Someone recently asked, "If you could give someone your best advice to make meaningful personal transformation possible, what would you say?" My response was immediate. "Travel."
Travel is magic in real life. When you travel, you never know what you will find. A camel on stilts might walk around the corner in the kasbah. Markets are filled with small delights waiting to take your breath away. You may even find love. In the Alice-in-Wonderland topsy turvy experience of travel, you will find a world full of wonder, and maybe your truest self.
How do you make your experience the most rewarding?
Travel Alone - While it is comforting to gather up a big group of friends to go on a cruise, and there is a time and place for those kinds of experiences, traveling on your own forces you outside your comfort zone. It makes you reach out to the people you meet and allows the doors of the community to open to you. You have to talk to people when you are alone and you will find kindness and generosity everywhere you go.
Go Off the Beaten Path - We all know we will be amazed by the Eiffel Tower and Machu Picchu. Take time too for unexpected places, little known destinations, and small towns. These locales have quirks and vitality. It is in these spaces where you find the best pastries and the most moving interactions.
Learn the Language -- Even if it only a few words, learn something of the local language. If you can great a person in their mother tongue, you become not a tourist, but a friend. To be able to say, "Hello" and "Thank You" will cause you to be welcomed like a long lost relative to Thanksgiving dinner. Be kind. Smile. Generosity of spirit is a universal language.
Eat the Food -- When someone offers you a meal, it is a gift from the heart. They want you to enjoy it. Food, in most of the world, is a sign of welcome. If you are in someone's home, ask if you can help to cook. Take a cooking lesson. Go on a sweets or cuisine tour. Food is a window into the soul of a place. Taste what it has to offer.
Start Your Adventure Where Your Heart Desires -- There are a lot of excuses we use not to travel. Time. Money. Kids. Responsibilities. And in those excuses we lose our whole lives. But in each of us, there is a dream, a place that we have always wanted to see. Go there. Let the whisper of the place in your spirit be your guide. Save. Accrue vacation days. Find a sitter who would love to hang out with your kids for two weeks. Read travel guides. Dream. Then go where it is your heart is leading. You will not return the same.
Leave Your Footsteps in the Sand -- All of life, including our adventures, is fleeting. Live lightly and know that your adventures will wash away behind you. The indelible mark of travel is made not in the world, but on your soul.
Photo: Creative Commons CC0/Pixabay (Karin Henseler from Köln/Bonn, Deutschland)