There’s no way to describe the excitement I feel each time I pack my bags knowing that I’m setting off on the next mini-adventure. I often fantasize about taking off on a grand tour, traversing the globe with absolute freedom, dipping in and out of continents and islands at will. Alas, while the grand plan is under development getting a few quick fixes is the next best thing.
There’s something magical that happens when we step onto foreign soil. Like strangers in a strange land we get to look at ourselves through new eyes.
I always feel different after a trip abroad. Renewed and recharged yes, but also like I’ve learned a little more and grown a tad too. Although it may not be what we intend when we take a journey, a wonderful side effect is that we can return a different person. Travel has the power to change us.
Sometimes it’s just in small ways but for others it can result in remarkable transformations. Because as well as the great tourist attractions and photo opportunities, travel for me is also meant to be a journey of self exploration. When we travel with an open heart and mind it can change our lives forever.
Change your perspective
There’s nothing that makes you assess your life like looking at how others live theirs. Language, lifestyle, values, fears, desires, are they similar or different? Often in places that seem the most different you find common ground and shared values.
But travel also encourages you to be more self aware. It can reveal things about yourself that you didn’t know before. Sometimes you uncover prejudices that you weren’t even aware you had. When you meet people less fortunate than ourselves you are reminded that you always have something to be grateful for no matter what your circumstances are. You get to see how you react in the midst of a stressful situation or when your patience is being tested
If you travel long enough you are guaranteed to find out who you really are but at the same time you are presented with opportunities to adjust our thinking.
Teach you how to live in the moment
You get to explore new areas within and outside yourself as you detach from your normal day to day routine. You focus on the sensations you are experiencing here and now, completely immersed in what you are doing and where you are. Whether it’s seeing Batalha for the first time or walking up to the Pena Palace like I did, it’s hard to be distracted when you’re entranced. You have to stop what you’re doing and really drink in the moment.
Nothing builds confidence more than having to deal with challenges and actually working them out yourself. You realise that you are able to make decisions.
Your creativity is sparked and you will try things that you would never normally consider. In fact there is this feeling of freedom that comes when you are out there exploring. It stokes your sense of adventure and once you taste it you must have more.
Teach you to value experiences over things
Travelling is more than visiting tourist haunts and buying souvenirs (although those are great fun too). It’s about what you experience while you’re there and what you learn from those experiences. It’s about the feelings of excitement, fear, joy, happiness, bemusement – you get to go through the whole gamut. It’s about how the places you see and the people you meet alter your concept of who you are in ways you did not expect.
The great thing is that it’s a road of endless progression, the more you see of the world, the greater the impact on your life. Slowly but surely travel becomes who you are not just what you do.
And that for me is what travel is really all about. A golden opportunity to engage all of our senses, to absorb and assimilate what we come in contact with and to get excited. Lisbon was just that, a wonderful city and a veritable feast for the senses.
- Savouring the enticing smells emanating from countless seafood restaurants.
- Sampling delicious pasteis de nata and gorging on glorious calamari.
- Soaking up the culture-rich atmosphere while watching and interacting with the locals.
- Watching old-world trams running right alongside the latest automobiles on busy city streets. Trams packed like sardines in a can during the rush hour.
- Enjoying fabulous views of the city and the Sao Jorge castle from the top of the Santa Justa elevator.
- Listening to the haunting strains of fado in atmospheric Alfama. Sounds that played in my head days after I got home.
- Learning the meaning of ‘saudade’ a word with no English equivalent. One that describes that feeling of emptiness, of longing, of having lost something never to get it back. A word epitomised by fado itself.
- Getting the best lower body workout climbing the hills of Alfama and Chiado all the way to the Bairro Alto.
- Oh and getting lost a few times too.
These experiences touch us and we try to hang on to the feelings they evoke, reluctant to let go. We take out our cameras or phones and snap photos trying to memorialise all those great moments and then it’s time to go home. Memories linger but eventually they’re stored away. We move on with our lives and time passes but all it takes is a smell, a photo and we’re transported right back. We’re smiling, laughing maybe even crying and we know that they were moments that will last forever.