In my travel experiences through more than 86 countries, I have had the opportunity to meet scores of different people and learned about their preferred ways of travel. I asked them about why they travel and what they wish to learn or to experience. Most of the answers have fallen into three categories:
Are you a nomadic traveler who doesn’t know where you might be from one day to another or a planner with a set itinerary and organized schedule? The first group often likes to jump off the daily schedule of regular life and wing their travel adventures which adds a sense of mystery and adventure. The second group likes to maximize the time they have and cover as much ground or as many landmarks as possible in a systematic way. The third group knows what they like and wish to keep the experience going. You could even be a combination of all three, even on the same trip! Any way it unfolds for you, travel can open our hearts and minds while enhancing our experience of life.
The prolific American writer Mark Twain stated in his book Innocents Abroad:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’”
Getting out to see the world and to experience other cultures is a true gift for the spirit, mind and soul. And if you choose to incorporate a healing journey or spa experience in your travels, your body will thank you. I almost always incorporate a spa stay with thermal water into my travels because my jet lag passes sooner, and I feel refreshed and balanced in my new surroundings.
When I think about the best experiences I’ve had while traveling around the world, I take pause and look at the common denominators. From trekking the Himalayas to diving the Red Sea, it all came down to embracing whatever might unfold along the journey, no matter no matter that might be.
Some of my most memorable conversations were held in times of unplanned travel snags like being snowed in, a cancelled flight with no options for days, or a forced landing. Adversity seems to unite us in a common situation and one’s authenticity and coping skills are brought to bear.
On a planned diving adventure in the Great Barrier Reef, we had to call off the 2nd dive until we found an item which was lost on our first dive –a set of dentures! Apparently, they had dislodged when the diver took the regulator out of his mouth and sank somewhere underneath the boat! Imagine grisly images which come to mind when searching underwater for a set of teeth! Gratefully they were found, and we set off again on the next underwater experience.
I have also found that being fully present to the sights, sounds, smells and opportunities to connect with fellow travelers and especially with locals greatly enhances the travel experience. I always try to learn a few words of the language in any given country out of respect. If I don’t fully speak a language, I proceed to engage in a game of audible charades. For example, when ordering lunch in Cambodia where dog was on the menu (yes, dog), I pointed to myself and said “NO WOOF WOOF” while launching into charades of eating. The wait staff was rolling and asked me to enact the charade over and over again. It was a wonderful time.
Undoubtedly shared laughter is a universal language, and I seek to laugh as much as possible with those I meet in my travels. Music is also a universal language. In Africa I was singing “Row, row, row your boat” to a group of school children and they sang their favorite song back. Then I taught them the moves and tune of the “Hokey Pokey” and they sang in their language to the tune while dancing with me. That moment was an inspiring experience which I will cherish for the rest of my life.