Why We Need to Be More Conscious Travelers
We travel for the wrong reasons.
Most of our travel ideas are sparked by a photo - an alluring shot that spirals our imagination into thinking, "This is it. I must go here." We see a fleeting snapshot - alluring as it may be - and convince ourselves that we will be happy, once we get there. We imagine ourselves on the summit of a mountain with enormous, vast views, or digging our feet into the sand on a deserted and remote beach.
Yet the reality of travel seldom matches our daydream because we don't consider the things that are most inevitably going to go amiss. We've misplaced our passport, our flight is delayed, we stare at the same headrest in front of us for 7 hours in an increasingly claustrophobic airplane, our luggage is lost, we land and it is pouring rain and we can't find our apartment. The people are not as friendly as we expected them to be. There is graffiti on the city walls. These are the things that ruin the snapshot image we have burned into our memory when at home.
Regardless, we are still missing the mark.
What we are missing is what we actually learn from a place and how those mishaps can soften the rougher edges of our personalities. How both the adventures and the misadventures will help us grow into the people we want to be. The outlandish theories or startling ideas, the contrary beliefs, or the aligning outlooks are what we should be taking home - not the souvenirs and trinkets that tend to sneak into our suitcases. Not the glamorous shots we take to humble brag to others.
We travel to be learners. And the places we travel to will teach us how. Each country or place possesses a special quality that benefits us with a type of inner change that we are looking for.
If you need serenity, go watch the waves crash against the craggy headlands of Ireland.
If you need vast open spaces, go to the drastic deserts in Utah.
If you need to feel small, go to the Redwoods in California.
If you need out of your comfort zone, go someplace where you don't speak the language.
Outward experiences will answer our inner questions. Travel has the ability to heal us, humble us, and develop us in specific ways. How to become more accepting of a person, how to slow down and appreciate a moment, how to become more flexible when things go wrong. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, you can learn a lot about a person by how they handle lost luggage.
When we book our travels we should be asking ourselves not what do I want to see, but what do I want to learn. Put your ear close to your soul and listen really hard. A place will call you towards it if you are listening.
Malinda Meadows is an Ohio native who was letting grief blanket her life.
She found healing through traveling and nature. She discovered changes of location led to changes in her mindset. It helped her process grief and forge a new path with greater optimism and happiness. Realizing the benefit of deliberate change, she now leads a more balanced and mindful life inspired by simple changes.
She blogs regularly at malindainthesnow.com to help others find change, however small, outside their box in order to live a happier, healthier life.