As we approach another Thanksgiving, I like to express my gratitude for family, friends, health, regular food on the table and a roof over my head. I’m also grateful for the gift of travel. Here are three reasons for that warm fuzzy feeling.
Travel has taught me to collect memories. Colors, sounds, smells, laughter, sadness, experiences, frustrations, fascinating sites and “a ha” moments. Whether it is slowing down to photograph the Instagramable Water Buffalo in the middle of the road to the Double Wow Dazzle Dazzle of New Year’s in Hong Kong, I savor these experiences.
Or the time in Svalbard, when the humongous polar bear meandered across the ice near our ship to plunk himself down 10 feet from the sides of the boat to take a short snooze. Transfixed, we watched him nap and then get up in a bit and saunter off in search of his dinner.
I’ll never forget visiting a school in North Vietnam where we gave children apples and jump ropes. Seeing their pleasure with these simple items was truly a gift.Some times when life gets tough and stressful, I take myself on a mental journey back to this small village and remember the joyous smiles.
Getting a Perspective
I always think more clearly about my own life and choices, stresses and strains, highs and lows, when I am “away.”The distance enables me to have a calmer perspective and deal with the emotions that surface.
It also teaches me to squeeze everything out of the moment. Maybe taking one step beyond the “be in the moment” mantra that swirls around us.
Sometimes that distance can be achieved simply by traveling to a new spot in my own city. The actual distance isn’t all that important. Could be exploring a new park or coffee shop. The important thing is to get out of the routines, habits and safe places of daily life.
Travel forces me to challenge what I know.
For example, in India it is rude not to honk when you are passing a vehicle. In Chile, the natives named the dark spaces in the Milky Way, not the actual stars. I visited a tribe in North Vietnam where blackening the teeth is a sign of beauty. In Paris, it is unacceptable to walk and eat at the same time. In China, dragons are not fire breathing scary creatures. They are to be welcomed and celebrated in dance and festivals.
I could go on and on. Traditions, customs, kinds of foods, way of living are so different around the world. Traveling forces me out of the comfort zone of my life challenging what I think I know to be true. I truly believe the more we understand and appreciate our global neighbors, the more harmonious our world will be.
I leave you with my favorite Mark Twain quote.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off those bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
For Kate Dernocoeur’s views on the Gifts of Travel, click here. Then, do add your own in the comment section below.