How Travel To-Do Lists Can Make You Happier

When Divya Patnaik, a 30-year-old professional from Austin Texas, joined our Medellin retreat in September, like any other seasoned traveller, she came with a foolproof to-do list. Things she wanted to do, plans she wanted to formulate and leases she wanted to sign.

But with every day of being more and more Unsettled, Divya realised how barely ticking off anything from her travel to-do list was going to give her a lifetime of happiness.

Here’s her story…

By Divya Patnaik, Medellin alumni 2017

I am sitting in the Medellín airport waiting to board my flight to Bogota. I have been in Colombia for a month now, learning and taking in all that this country has to offer. I came to Medellín on September 1st, to jump into the unknown with 22 strangers  from all walks of life and nationalities,  intent on sharing their space and time with me. And tonight, after saying goodbye to them, they have left me feeling inspired.

Being Unsettled to me means being vulnerable, being open, and being surprised. Despite having set goals, timelines and expectations, you can’t plan life. That’s being Unsettled. This month has shown me that we learn from those we least expect and that stereotypes are made only to be shattered. I realized, what a wonderful lesson; and it applies no matter where I live, what I do or who I am with.

When I decided to join Unsettled, I had plans for my time in Medellin:

  1. Learn Spanish for 20 hours a week
  2. Figure out my next career move
  3. Find the ideal place for our next home base
  4. Make friends who will last my lifetime
  5. Publish on Medium before returning to Austin

While I have not learnt as much Spanish as I wanted; I know enough to hail a taxi and order food. I am still unclear on where my husband and I will live long-term, but I know we should spend six months in Nuquí, on the Pacific coast of Colombia.

I don’t have my next job lined up, but I know it has to be with a company that is environment friendly. I was already very passionate about the environment and our responsibility as human beings. I even led a  workshop for the group on ‘Saying no to plastic’.  Since hosting this workshop, I think of this issue even more now than ever before. I saw some of my Unsettled mates become more conscious about their plastic use since our discussion and it motivated me to figure out what else I could be doing.

I hope that all 22 of my Unsettled mates will stay friends forever, but I am confident that there are three of them who will see me grow old. We shared amazing moments of laughter and joy, but one of my many favorites was on the last night after our farewell dinner in Medellin. Many of us ended up at a bar with a ball pit for adults. Yes, a ball pit for adults. This almost-childlike interaction with each other is what I loved about it.

I am grateful that I finally gathered the courage to make my Medium dream come true. To dive into my writing again is a salve for nostalgic wounds. It keeps me from forgetting and helps me romanticize about life’s magic.

And thank you to my Unsettled friends Taimoor Tariq, Sam and Soley for pushing me to accomplish my final goal.

This post was first published on Divya’s Medium page.

Divya loves music and is lucky to call Austin home, also the live music capital of the world. When she isn’t searching for quirky music festivals, she can be found searching for flights deals online. Divya recently quit her job at the world’s largest company so she can enjoy the time off exploring places and meeting people. This hippie-at-heart, loves a clean home, clean sheets, clean bath, and fancy cocktails.

More Posts From Our Alumni:

Caring for my soul, finding my freedom

How I convinced my boss to let me live Unsettled

How to travel alone and not get lonely


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