The Gift of Travel: A Cure for the Winter Blahs
By: Pam Bunyan, SignatureWOMEN® Advisory Board Member
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
So, the winter holiday season is over and we still have a ways to go before true spring and warmer weather. We settle into a period of winter boredom with an overwhelming sense of “Now what?” We try to fill up the time by shopping for bargains and joining a gym, but it just doesn’t get rid of the blah feeling. It may be time to give yourself a gift — the gift of travel.
Perception or Fact?
Travel affords that change of scenery that can pull us up out of our doldrums. And it’s not just that it seems to work that way. Research shows that those who travel and find themselves in unfamiliar situations learn to put their own problems in perspective. Traveling can force us to interact with people of different cultures and languages, developing an openness in our personality. Being in these situations — in the unfamiliar and unknown — can also help us get to know ourselves better. By necessity we become more open and flexible.
Even planning a trip, researching the culture, gathering up appropriate clothing (i.e., will there be some shopping required in the preparation?) can be energizing!
Where to Begin?
There are so many options to consider: will you travel alone or with a group? Is this to be a self- vacation, or more of a sightseeing trip? Do you want to really expand your horizons, or just take a little nudge out of your comfort zone? Maybe the answer is a combination trip where you push yourself physically while enjoying the incentive for this trip. (I’m thinking riding bicycles while sightseeing in France.) There are tours designed, literally, for anything and any target audience imaginable. If you can’t find pre-packaged tours that fit, you can always go the custom route.
There is satisfaction in participating in a trip to help others, like building houses, churches, and schools in underdeveloped areas. These can be mission trips sponsored by a church in the United States, or through a non-profit with an international focus, as well as in-country. There is no shortage of nonprofits that provide volunteer opportunities. And there is certainly no shortage of need. A little research will help you find the opportunity that best fits your passion to give.
Might as Well Give In
When you visit other cultures, you are often forced to slow down your everyday pace. There are countries that may not have the infrastructure to provide cell phone and internet service like you are used to. The food will be different and water may be limited. This type of travel can actually help you get to know yourself better. It’s amazing, they say, how quickly you adjust to the new way of living; how quickly you learn to slow down and do without. Even the most finicky of us will learn to eat those foods that look so different to us, and without reliable cell phone service, you’ll learn to live without the urgency that accompanies checking for messages and immediately responding.
The Solo Traveler
Travel can provide an outlet for taking a break from your daily life. It’s empowering to surround yourself with people who know little about you or your past. This alone can motivate you to go outside of your comfort zone and visit other cultures.
There are those of us who swear by solo travel. Besides the obvious advantages — it is easier to make plans according to your timetable — it is also easier to meet other travelers who share a common interest. These other travelers are often helpful with insight into the current situation, and often friendships form that last well beyond your trip.
Traveling solo makes it easier to get to know residents of the places visited. You can live as a local during your time in another place, affording you authentic experiences and insight into their way of life. Most of all, the stress and inhibitions of daily life in your old world seem to just melt away.
The Spa Getaway
A “mini” vacation that many swear by is a day or two spent at a spa. The variety in spa options rivals that in any other travel experience, with all appealing to the stressed out! Since stress is related to heart health and even early dementia, a few days at a spa is definitely good for your physical, emotional, and mental health. You can go to a spa on your own, but it’s also great fun to go with a group that you know so that everyone is able to relax while enjoying each other’s company.
Hemingway Slept Here? Really?
Travel is a great way to learn about places and the history behind them. Although this is a big reason to travel with kids old enough to learn, it’s still my favorite type of travel, visiting the spot where an event happened or a famous author wrote. Hemingway spent most of the 1920s in Paris, producing some of his most famous works there. Walking in his steps on the Left Bank of Paris can be truly inspirational.
The “grand tour” was an age-old tradition dating back to the late sixteenth century. It became fashionable for young men of means to travel to France and Italy to complete their education in art. Americans were among those participating in this practice, later expanding the concept to include young women as well.
Cruises are very popular with families because of all of the entertainment aimed at children. A staff of young professionals (such as teachers and physical education majors) provide a camp-like experience for young ones, keeping them occupied for the day so parents can relax and enjoy the amenities of the ship.
If you are interested in cruising to other countries at a more intimate level, river cruising has gained popularity over the past few years. Since by necessity these ships are much smaller, they don’t have all of the entertainment amenities of the larger cruise ships. However, they offer a more intimate look at the countries in which they cruise. These river cruises often have a focus on food and drink, or maybe a theme, such as “Castles Along the Rhine.” Cruises are the ultimate package vacation. Everything is pre-paid and pre-planned, except for the “optional” adventures in ports.
Did I Hear the Word “Lavish”?
An opposite approach comes to us in Travel & Leisure magazine, which is filled with the ads of luxurious accommodations, expensive watches, and articles about travel to places often considered off the beaten path.
Even National Geographic has joined in, with private flights and extravagant meals and “hotels.” The hotel might be lavish tent settings or quaint bed and breakfast places in remote locations. There is usually a NatGeo expert for each tour and country visited. They also offer special interest experts in areas such as photography. NatGeo publishes a catalog of such trips, separate from their famous magazine. The catalog alone allows us to take a walk on the wild side, escaping into another culture and another world.
No Place Like Home
I would be remiss not to proffer “armchair” travel when other types of travel are just not possible at the time. There are wonderful books written to take us to far away places, intended to entertain (my favorite) or strictly inform. Travel-related television shows, movies, and magazines (I recommend National Geographic and Conde Nast Traveler) can transport the viewer without ever leaving your living room.
Whatever your situation, taking the opportunity to step a bit out of the life you live every day can make an amazing difference in your outlook and attitude, even in your physical health. You will appreciate home more but will have gained a whole new attitude toward life that stays with you.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” — Saint Augustine
Looking to escape the routine and experience a new setting?
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