When I mention travel, what do you think of? Do you think of glorious architecture balancing over the canals of Venice while Gondolas glide over the water? Do you think of the magnificent rainstorms of Vietnam? The markets of Istanbul? The art of Italy? Let’s face it, We have lives that tend toward the mundane. The doldrums wait around every corner when you have lingered too long in your routine. We need the promise of tropical sunsets and impossibly lovely meals in a piazza surrounded by fountains carved centuries ago by artists long gone to pull us into the future. Yes, travel is addictive but as addictions go, you could do a lot worse. If you indulge this addiction, you come out healthier and happier, especially if you indulge it a lot. Oh, you want specifics?
1. You have something great to look forward to
The long rainy days of Winter are much sweeter when you are thinking about your upcoming trip to the tropics with you looking amazing in your new bathing suit (Isn’t it funny that your imaginative future self is always slim with hair and nails just done?)
2. You learn to think on your feet
Airports can be very stressful. They wind around and sometimes you have to go up several floors, take a tram somewhere and find your gate, all in an hour long layover. Everyone in the airport looks relaxed like they know where they are going and you are the only one completely lost. Finding your way is a challenge but everyone seems to make it through. Things happen to you when you travel. It can be unpredictable. That is what makes it so exciting.
3. You have to confront talking to people you don’t know
You would be amazed at how many people are deathly afraid of talking to people. This is a hidden anxiety, especially in the US. People are not always so bad and as you travel and meet more people, you start to see that most people are like you.
4. You learn to try new things
I once traveled to Belgium with my family when I was 17 years old. I spoke no French whatsoever because I was doodling in French class when I should have been paying attention. For the first week I ate only Demi-poulet e frites (Half a chicken and fries) until I got brave and tried something else. I never ended up with anything weird and most of the time it worked out. There are so many new things to eat in another culture. It is really fun to sample everything.
5. You learn to accept another culture
Several years ago, my husband and I purchased a home in a Southern Italian hill town. It is the most wonderful place I can think of. At one point I asked my friend who owns that little store in the piazza what it was like growing up there. She pointed to the balcony across the piazza from us. “That is my cousin” she said and pointed at several other apartments next to it and told me that her aunts, uncles and other cousins all lived there. As if on cue, they appeared on their balconies yelling greetings. “It is a family” she said and then she took me on a passeggiatta (a walk) through the town where we shook peoples’ hands, kissed babies and caught up with all the recent news. Not many of us do that here. It was a totally different culture and I loved it.
6. You make friends easily
While traveling I have made friends for a plane ride and friends that I will keep forever. A few years ago I ended up on the intercity train from Cremona to Scalea; Italy from tip to toe. Half of the journey I shared a cabin with a group of people from Napoli. They spent the journey sharing their meals and asking me all kinds of questions about America. They really wanted to know. It was lovely. We did not exchange addresses but I left with a vague promise to look for them when I came to Napoli. Still, they are friends and they are somewhere in that big city. This makes Napoli seem friendly even though I have only been through there briefly.
7. You get out of your routine
Routine is a joy killer in life. Mix it up! Go somewhere ridiculous (but not dangerous) Go see the Taj Mahal! Go see the Eiffel Tower! GO SEE! Get a different view.
8. You can see your life from a distance
Whenever I travel, I notice that I stay sort of psyched up for about three days then I relax and really start looking at things. The rush of daily life fades and you can take a good look at your life from outside it. Viewing something from outside it is way more powerful than viewing something while you are stuck in it. You would be amazed at the solutions you can come up with for problems that seemed unsolvable before.
9. You see, feel and live history
Life for most here in the Good Ol’ US of A only goes back about 200 years (unless you’re a native American). We are babies in terms of world history. The pyramids have us beat by a country mile. The renaissance happened 200 years before America was a gleam in our forefathers’ eyes. Standing and looking at the Greek temples at Paestum is awe inspiring. When you look at these ruins, you can easily build up the walls in your imagination and see the markets, the city center and the tall torches used to light the streets. You can live in history.
10. You see the works of masters
From churches built over centuries to bodies of work done by artists all in one lifetime, these were masters. They built buildings and created art with such care for details that they are revered as treasures today. The work of masters like Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Rafael have to be seen in person to be fully experienced. Stand in front of the Doni Tondo by Michelangelo in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence surrounded by other works of art and you will see what the human spirit, discipline and passion can do. You can’t get that from a book or a television screen. you have to go there.
11. You learn new languages
Even if you travel within the US, there are slang words and phrases that are different and colorful. If you are really confident you can head off to Japan or another country in the Far East. My husband has traveled extensively in Japan and other Asian countries and it can be tough to find a bathroom if you don’t learn the language! See points 3 and 6.
12. The food!
Chefs are the same in all parts of the planet. They spend their lives designing dishes to make people happy. Whether you are at Al Caminetto in Tortola, Italy or the new BBQ place around the corner, these people go out of their way to please you. You get to try something new three times a day. Don’t waste any opportunity.
13. The pastries!
What is it about Europe that they are all completely insane about pastries? Every pastry I have had over there has been so mouth watering, so flaky, so perfectly balanced, that I almost fall into a weepy heaps after putting one in my mouth. They are CRAZY!
14. The coffee
Everywhere you go people LOVE coffee. The cafes in Italy and all over Europe are known for their seriousness about coffee. There is no watered down Folger’s over there. Every time I go to Europe, I save half my suitcase for coffee. One would think I was a drug mule with all the coffee I bring back. I love it.
15. The wine
I love red wine. I don’t over indulge, but there is nothing like sitting on the balcony over the Bella Vista restaurant in Santa Domenica Talao, watching the sun set over the Mediterranean, the ancient village in the back ground turning gold in the falling light and sipping someone’s home made red wine and smelling your meal as it cooks. It is just the best thing there is. Have I hooked you yet?