Travel changes us. And by ‘travel,’ I mean any kind of travel – a weekend trip to a friend’s house out of town, a two-week vacation, or a year-long pilgrimage abroad. When we go somewhere new, we live in a different skin for a minute, set our eyes on fresh vistas, and realize a way of life unique from our own.
With the new eyes we get traveling, we are able to see different versions of the people we spend time with everyday (and perhaps take for granted). Our child at the beach on holiday is different from our child at the Tuesday breakfast table. Not because he’s essentially different, no, but rather because WE are different when we’re traveling. On the exotic beach, bending over amidst the sea shells and crabs walking sideways, hopping in front of the crashing waves, and laughing up into the glistening sun, our kid becomes The Quintessential Child, held frozen in a moment where time stands still. We take the extra second, our brain pauses, and we are finally able to grasp his essence and appreciate him for the beautiful piece of artwork that he is. And to savor this fleeting nanosecond in a childhood moving too fast.
Time slows down when we travel. We allow ourselves to take a break from our usually packed routines for novel pursuits: a walk at dawn to greet the sun, an extra moment to breathe in the stars and night air before hitting the pillow. Maybe we put down our phones, our ipads. Maybe we decide our ‘friends’ on Facebook don’t need a status update right now. For now, it’s just us, our loved ones, and the innocence of a schedule we own and run ourselves. We can’t even watch our favorite TV shows since we forgot what day of the week it is. Freedom from routine – especially a busy routine – is an important aspect of personal growth. When we slow down enough, our minds have time to contemplate, to relax, to heal. We have time to savor this thing called life. Time off is essential to our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Every time we return from a trip, we are changed, in ways we understand and in ways we don’t.
When we travel, we forget about stuff. Our stuff is back at home. The tight knot we feel in taking care of everything we own has started to unravel. What color is our car, anyway? How many forks do we own? What size TV do we still owe payments on? We don’t know… or care! We step out of our home and, with the simplicity of our time away, immediately the things in that home become so much less important. Oh, the stuff. We love it even as it strangles us. We accumulate more and more even though we’re drowning in it. When we’re away, we’re free of its clutches, at least temporarily.
I urge you: take a break. Get away. Exit your normal life for at least a few days. In doing this, you’ll gain a critical distance from the life you normally live. You’ll be blessed with eyes that see what’s really important. You’ll have epic moments with your traveling companions. And you won’t regret it. On your last day, you’ll remember all the times you shared with family and friends, not the material items lining your house.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Go visit a a friend a few hours away. Go camping. Find a deal on a hotel in a scenic place. Furthermore, consider the budget and carve out a spot for travel expenses. Time away is more important to your soul than a new couch when the old one will do.
Where are you going this summer? How do you use travel to refresh yourself? I would love to know, so please leave a comment!