Catching Flights Not Feelings: A Reflection On Travel
For the purposes of this article, I’d like to make a quick distinction between traveling and vacationing. Traveling is the process of venturing to another city or country with the purpose of engaging in a cross-cultural experience. Vacationing is the idea of spending time in another city or country with the purpose of relaxing, touring, and partying. The lines can get blurred but essentially, if you’re staying at a five-star resort 50 km away from the locals, if you’re uninterested in the culture or more of the local people, if you’re ordering fries at a spot known for its baklava, you’re likely vacationing.
Both are amazing, and I’ve had the privilege of experiencing them both, with family, friends, and solo. In this piece, I reflect on the everlasting impact travel has had on me. I write this with the utmost respect to all the countries and indigenous people I have encountered. While travel has unequivocally deepened my sense of self (creativity, joie de vivre), I implore you to take a deep look at the two positive affects travel has had on my wellness and allow yourself to be inspired to embark on your own journey(s).
Utilizing Your Creativity During Travel
Imagine me. In the heat of summer, whilst in Switzerland. What do you do when you don’t speak great French or Dutch, you’ve gotten on the wrong train, and you’re carrying thirty pounds of luggage on your back? Do you panic? Quit? Cry? None of the above. You problem-solve in real-time. My sense of creativity when solving problems expanded tremendously when I began to travel. My brain was working in delightful ways.
I didn’t know I could think this quickly, pick up a language, connect with another, sit still, or switch tasks with such ease. Appreciate a well-designed metro system. I learned how to read a map in twenty seconds because the last train was leaving. I learned how to use my body to speak, and my eyes to listen.
In retrospect, it was a review and elegant implementation of emotional intelligence. These are skills that go untrained in formalized settings like schools, language exchanges, and other programs. Getting out, becoming part of the thick of the crowd, smelling all the smells, and tinkering with the unknown is exactly how a person refines their ability to pay attention to detail. It is a sublime opportunity to challenge yourself by engaging the part of your brain that sits on its ass when you’re eddying in the familiar only.
Seeing Through A Different Lens
Upon return, to my homeland, I saw the world differently because I was different. Once you experience your brain acting brilliantly, it’s hard to shrink back to old ways of thinking and being. I started imagining all the juicy, creative ways I could make my life work and encourage the same type of brilliance in others. And for the purposes of monetizing this skill, travel has indubitably enhanced my natural proclivity towards design thinking.
A common misconception is that women who are committed to travel are wishy-washy, unable to plan, or lost. Au contraire! While most of us thrive on flexibility, it takes a substantial amount of foresight to plan and strategize our travels. I have had friends and family jokingly share comments that I’m not a good planner or too carefree. And a whopping zero percent of those people have ever planned or traveled with me.
Seasoned travelers know that it takes skill, patience, and creativity to build an itinerary that veers off the beaten path, is respectful to the site, and honors one’s sense of adventure. I am no longer bothered by the opinion of folks whose fear outpaces their courage, but it can still be an irritating myth to encounter. Press on anyway, my daring darling.
Joie De Vivre
The most simplistic translation of this French phrase in English is “an exultation of spirit”. I was able to have this exact feeling fill me to the brim while in Thailand. Trekking through overcrowded airports, squeezing into buses, and walking for miles through foreign land all to end up in the most breathtaking sight of beauty. I remember the kind faces of the Thai women in the villages who smiled with humility and shared their unbelievable stories of peril and laughed with me from the belly.
I remember looking to the sky while riding on the back of a motorcycle (sorry Dad, no helmet). The breeze caressed my face the way breezes do, sweetly. We whizzed through the sleepy town in silence, sticky with the sand from yesterday, and I shivered. Even with the humidity at ninety percent, I knew deep down, this was a joy.
No one else knew exactly where I was, who I was, or have been and it didn’t matter. I’d never experience that much breathing room. It completely altered my relationship with time. Being fully immersed at that moment taught me aspects of mindfulness, which I learned but never applied in my weekly yoga/meditation classes. I began to unravel the deep, intimate joy of ‘being here now’.
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