Today, my Dad would have turned 75 years old. He passed away years ago but it still seems surreal. We did not live close to each other and did not see each other with great regularity which lends his absence a feel that nothing has changed. But it has. While we may not have been in touch often, when we got to talk, we talked. He was a great conversationalist and gave me good and pointed advice at key moments in my life. He was a great cheerleader of mine and I miss him.
So what does any of this have to do with travel? As I sit back and think of him and his life, I realize that, if I were to pass away at the age he did, I am then looking at two more decades in this life. And the natural question is “what will I want to accomplish in those two decades?” if that were my remaining life span here. I ask this not to be morbid and, in fact, I think the better life comes after this one but I still think it is a worthwhile question to explore.
And when I think of it, among the top 5 items on that list is travel.
Travel to me is not just the break from work, or the rest-and-relaxation that (hopefully) comes with it. If I am traveling alone, travel is about exploring a different setting, a different culture – and by doing that, I learn something about myself. Not necessarily big a-ha’s but small new glimpses into the complex world we all are as individuals. Sure, don’t get me wrong, I also like discovering a good photo spot, a good wine, or a good meal. But traveling alone affords me much more beyond checking off a bucket list item (which I like to do too).
Travel gets even better when I travel with family or friends. The benefits of the solitude of traveling solo are replaced by the even more important (in my book) development of relationships that are important to me. When I travel with people I care about, the discovery that happens during travel becomes now an experience which builds upon the pre-existing relationships to add a new dimension – and a shared memory. When I have traveled with my niece and nephew, seeing their wonderment at a new place reminds me of how I felt at that age. Plus the shared memory of those trips (be it snorkeling in the Cayman Islands or walking around Stockholm or just dining at the cruise ship restaurant) will serve as an underpinning to our familiar relationship. When I am gone, I sure hope those shared experiences will help them remember their uncle fondly and tell their kids and grandkids all about it! (Hope they are reading this J )
With friends, be it trekking up Kilimanjaro or Nepal, wining and dining ourselves in Tuscany, whale watching off the coast of Iceland, or gallivanting around SE Asia (soon!), the relationships certainly deepen. I still remember telling friends that they should not worry if I go quiet at some point in the day as we explored Italy; as an introvert, at some point in the day my being craves me being quiet (but totally OK if everyone around me is talking away). Sharing that gave my friends an insight they may not have had about me if we had just been having dinner at a restaurant at home. Once again, the shared memories strengthen the relationships – and we sure love talking about the crazy and funny stories that –of course- result from those travels!
Yes, I like exploring new places and being confronted with the “different.” But in the end, it is about relationships. It is about people. It is about going through this life as the dress rehearsal it is for the next one. And so it is that travel is one of my priorities (though not the top one) for whatever the remaining chapters are in the book of my life.