PassportHere I am at day four of recovery since returning from my first international vacation adventure — and what an adventure it was! I spent a week in the Caribbean. That’s right, I said an entire week, which was also another first for me. #YOLO To think I’ve been working full-time day in and day out and not even considering the idea of stepping away for a whole week to reward myself. Well, no more half workdays or a Thursday or Friday off every now and again and considering it a break. I’ve been officially bitten by the vacay bug and feel beyond deserving to be able to partake on an annual basis. However, sans the details of alter egos, fake names (you know how we do, ladies), awesome food, island beaus, and “you had to be there” moments, I must say this trip revealed a very meaningful and valuable notion, an idea and priority that I will continue to consider as I think about future travel plans and why they are so important to my day-to-day life.

PERSPECTIVE. I think it’s easy to get into your daily monotony and unknowingly become immune to the experiences of others. Even if that’s an experience subtly different from yours (i.e., living with and without air conditioning) or an experience that is drastically different (i.e., having a place to call home vs. being homeless), there is always a lesson in perspective to be learned. Now I look through the perspective lens from multiple angles and each one resonates in a different way for me and encourages me to continue to travel and challenge myself to make these connections.

Angle 1: I’ve been blessed with the means to be able to go on vacation. When I arrived at the lavish resort complete with manicured landscaping, sparkling pools, attentive staff, and invitingly crisp white linen, my first thought was “how blessed am I?” I was able to turn this computer monitor screen saver photo into a reality that I will now be able to experience for an entire week. How many people are working themselves into premature ill-health just to be able to provide for themselves and their families without any hope of ever accumulating enough extra to be able to take a vacation?

Angle 2:  Necessities are relative. When you travel and are somewhat mobile during your trip, often you’ll find your resort or lavish hotel is minutes away from local communities of people living with little to nothing. You’d think popular tourist locations bring in significant revenue to improve the lives of the locals, yet more often than not, this is not the case. As I gallivanted between shops and restaurants, spending money freely and stopping to take photos at scenic lookout points, I couldn’t help but notice children playing outside of homes without doors or windows, women walking and carrying groceries with babies tied to their backs, and elderly people sitting barefoot in front of houses only a stone’s throw from main roads. Yet, surprisingly all of these persons were smiling and seemingly content in situations that make me wince just thinking of them. Perspective. The difference between needs and wants isn’t as black and white as one might think. You realize just how different this conversation can be depending on who you ask.

Angle 3: Cultural diversity isn’t a noun; it’s a verb. Exposure to another culture takes nothing away from the culture with which you identify. In fact, knowing about other cultures encourages a greater sense of pride in one’s own culture. When your frame of reference is broadened and you are able to acknowledge various similarities and differences between your culture and another, a harmonious balance is created and co-existence is no longer a survival of the fittest, but a “Soul Train” line of acceptance.

Angle 4: Timeshares and beach houses and yachts — oh my! It’s inevitable that you talk to strangers when you travel. And in these conversations you learn just how feasible lifetime travel can be. Coming from a blue-collar working-class family, my parents provided for my sister and I a stable home, food on the table every night, quality clothes on our backs, and even a few family vacations here and there. But the idea of traveling long distances always seemed a bit out of my family’s reach and even a bit of a mystery as to how working people did it on a regular basis. Fast forward to present day where my life decisions have taken me down a different path than my parents and afforded me a bit more financial freedom to partake in life’s luxuries. As I’ve talked to other travelers, I’ve learned so much about how to make traveling affordable and how investing in timeshares and travel club memberships can ease and spread out some of the financial burden while still allowing you the opportunity to see the world. Mystery solved!

Angle 5: Exposure equals normalcy to kids. I really enjoy seeing families traveling together because I know for those children, the idea of travel will be a normal occurrence, and hopefully one they will aspire to continue doing it for the rest of their lives. You’re doing yourself a significant disservice not to expand your life and world view — and that of your children. Expand your perspective.

So here’s my challenge to you, Clutchettes. When you think about traveling, think beyond the opportunity to sleep in as long as you want or having someone else make your bed or your opportunity to re-live the wild nights of your earlier youth. Think of traveling as an opportunity for you to broaden your life perspective. To increase your awareness of a time and space that isn’t normally yours. If you value personal growth and enlightenment, I can almost guarantee that thinking of traveling in this manner will spark an interest of a different kind. There’s a big wide world out there just waiting for you to explore. And while you will learn from and experience other people. along the way you’ll begin to live a different experience and view yourself in ever evolving lights.

Tell me, what has been the greatest life lesson you’ve taken away from a travel experience?

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  • Hmmm, while I haven’t been as many places as I’d like to go, so far from my travels, I’ve learned that 1)everyone does not know english, 2) just because the people look like me does not mean I’m safe, 3)it’s ok to atleast try a native dish, even if it doesn’t look “appetizing”, 4)smiling is a universal language, 5) bring or donate items/time to help local schools (supplies, clothes); any thoughts of poverty will be hightened time 10!

  • LeLe

    There is more to life than what you wake up to every day! Going abroad was the best thing I EVER did! Being able to see things with my own eyes, that I read in history class was just priceless. The world is ours to explore and enjoy. So get your passport!

  • Kim

    My passport went unused for years until last year. When I finally ventures out of the country, the bug bit me! And you’re right! How blessed are we? Great article – especially for all of the workaholics.

  • I went on my first trip abroad last June (to the United Arab Emirates) and I must way, what an eye opener! It was such an amazing adventure and now that I’ve got one stamp in my passport, I can’t stop obsessing over future travel plans. A trip to Spain in March is next on my list.