Be a Better Traveler & Have a Better Trip
When a best-selling author of a book later turned into a film and whose credits include being named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People has something to say, it may be worth listening. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the book, “Eat, Pray, Love” which took place in Italy, India and Ireland is a self-described lover of travel. “
I was mulling over some of her quotes and how they could pertain to travel. Here are five of my favorites that you may like. With a bit of a warning— each comes with my travel interpretation and a question for you.
Everyone should travel. If it’s not possible to travel to far away places, then get around the United States. If the funds aren’t there to get around your own country, then visit museums, religious institutions and parks nearby and attend free lectures. If getting out in your nearby area isn’t possible, then read and watch shows about other places and people that will take you away from home; away from your comfort zone. Immerse yourself in Elizabeth’s “Eat, Pray, Love” from the library to be in Italy, India and Indonesia.
People who don’t travel tend to live small. Life is in black and white. Right is only the way they know. They fear what they don’t know.
What “travel” is coming up for you that will take you beyond your world?
I’ve been blessed to have seen beautiful sites and experienced terrific activities. But it’s the interactions with people when traveling that have been the most special. Being offered a segment of an old orange by someone in a country where an orange in any stage is a rare treat. Sharing a smile and a handshake with a man who had been in a Leper colony most of his life. Dancing with an elderly man in a street to guitar music provided by a doorstep musician. Playing with children who didn’t speak English as they awed over my friend’s red hair. Talking, laughing and sharing with Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land. These memories are the priceless souvenirs I’ve brought home.
What is your fondest memory of pushing aside your fear and living in the brief moment of that relationship?
It was a very old orange; one most of us would throw out. But to someone in 1980’s Russia, it was precious. He was a conductor on our train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, probably 30ish, and we were 20-some-year-old tourists in a group. He had a great deal of respect (fear?) for an older, very unwelcoming female conductor. Through what appeared to be shyness, he strove to share his limited English and his orange with us while we all watched to keep him from getting in trouble over talking to tourists. We appreciated his bravery in order to make a connection with us. Those moments of intimacy during this cultural exchange are my biggest memories of that overnight train.
Have you been brave or been around another who was brave that resulted in you having a moment in each other’s lives?
We are safe in the comfort of our own fortresses, but life is so much fuller when we explore beyond our walls.
Thankfully there’s a wide range of options for an explorer. Getting out of your comfort zone may mean having lunch where the locals eat or trying a food you’ve not had before. Take in the culture, sights and smells at a local outdoor market. Dance or cooking lessons that tie in a local family’s home. Explore a culture, language, activity or lifestyle outside of what you know. It can be for a couple of hours or for much longer… Perhaps an African photo safari, climbing a mountain or a cruise to Antarctica.
A generous soul starts with a good attitude of an openness to another’s’ way of living. Care for those you are visiting. Connect with them. Perhaps you want your trip to include a humanitarian program. Shore excursions tied in with a few hours of involvement helping with a local project are increasing in popularity.
In my early 20’s, I visited a small town in South America. There, I met an enterprising 11-year-old who was practicing his English and was in awe of talking to someone who lived in the same country as his hero, Michael Jackson. He had an engaging smile and lively eyes. We had a good time. Picturing his face when a package arrived for him from the U.S. weeks later with a Michael Jackson poster makes me happy. The letters we traded for a while were fun. I hope it positively impacted his life. It did mine.
Have the heart of an explorer and a generous soul.
Have you ever been in that “busy, running, touring” mode when on vacation? Snapping the photo, looking for the right gift to bring back home? Sometimes, I have to remind myself to BREATHE and be in the moment (at home and on vacation!)
If not, I lose the opportunity to truly see what’s around me. And to look into someone’s face to see the opportunity for a relationship whether that exchange is only for a few minutes or longer. Those moments give pleasure, create understanding between cultures and can enrich your world
If you can recall a connection you made with someone at home or abroad, how did it make you feel?
Eat…. Something new.
Pray…. Gratitude for your travel experience.
Love…. Those who do things differently than you do at home.
Enjoy the journey!