Before you can even wonder, yes, I am trying to convince you to take off for 6 months and live some place foreign and beautiful.
Getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to grow. One of the most inspirational ways is to take a trip to someplace you’ve been dreaming of. Call it a vacation if you want but there is something freeing about taking a long break from your “real life” to get in-tune with a different part of yourself…a part that may have been sleeping or totally unknown. There is so much of the world to discover, whether you take a tropical cruise, go to an island resort, go climb a mountain, or take a traditional tea ceremonies class in Japan, just go somewhere for yourself and really steep yourself in the culture of the place.
If you needed further convincing, I have reasons why you should run away from home, and book a flight to somewhere new, and stay for a long, LONG time.
1. If you stay long enough, it starts to feel like home.
What really is “home”? A place you’re comfortable and familiar with? Why? Maybe you were born there. Maybe you visited many times with your parents while you were a child. Maybe you packed up everything and moved after you graduated from high school. However you got where you’re currently living, how did you settle in?
Maybe you walked around the neighborhood? Went to a lot of coffee shops? Googled popular restaurants? Sometimes, you even move to a place where you already have friends and family who are willing to show you all of the exciting things in that new place.
Why would you want to do this though? Because when a place starts to feel like home, it really becomes a part of you. This is how you learn anything, by studying it, really spending time with it, and bonding with it. We Americans don’t often apply these same concepts to travel because we’re stuck working 40+ hours a week 82 weeks a year and can hardly afford to take time off, and those of us who can afford to do so, don’t often get more than a week or two vacation time.
You deserve more. We all do. There is a certain sort of freedom to be found from living in a place so long that you become comfortable there. You learn the people, absorb the place, soak in the lifestyle. I wish this for everyone and it is something that everyone should experience at least once.
2. the leisure of exploration time
There is a lot less of a time pressure. You don’t have to do everything in three days. You can laze around by the pool and have margaritas for a whole week if you want to. Time isn’t stopping you anymore. We’re always in a hurry. Always doing things, always having to get something done. Even me as I type out this post, I carved out a few hours in a Saturday to get it done. This is not the way you want to treat your vacation. It isn’t supposed to feel like something you had to squeeze out of your life in order to get a few days or weeks of freedom. You cannot properly steep yourself in a new place without giving yourself time to explore.
Something I’ve learned during my own travels is that there are still many places in the world that you can’t Google… not every place has a thousand reviews on the internet telling you where you should be spending your time, and even still, those thousand reviewers don’t know you. Only you know you. Only you can know where it is you should go to enrich yourself and sometimes, those places are in between the 100 popular restaurants, in the nooks, shoved between two boutiques.
Sometimes, the things that you didn’t know you needed to experience, aren’t things that you can research. Some of the places I found the most beautiful were not a part of the daily routine that had been mapped out for me during my study abroad program in Paris. I found the best, most inspiring things in the parks I bumped into, in the musicians that filled the metro stations, in the swans that sat by the lakes, in the rivers that ran beside the famous art museums. I spent several hours staring at swans and ducks and feeding birds while I was in Paris, and I don’t think I would’ve if I’d only been able to be there for a week.
3. You can "become" French (or Spanish or...whichever place!)
The more familiar you become with a new place, the more familiar that place becomes with you. You learn the people as they learn you. So spend time with them, don’t spend your entire trip being a tourist. Go to the grocery stores and the pastry shops and the little boutiques. The people make these places what they are. That is not to say that you shouldn’t spend time taking in nature and going on hikes, but you want to make a daily effort to participate in some of the activities that the locals do everyday.
One of the things that I perfected while in Paris was going to cafes and just hanging out…for hours…alone…and without ordering food. With no agenda. Not working on anything. Just people-watching. After living in New York, I’d kind of absorbed the “always in a hurry, gotta go gotta go, gotta go” energy of the city, so I had to really dig down deep into myself in order to practice sitting in a cafe.
This probably sounds silly. It felt that way. But it is something that I have carried with me since I’ve returned to America. Having coffee the French way. Take your time. Enjoy the space. Don’t hurry. There are little life lessons to be gleaned from anywhere in the world, if only you take the time to listen to the energy of the people there, trying to teach you their ways.
4. You can try more food!
More time is…more time! And what can you do with more time? Try more stuff! Try everything, in fact! Besides anything that you might be allergic to, that is. You might even push yourself to try something you previously believed that you didn’t like. One of the things you may quickly learn is that food outside of the United States has a lot less chemically enhanced garbage in it and that makes a huge difference in how things will taste and how you will process them.
Some of the things you might want to try throughout your stay will include pasteries, coffee, beer, wine, tea, breakfast (might sound specific, but that’s the idea. Breakfast is so different from place to place and that will give you a whole host of things to try, fruit (trust me, it’ll be a whole new experience), and cultural dishes (can you really say you went on a trip without trying the foods that they are known for?).
5. Fall in Love
Corny? Perhaps, but…it happens. It happened to me when I was living as a little French girl in Paris. But let me get into why having relationships during travel is super beneficial. You’ll have a partner who knows the place who can show you all of the best food spots, boutiques, shops, and clubs. You have just found your own personal tour guide who is (hopefully) getting more in tune with what you like and would be interested in, who knows the best way to get there, and will enhance the entire experience.
This is not to say that you can’t make platonic friends either, those are great too. I’m just a romantic being who always enjoys the feeling of living life like you stepped into a Nicholas Sparks romance novel, so for like-minded people, traveling while single can be an excellent way to make the most of your long stay vacation.
6. Discover new music, art, and dance during your long stay trip
There is no way you can squeeze all of this into a short “vacation”, and why would you want to? The world offers us so many different genres of music and it’s just out there waiting to be discovered. When I was in Paris, there were buskers (artists, musicians, and dancers who do live performances in public places for tips) all over the metro stations, just like there are in New York City…and in Barcelona when I was there too. I have discovered new dance forms, new artists for my music playlists, and art that I would not have come across if I hadn’t had the time to just walk aimlessly around Paris, hop random trains and wander around bumping into things and people.
Given that I was in Paris for a study abroad art program, there were lots of visits to art museums between my bookbinding, figure drawing, and dance classes. Art museums are great, but… we’ve got plenty of those in America. What was even more interesting was seeing art murals and French graffiti. Here, in an unstructured, uncontrolled environment, you find art that inspires a different part of you, and the best thing about it is that it confronts you when you’re least expecting it. There is something special about having a long day out where you do some shopping, stop into a cafe for a crepe and a coffee, and then bump into something that makes you stop to look at it.
…or to listen to it. Or to watch. Delving into the culture, one delightful surprise at a time, is a far less stressful and overwhelming experience (for me) than spending 3 hours at the Louvre, trying to see it all (which is probably impossible, but people try to anyway).
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