Dear Self: 

The summer I turned 18 is when I first realized travel can be empowering and life-changing. That was in 1972. I’d just met my future husband, and he asked me to join him on his preplanned vacation to the Yukon Territory.

Surprisingly, my parents gave me the green light to go. I entrusted my life to him as we drove across the then-unpaved Alaskan Highway in his orange Volkswagen Super Beetle, with matching fiberglass canoe on its rooftop. The inside of the car was packed with all the essentials and clothes jammed in a backpack. Young and in love, we drove all day and into the night, until we found the perfect remote and romantic camp site to pitch our tent; start a fire, and mix our usual portions of canned peas and tuna fish accompanied by a bowl of potato chips. That was the only meal I remember because not only was psyche oozing with love, I was too busy absorbing the beauty of nature. The terrain and energies surrounding us were literally awe-inspiring.

Each morning, we would awaken, peek our heads out of the tent to ascertain our safety, stand up and stretch, and then wander to the stream to wash and brush our teeth. All ready for a new day. After my morning journaling, we drove from sunrise to sunset, nibbling on homemade (or car-made) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and sharing our feelings and musings as we rolled through many small Northern Canadian villages.

Reflecting back on that experience reminded me how travel inspires creativity and introspective thinking, while also turning us on to new cultures. That summer, I filled up numerous notebooks with all sorts of ramblings. Being in nature also reminds us, in a respectful way, of all those things beyond us; how miniscule and potentially insignificant we are in this immense world in which we live. This perspective is especially important during times when we are overwhelmed by personal, professional or financial issues that can take overtake our essence and head space. Being in nature offers a sense of calm and gratitude that is not easy to capture in the confines of our everyday lives 

While travel has always been an integral part of my life, I was recently reminded of its transformative powers. Just last month we went to Tuscany in celebration of my 60th birthday. I knew again the power of travel, and how leaving the comfort of our own familiar quarters can teach us more about ourselves and the world than sitting and reading a pile of books.

While traveling with others is one type of get-away, solo travel also has a great deal to offer in terms of escapism. Artist Edward Hopper has done numerous paintings depicting the beauty of traveling alone—such as the print hanging on my office wall, called “The Box Car.” His other paintings, such as “The Night Hawks.” and “The Hotel” offer the same sort of solitude and contemplative mood. Being with oneself, feeling comfortable enough in one’s skin to embark on solo travel can be healing, transformative and empowering.

More recently, I picked up a book that had inspired me years ago, called, The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. Early in the book, de Botton wisely states, “If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest—in all its ardor and paradoxes—than our travels.” de Botton suggested that not only does traveling teach us what life is all about, and the struggles we face every day for survival, but travel can also help us transcend to places otherwise unknown and inaccessible. He accentuates, and I agree, that creativity, and often poetry is born in these unknown places. In reality, the beauty of the places we visit may not be the impetus for the creative act, but instead, a change of scenery may offer a material setting “for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.”

As summer approaches and people hit the road for vacation, it is a good time to consider how your travels and visits to new environments can nurture your psyche and creativity. You might fall in love with the experience, and want to repeat it over and over again. If you are lucky, you will like the person/s you are traveling with, and then you can sing the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song, “If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with.”

Love, life and lust,

Diana

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