This summer on July 1st my family and I hopped on a plane to Bangkok, Thailand, with return tickets dated 9 weeks later. It was our epic summer, traveling around Southeast Asia, seeing ancient ruins and temples, eating all the street food, and finding peace and beauty in the steamy jungles of Bali. I wondered how this experience would transform us, and if any of it would be life-changing. Consider it a family version of Eat, Pray, Love.
Now that we're back and still processing, I've been reflecting on the benefits of travel and how to bring the beauty of our experience into our daily lives back in New York. Here are my thoughts on how to keep the vacation vibe going as we transition from summer into fall.
Eating fresh, local and organic connects you with the people and the place you’re in.
When you’re traveling, it’s always fun to try out the specialties of the area, whether it’s spicy Thai curries, Spanish seafood paella, or ratatouille in France. In Bali in particular, there is a huge emphasis at the restaurants on local organic food - which translates into lush tropical fruits, an elixir called “jamu jamu” (made with fresh-pressed turmeric, ginger, coconut water, and lime), heritage rice, and tons of vegetables. Sometimes the farm would be attached to the cafe we were eating at. Imported goods were rarely on the menu. (One restaurant justified its lack of bread on their menu with the statement “We don’t grow wheat on Bali”!) Eating this way not only gives you a real connection to the land, it also makes you feel energetically lighter and is more nutritious, as foods travel a very short distance from farm to plate. Back in New York, where we can get any international cuisine we want at any time of day, focusing on seasonal produce from our region’s farmer’s markets and meals made with those ingredients is key to feeling and looking your best.
Fresh Air and Movement.
As I traveled this summer, I noticed that much of community life was lived outdoors. Old men playing board games at parks, women chatting as they made temple offerings together, children running in fields flying kites. Cafes were often open-air, as were some of our accommodations. I met my 10,000 steps goal easily most days, as we walked everywhere to navigate cities, see temples and explore nature. There was so much greenery in Southeast Asia that I marveled at how many shades of green exist on this planet. I couldn’t help but notice that my mind, body, and spirit felt cleaner as I was getting oxygen at levels I never do in New York.
As the weather starts to cool, I’ll still be making it a priority to get outside and move. Whether it’s a morning run, a nice long stroll in the neighborhood, or just sitting on a park bench for a few moments to feel the sun on my face, I will remember that fresh air and movement are our bodies natural state, and that sitting still, working in artificial light, and living in conditioned air 100% of the time is not.
The Power of Connection.
I’m not an extrovert. Before our trip, I was more likely to look down at the sidewalk as I walked around the city than make eye contact with anyone. But one aspect of travel that I really enjoyed were the almost daily conversations with others, whether it was a short chat with my taxi driver, a more in depth conversation with a tour guide, or sharing and comparing travel experiences with other backpackers. It wasn’t intimidating or scary to smile and say hello, and connecting with others was always a positive boost to my day.
When you think about the most basic desires of humans, I believe that we all want to be seen, we all want to be heard, and we all want to make connection. It may take a little more effort if you’re an introvert like me, but knowing we all come from this same baseline makes it easier to be the first to reach out, make eye contact, or maybe just a smile. And after repeated connection, the end result is often a friendship or becoming part of a community. I’ll be taking advantage of the opportunities I have to connect with others as I go about my daily routine.
Rest is everything.
Although I’m very good at maintaining a healthy level of self-care in New York, after traveling for so many weeks I came to the realization that rest is the ultimate self-care. Allowing myself time to be still and practice the art of nothingness was incredibly nourishing. As someone who often pushes myself to go go go until I’m just about ready to pass out at the end of the day, this was a big change for me. When I would get bored, or feel the itch to go do something - anything - I let myself sit in that emotion for a little bit and ask myself what was really going on. Often, the feeling would pass, and I would remind myself that this “doing nothing” was a good thing. It wasn’t really doing nothing. It was recharging my batteries.
Although the rhythm and pace of New York is much faster than the small villages I was in, I think that maybe I brought more back from my trip than some lovely souvenirs. I brought back a mindset, a place of rest inside, that I know I can return to again when I need to restore and nourish my soul.
I miss my summer travels. But I know now that there is a lot more to travel than physically going to new places and seeing new things. It’s also about discovering an entire landscape within yourself. Because we are always changing, we can visit new places inside ourselves as well as in the outside world. And in our own towns and cities, we can explore and have adventures, and meet new people everywhere we go. I’m personally going to continue to travel with this expanded self-awareness, both here at home and in the next place I’m lucky enough to visit.