11 reasons to travel

By Caitlin Kelly

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Toronto

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Washington, D.C.

Wheels up today!

I’m leaving, starting in Paris with Jose for my birthday, for six weeks in Europe, most of it spent alone and my longest break in 30 years — Paris-Berlin-Budapest-Zagreb-Istria-Venice-London.

A few reasons to travel:

Meeting “the other”

Who’s “foreign” and why? What does it even mean to be a foreigner? What’s janteloven and how does it affect Scandinavian behavior? What’s a “bank holiday” and why do people look forward to it? Why do the Dutch keep their windows open and their interiors visible? What part of a Thai person’s body should you never touch?

We each live within a cultural and historical matrix affecting our choices, whether we realize it or not. Shedding that protective shell, even briefly, can be eye-opening — even life-changing.

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The Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

Becoming “the other”

Suddenly you’re the fish out of water, whose assumptions and beliefs can seem weird, even rude, where you’re the visitor.

Here’s a funny and revealing list of the things visitors to the United States find very odd indeed.

To slooooooow down and pay close attention to where you are

Turn off your phone! Put down that damn selfie-stick!

Instead, bring binoculars, a sketch book, a book to read. Sit on a rocky hilltop or by a waterfall or in an outdoor cafe. Sit still for an hour and be truly present.

Memories are the best souvenir and paying attention creates them.

Learning/testing your resilience and resourcefulness

It’s up to you to: read the map/menu/train station directions/find the hotel or hostel or apartment. It’s up to you to catch the right bus or subway, (a challenge if the language is Arabic or Chinese or Japanese or Cyrillic or Greek!) But the self-confidence it brings transfers nicely once you’re back on familiar soil.

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A cup of tea at the Ritz in London

Using/learning another language

Read the local paper or listen to radio and TV. Learn the phrases for “please” and “thank you” and “I need help.” Using the local language, if at all possible, is a basic show of respect, even if you blunder.

Realizing the value of other ways of thinking: political, economic, social, urban planning, healthcare

Americans, especially, have shockingly little knowledge of the world; with a huge Pacific Ocean to the West, the Atlantic to the east, simply getting out of the U.S. can mean a long, expensive flight. Nor are Americans taught much, if anything, about other countries and American exceptionalism can add a layer of potential arrogance and tone-deafness.

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Paris

Making new friends

Social media and the Internet offers us unprecedented opportunities to make new friends, literally worldwide. Thanks to blogging, my journalism work and Twitterchats, I’ll be meeting up with new and old friends this summer in London, Paris and Berlin, and hope to make a few more along the way.

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Americans call it Canadian bacon; we call it peameal!

Exploring new cultures

Through food, music, museums, galleries, architecture, parks and natural wonders. It’s easy to forget how essential other cultures have also been to the foundation of so much Western thought — French, Asian, Greek, Arabic, just to name a few.

Find out what a muffaletta and a pan bagnat have in common!

Gaining a deeper appreciation of history

I once stood in front of the magnificent marble facade of an Italian church with a Chinese friend who asked if we had such things in my country, Canada. No, I said — we didn’t even become a country separate from Great Britain until 1867.

Stand inside the ringing silence of the Grand Canyon or the African savannah or Australia’s Outback….and remember we’re mere blinks within millennia.

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The Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, New York

Savoring nature’s silent beauty

So much travel is focused, as it should, on the great cities of the world. But there are so many stunning natural sites, from White Sands Monument in New Mexico, (actually silica), to the vast red deserts of Namibia and Morocco, the jungles of Central and South America and Africa, the rugged islands off the coasts of Ireland and Scotland and the U.S. and Canada…

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Cruit Island Golf Course, Donegal, Ireland

Trying new activities

No bungee-jumping for me! But I’ve tried street food in Bangkok, chocolate-filled churros in Mexico City, sea-kayaking on Ko Phi Phi, horseback riding through the desert in Arizona. Even if it’s an activity you know, doing it in a wholly different environment is worth trying; I loved playing golf on Cruit Island in strong winds at the ocean’s edge — leaving my cheeks salty with sea-spray.

Looking for travel ideas or inspiration?

There are hundreds of travel blogs; one, written by a young Scottish friend — who met her American husband (of course!) while teaching English in China — is Stories My Suitcase Could Tell.

I also enjoy the sophisticated tips offered by a Canadian living in Paris, here.

