It’s hard to articulate the robust pleasure and sense of one-ness I get from travelling.
Sure, there are the pain-in-the-ass travel logistics, that annoying individual (or several) who don’t like me or my at times hard to conceal American feminist attitude, missed flights, time zone headaches, and acclimating to new foods. But each travel experience is an opportunity that opens my heart and influences the palette of my life. It informs how I view the world and influences how I teach yoga from a new song acquisition or a new ritual.
To me, the purpose of a trip is often less about going to see or do, and more about being with. It evolves into a moving meditation. It becomes the going to “be” … to be more present with myself and how life unravels in a different place, space and time.
Every voyage changes my life. I feel engulfed in love. Strangers have escorted me long distances to my destination, generously opened their homes, shared smiles that unveil my heart or offered their family’s meal on a train (chapattis and veggies from Bombay to Delhi comes to mind). It is in this space of connection, beyond flights, that I am swaddled in care and know instantly humanity is kind and the universe has my back.
I find my center, grounded-ness and joy in this movement of going.
I am forced to address the moment as I often have limited to no preconceived response when the context is so different. I show up as me. I am driven to experience what the photograph does not convey or the memories that were never intended for an image—the conversations shared over popcorn with my colleague under a star littered African sky; the hushed laughter and chatter in Nepali by a soft fire not understood by me, but the warmth felt; salsa dancing with new partners, practicing Spanish and drinking cervesas in Colombia.
This level of learning, extending my world, sharing it with others, is rivaled by few other experiences.
Granted, I am aware international travel can be extravagant, self-indulgent and highly negative for the physical environment. (I am still working on how to rectify this.) I also realize I am a blessed passport holder gaining easy access to most countries and rarely have had me or my luggage scrutinized.
Yet, there are many benefits to consider the next trip, near or far: Inspiration. Inspiration is joy. So often our daily lives become routine and miss the the high or low notes of a musical composition. Inspiration feeds our souls. It is the peak of an inhale relishing in the panoramic landscape from the mountaintop you just climbed with your kids after that long car ride.
Isn’t life about the moments that take our breath away instead of the number of breaths we take?
Similarly, I find joy from magnificence. It’s simply magnificent to hold a warm croissant that flakes perfectly while walking down narrow cobbled streets soaking in how light and shadow frame brightly colored shutters lined with lace curtains. I am in awe of centuries old architecture and craftsmanship dedicated to the divine—in temples, cathedrals, mosques, or other places of worship. I’m moved by these places for their physical beauty, but also in recording human history, others’ joys, fears, and desires—individuals who passed here before me.
Take advantage, go for a wander and be in wonder.
In Vulnerability We Trust.
Navigating unknowns is scary and exhilarating. Being vulnerable to not knowing how it all works—the roads, the cultural cues, the food, makes it surreal and yet oh so real. We feel alive in the moments of embarrassment at a cultural faux pas or pride in your communication success. We are forced into situations where we have what is often termed in yoga, “a beginner’s mind.” In order to exist in this (at times) intensity and not feel frustrated, we need a beginner’s mind, having compassion for yourself and your novice ability to exist in this new context. We realize we are not in control.
I become more adept at navigating unknowns and opening my heart to trust. Travel is this space of vulnerability accepting I have limited control, and trusting others have my best interest at heart. I find myself and my heart growing sideways.
In my opinion, the ‘traveler’ prioritizes experiences of connection whereas a ‘tourist’ is more focused on hitting the top ten sights.
Bucket lists of “destinations” pale in comparison to the unquantifiable shared connections I have had between me and a waiter at a bar, or the hilarious stories accumulated between me and my travel companion.
This is what I want to share when people ask me how was (insert country). Maybe it is taking a yoga class in Antigua, Guatemala before a flight if only to just drop in and see that all is well right here, right now, in this part of the world. Go find that unmarked road to the beach not listed in the guidebook and have a beer on a remote beach.
Go connect in a way that’s real, honest and soul inspired.
Photographs are sweet mementos, but it is the flood of memories, the rush of smells, the sensory time capsule created and lodged into my memory that ambushes me when I think of a place, experience or people I was blessed to have received into my life. These are times infused with love. This place of connection is why I have wanderlust.
May you stoke the fire of your own inspiration, trusting in others and connecting in a way that etches memories in your heart. It is less about the exotic destination and more of an approach. I now go about my day looking for magical numbers on license plates and if dragons will appear in the grocery store.
Wanderlust is my spiritual journey as wherever I go, there I am.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Jolie Carey
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: madelyn mulvaney at Flickr