The Life-Changing Magic of Travel
by Wendy Knecht on July 12, 2016
25If you are suffering from acute boredom, having a mid-life crisis, dealing with a divorce, or feeling “unsettled,” you may be thinking you need a few sessions with a shrink. Before you lay out a substantial amount of cash for what may or may not be a worthwhile endeavor, consider this: Take a trip. Alone.
Going away could prove to be extremely valuable, whether you have only a spare weekend or the luxury of a yearlong journey. Simply removing yourself from the daily grind of life can work wonders.
I am not suggesting running away from your problems. But waking up in a fresh environment, away from constant reminders of discontent, can help you to look at your issues in a completely different light. When you’re alone, you have to be your own best friend. That can go a long way to help you to clarify what you truly need to do to move forward.
Getting out there in nature can also serve to soothe your soul. When my mother passed away, I was devastated. A dear friend kindly offered her condo in Tucson and encouraged a change of scenery. It was an effort to get there from Los Angeles, but once I did, I felt better. Hiking the beautiful trails and taking treks through nature gave me time to reflect on my wonderful relationship with my mother, and gave me solace and meaning to my sadness.
It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, a trip to the city can be as valuable as a trip to the country. Losing yourself in a museum or window shopping can be as be as therapeutic as fly-fishing in a stream. You may not get an immediate epiphany (though it is entirely possible), but it has been my experience that insight happens in the spaces. It’s ironic, but getting away from a problem can bring you closer to the solution.
In any case, time away in new surroundings can be enlightening. It can reduce anxiety, stress, and be a calming experience. You many come home with renewed hope, a fresh attitude and an abundance of energy to take on your life.
I believe that to truly gain perspective on life; one must travel. Traveling gives you a unique point of view on the world that you cannot get otherwise, and helps you not only to learn about others but to learn about yourself.
There are so many reasons why expanding your own horizons, can also have ripple effects on others. Traveling can “wake you up” to what life is all about and give you the gift of compassion for others.
If you’ve ever met a narrow-minded person (who hasn’t!?), you know what I mean. These are people that only feel comfortable only within their own surroundings and are intolerant of other cultures, customs, religions, etc. I will be forever thankful for my job as a Pan Am flight attendant, and the incredible travel experiences I was privy to. My travels opened up my mind and gave me perspective on the world. It made me a forever grateful” person.
I will never forget taking the tour bus into East Berlin when the wall was still up. The macabre feeling in the air, the downtrodden look of the people, and the gray mist that seemed to permeate the air just screamed out “oppression.” Going through Checkpoint Charlie was enough to make my heart fly out of my chest, especially when I saw the long mirrored stick they used to search under the bus, searching to catch anyone that might have been trying to escape. A profound feeling of gratitude for the freedom I had taken for granted my whole life came over me as soon as we crossed into West Berlin.
Traveling made me realize the meaning of “there but for the grace of God go I”…, and I mean that in a very spiritual way. There is that profound feeling of just plain luck — any of us could have been born into any culture, any country, and any circumstance in life. But here I am, and how fortunate. Traveling to unknown territories made me realize that the freedom I take for granted is a gift, and not a given.
Traveling also makes history come alive. And gaining historical knowledge gives you a strong feeling of compassion. Visiting the Jewish Quarter in Prague, where the Pinkas Synagogue has over 77,000 names of Nazi victims inscribed on its walls, and touring Gory Island in Dakar, Senegal, where the historic slave trade site showcases the almost unbelievable conditions that people endured, were life-changing experiences. These are just a couple of examples of how travel can open up your heart and soul.
There’s just no substitute for being there. If you make an effort in your life to seek out unfamiliar places and cultures, you will not only increase your knowledge, but there is a great likelihood that you will open up your mind, your heart, and your soul as well. I’ve had many epiphanies and life-changing experiences while traveling, which began with my travels as a Pan Am flight attendant, back in “the day,” and continues to this day.
Sometimes just the planning of a trip can give you the lift you need to forge ahead and deal with the problem at hand. I’m reminded of the first time I enlisted the help of trained professional to deal with a few of life’s problems that were piling up: a breakup, a move, and a general feeling of hopelessness. I was doing some part-time private jet flying at the time, working as a “private flight attendant,” while building my new business designing travel bags.
I was sitting at my new psychologist’s office, baring my soul when my beeper went off (ah, the days of beepers!). I excused myself and came back in a much better mood when I received an assignment for a week-long trip to Paris for the following day.
“Wow, that sounds fabulous! I wish I could go! My job is so f-ing boring!” my therapist exclaimed.
Admittedly, that’s not what the patient wants to hear. But it does illustrate the fact that just the thought of getting away can certainly lift one’s spirits. So save your shrink money, and try a little travel. Sometimes a change of scenery might just be what the doctor ordered.