ourselves incessantly.

I saw this very clearly on this trip – the people who were not kind to me when I was a child don’t remember it any longer and some of them are even dead.

It is, and always has been, me – for all those long years – who couldn’t let go and who would repeatedly bring past into the present moment.

What a waste of precious time and energy!

I am ready to forgive, forget and move on!

  1. “Carpe diem!” or “Seize the day!” – Horace

This is something that we all have heard many, many times, but oh, boy, do I get it now!

While living in the States, I am surrounded by a bounty of amazing and rare opportunities for growth, exploration and fun, but chores, duties and responsibilities often get the best of me and I get lost and stuck in the monotonous daily routines and rituals.

Having seen what some people in Russia have to deal with on an everyday basis, what kind of dreams they have and how lucky they believe I am to live in the US, I’ve seen it, too – I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunities I have in this amazing country!

I was reminded once more that there are many people on this planet who do dream to have the things that are easily available to me here, and I am eager to take more advantage of them now.

  1. Life is a gift!

I know – another cliché, but you really do get to feel and understand it more deeply after spending time with the people who’ve had to deal with some health challenges, especially such serious and even life-threatening like cancer; after realizing how much your family has shrunk in the last couple of years; after noticing how much your friends’ children have grown and how much your parents and their friends have aged since the last time you saw them.

Despite its seemingly length and our habitual false assumption that life will continue as usual for a long time, despite our getting lost in the minute details of micromanaging our to-do lists, life on this planet is so short!

And I have a renewed commitment to honor, value and enjoy it to the most!



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