Interestingly, long before travel became conveniently expedient, comfortable and safe, most of the great and exceptional people of generations past made it a practice to travel to remote corners of their world. Some of the greatest scholars and Rabbis of old, are reported to have gone on long journeys to visit communities far from their residence, driven by a thirst for knowledge and a desire to bring Judaism closer to its people. Most members of the Jewish community never travelled further than the nearest neighborhood or village. They gobbled down the stories, which ignited curiosity and the desire to learn.
Travel does that and much more. It gives us today, a deeper understanding of the self and the world at large. With the hectic pace of modern life most of us get stuck in a rigid daily routine. We are working hard at a job, dealing with deadlines, emergencies and obligations. In addition we’re raising families and/or tending to aging parents, barely having time to stop and smell the roses. The other day I spoke to a vibrantly lovely elderly woman, who got me to think about the benefits of travel. She was turning 90, and still was a force of nature. I asked how she managed to retain her youthful spirit and looks: She was eager to attribute it all to living life as an adventure. Part of this included traveling the globe with her husband. She said "we were never that dreary couple, which sits in total silence at a restaurant. My husband and I made a promise: we’ll travel very often, explore and discover new things, enjoy art and culture in different countries. It keeps our love, friendship and fire alive to this day"
After this encounter, I thought about why travel is important
1. Travel Gets You Present: Without the distractions of daily life, you will notice how much more present you can get really present with family and friends. Travel transforms, as well as transports. Attention isn’t divided between family and frantically pressing tasks, which require urgent attention. I realize more than ever the cost we all pay when having to multi task and not live fully in the moment. Life, minus the non-stop buzz of phone calls and texts, the stress of deadlines, feels very different, full of pleasure and joy. In truth, I feel different from the Self I left at home: I’m more authentic, more alive, more of who I really am. It’s an incredible pleasure to be totally present when with your mate or kids, have long, undisturbed conversations with the people I love or with interesting new friends.
2. Regular travel allows you to open yourself to unexpected surprises: Getting a little out of one’s comfort zones, like being in a country where people don’t speak your language, yet you still manage to communicate, is a fun, at times even hilarious experience. The innate surprises during travel, often lead me on memorable adventures, which I treasure.
3. Meeting new and interesting people, observing and enjoying their cultures and customs, is always a wonderful addition to life. Talking to the locals as I go into a variety of neighborhoods, finding out the things you have to experience in person, in conversation. One of my favorite things about travel is this very exploration of the human condition.
4. Then of course there is the lure of visiting the amazing sites, reminiscent of key players in world history. Personally, I am always on the lookout to find important Jewish historical sites, wanting to know everything there is to know about them. It’s exhilarating to visit great many world famous sites that you knew of, but now you see in real time: Athens’s Coliseum, The Eiffel Tower, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Russia’s Grand Choral Synagogue, just to mention a few. These visual pleasures are endless, and they lurk at every corner.
5. Travel encourages us to put our electronics down. Our everyday lives are lived largely dependent on electronic communication. We text, make and get phone calls, write and read emails: we depend on TV to visually satisfy our compulsion to keep up with the latest news. All this seems to diminish when we are away. When one travels, communication happens mainly face-to-face. How refreshing! Each long distance phone call is brief and infrequent, done merely to check up on someone or something back home. This is especially true when I’m on a cruise, since the ports of call or even the days at sea are chockfull of interesting activity. Conversations take place at the dining room or on a deck chair, and they’re relaxed and leisurely.
It’s an amazing shift in the way I feel when this isn’t the case. I actually feel fully human rather than a human machine.
6. Most of us relax when we travel: being away from work and duties forces us to take a much-needed break from the stresses of our life. I feel like I have permission to simply sleep in, dance, laugh and let tension leave my body. This happens each time I’m away, travelling.
7. Travel encourages us to be more adventurous. I am curious by nature, but the pressures and obligations of work rob me from having enough free time to satisfy my curiosity. Then I go on a trip, away from everything, obligations and all. Suddenly the child in me is awakened, as I get exposed to fascinating, first-time experiences, to new people and places. I see more clearly, give myself permission to play and have fun. I remember on a Kosherica Greek Isles cruise, I rented mopeds with my husband. We spent the entire day exploring this awesome place. I would never do that in a million years at home!
Give yourself two goals this week: take yourself (and your family if you want) on a mini trip to a new place. It can be an ethnic or fun neighborhood, a new store or a new park. Turn your phone off for an hour and truly be present. Then find three new things you’ve never seen or really noticed before. Talk to strangers and observe, then tell us what you learnt. You needn’t go far to travel, miracles are everywhere, but let yourself be aware and present, so you pay attention.
The second goal: Fantasize about your dream vacation. Get very specific…it will get you a few steps closer to actually having that vacation.
When you visit a new place, the adventure will bring many surprising benefits to your mental and emotional being, your health, growth and intellect.
Finally, reflect back on your past experiences in a place you’ve seen for the first time. Try to remember something that left a mark on you and touched your soul.
Tell us why you enjoy traveling. What does travel do for you? We would love to hear comments.