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Galeries Lafayette, Paris

It’s a fantastic time to visit Canada, where I was born (Vancouver) and raised (Toronto, Montreal.) The Canadian dollar is about 73 cents U.S. and it’s a gorgeous place, with much to see, from Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland (forever on my to-do list) to the spectacular Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island — at the opposite end of my enormous country.

I join weekly travel-focused Twitterchats, like #TRLT, #travelskills and #culturetrav. If you love travel, it’s a terrific way to learn a lot about the world and meet equally passionate fellow travelers.

Here’s a smart blog post with specific suggestions on how to save enough money to travel.

15 thoughts on “11 reasons to travel

  1. Enjoy your travels, Caitlin! Looking forward to hearing all about them. It would have been nice to meet for a coffee when you’re in London, but I’m going to be away when you said you’re visiting. Another time, perhaps.

    The post link (Twelve Tips for Women Travelling Alone) in the Related Posts section at the bottom of this post is really helpful. I’ve been thinking about travelling solo in Spain. I’d like to go with a friend because sometimes it’s nicer to share experiences, but coordinating with another person takes more planning and can be more hassle.

    The thing that concerns me about travelling alone is (as you mentioned in the post) spending the evenings alone. I thought nothing of going out late in Madrid last year, but I was with a Spanish friend who knows the city.

    1. Thanks!

      I’ve got that sussed…:-) In Paris, will be with friends or Jose the whole week; in Berlin, I already have five people to meet up with! In Budapest, meeting a friend and her daughter.

      I’ll be alone in Croatia and Venice (about 10-12 days) but that doesn’t bother me. I’ve traveled alone so much and have no fear of dining alone or being seen solo, as long as I stay safe. I really need some downtime all by myself — the last month of work has been (happily) the busiest and most demanding of the year. I’m pooped!

      1. Sounds like you have a great schedule planned! I hear you re: alone time. Time to recharge is a must.

        Re: travelling alone – I’d worry about attracting unwanted male attention as a young woman on my own in the evening. Not an issue during the day (although it obviously depends on the place), but I’d be more concerned about going out on my own at night or getting back to accommodation late. I saw from the comments on your other post that some other women voiced the same concern.

      2. I hear you — but I think your fears are out of proportion to what is likely in most places.

        I traveled alone at your age. I’ve only been followed once, in Tunis, (in my 40s) and into my hotel — brightly lit, lots of people around. I told him, in French, to buzz off and he did.

        I have never felt scared or threatened — but I am also smart about my choices. I don’t drink or drug; (I stay sober and aware of where I am and what people around me are doing). I stay in decent hotels in decent neighborhoods. I don’t wear expensive jewelry or anything that signals wealth (in developing nations, almost anything normal to us does.) In Istanbul, alone, I wore a wedding ring (even though I was single.)

        When eating or drinking alone, I also read a book or magazine or open a broadsheet newspaper (which covers my face completely when reading.)I have $$$$ for a taxi. I wear flat shoes and don’t dress like I’m looking to get picked up.

        Having said all that, when single, I had a few quite lovely encounters when I attracted male attention. 🙂

        There are plenty of ways to travel and be safe.

  2. Have fun with your travels – I’ll be happily following your posts. 🙂

    PS – Don’t forget to add the north to your list. 🙂 And Gros Morne – so similar to Norway. I hope you get to go sometime.

      1. Nice.
        At the moment, most of my travel obstacles are financial. But with some luck and thriftiness, who knows? I could get to go to Europe again, or Israel again, or Japan! Oh, I would love Japan.
        In the meantime, I’ll content myself with going to Massachusetts in July with my dad. We’re going to see some historical sights, visit a number of museums, possibly see a fireworks show, and stay in at least two haunted hotels/bed & breakfasts. I plan on doing some ghost hunting with my laptop, should be fun.

  3. Pingback: 11 reasons to travel — Broadside – Living my youth.

  4. You nailed it. If you visit my blog, you will quickly realize Traveling is my biggest passion…so ready for my life to calm down so I can continue my adventures… for now it’s just trying to navigate this whole adventure that is life. I hope it is everything you imagined but better!!

      1. Yiu have to go to falafel place, l’as du fallafal, in the Marais. It will change your life!! And my favorite lil’ museum is l’orangerie. It has Monet’s water lilies in it, but also so many gems from other famous artists… and it’s very small for when you don’t feel like spending hours and hours in a museum!!

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