“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”
– Hans Christian Andersen
As we move through our lives, if we’re lucky, we’ll experience a variety of different adventures that take us away from home. Some of them will break your heart to leave, and some will bring that moment where, in the words of Erma Bombeck, “You know it’s time to go home when you start to look like your passport photo.”
I recently read a Buzzfeed article on the 18 different types of travelers, and it got me thinking of all the different types of travel one can (and should) experience in their life – and how fortunate I have been to experience a glimpse of them all.
My list of the ten types of travel everyone should experience:
1. The Trek – Anyone who knows me would know that I am a “great indoorsman”. I love a great meal, a lovely lobby, a lush bed, and a nicely curated museum. But, growing up in the Western US, one is also expected to get out every now and again to experience America’s treasures, our National Parks.
About five years ago, after much cajoling, my dear husband got me to acquiesce to a two-day, 16-mile backpacking trek down the Virgin River, through Zion National Park. This is not a simple stroll and an overnight camp. This is a journey that requires almost constant maneuvering through rushing river waters, shimmying down slippery red rock embankments, and a number of passages where you take off your pack and carry it over your head as frigid emerald waters creep up past your armpits and loose river boulders threaten to turn your ankle with every step. It also opened eyes to the complete serenity of being alone. Miles went by where we didn’t see another person, and the sounds of rushing water made conversation impossible during some passages.
I gained a Zen in that trek that I have never experienced before, a oneness with nature that my husband had known and enjoyed for years, but I had never quite understood. When the journey was concluding and we lumbered past the day trippers who’d hiked two miles up river for the “easy” experience, I also basked in the exhaustion of accomplishment, and felt like quite the badass.
2. The Business Trip – This one gets old, fast, but those who’ve never done it seem to have the feeling that travelling for work would be glamorous and “fun”. The first day is a little exciting, airports, expense accounts, checking in to a new (and hopefully nicer than you’d splurge for) hotel, ordering up room service, pulling out your laptop for a late night cram session. Then day two, and three, and loneliness set in and you realize it’s still just work … and room service never tastes as good as the food you’d make at home.
3. The Five Star Experience – Early in his career my husband worked for a big, posh company that sent key employees away on quarterly “retreats”. The work-relevant component to the trip was lost on me, but the pre-paid five start hotel, generous airfare (read first class) allowance, and $500 per day per diem were not. I enjoyed massages, shopping, and general lazing about while the Mr. attended meetings and training sessions, then we met for a luxurious dinner and didn’t even flip our eyes toward the cost of what we ordered. He now works in public service, and the travel perks have evaporated, but it was an absolutely delightful thing to have once walked into the Fairmont Empress, Victoria, Canada with three days and $1,500 to spend on anything we wanted to do.
4. The Honeymoon – When we first married we were poor students with no time or budget for a proper honeymoon. We ended up on what we now joke was the “worst honeymoon ever”, a weekend at the Wart Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyoming during the off-season – which is why we got a deal on the room which enabled us to afford the trip. Unfortunately, in the November off-season, Jackson Hole shuts down. The weather is too cold for outdoor adventure, but too warm for snow. The shops (except for the Gap and the ubiquitous T-shirt stores) close, the restaurants are undergoing refurbishment, and the famous Cowboy Bar is empty. So, we spent three days at the movie theater and ate Thanksgiving Dinner at the Evanston, Wyoming JB’s buffet and truck stop.
Fortunately, years later we were able to take a beautiful week-long vacation to the Whitehouse Sandals in southern Jamaica. We cashed in our frequent flier miles for first class tickets, planted our butts on posh lounging chairs, read on the beach, had leisurely mimosa breakfasts, and lazed away the days reconnecting with each other. There really is something to the lazy romantic getaway that can recharge a relationship even more than a grand voyage through the most romantic streets of Venice.
5. Living Cheap in the Third World – A year ago I fulfilled a life long bucket list item and traveled to Indonesia to volunteer at a small children’s charity in the hills above Bali. The children were delightful, the sleeping accommodations sent me home wondering if I had bed bugs, and the experience opened my eyes and changed my perspective more than any trip I’d ever taken. I saw Australian spring-breakers behaving like disgusting animals, 80-year-old Balinese women hauling wheelbarrows full of heavy bricks, third world prostitution, a beautiful cremation ceremony in Ubud, and spent my thirty-fifth birthday surrounded by citizens of the world. And, heading through customs on the way home the agent looked at my passport and then at me and asked, “What happened to you?” … apparently my passport photo looked BETTER than the real thing, definitely time to go home.
6. It All Goes Wrong, and That’s Okay – A recent business trip when my luggage didn’t show up, strep throat in Orlando, Florida, a week in the Intensive Care Unit requiring a complete rerouting of a trip to Italy. I’ve experienced a bit of it all, and it all turned out okay, because I held to the mantra, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”
7. The Short Term Move – The summer between my sophomore and junior year of college I moved to Burlington, Vermont. Which, for a girl who grew up in the suburban west, was quite an eye-opening experience. Hippies … real hippies … with dread locks, bare feet, and thick blunts hanging from their lips. I was in mouth-agape heaven. I bought a sarong, stopped blow drying my hair, and took to listening to Phish with the best of them (though I never quite understood the point). At the end of the summer I was smarter, less sheltered, and ready for the familiar – most especially my familiar self. I’d also gained five pounds of Ben and Jerry’s and vegan lasagna, and learned that the theory that Patchouli replaces deodorant is incorrect, my mother sent me to the shower immediately upon entering the house.
8. The History and Culture Tour – In college I spent two weeks wandering through Europe and saw a little bit of not much, but I ate well and wandered the beautiful streets of Brugges, Saint-Michel, Stockholm, and Amsterdam. I didn’t go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, wander the Rijksmuseum, or open my eyes to anything more than the deliciousness of the street waffle.
Then, in 2009 I took a two-week journey through Italy with my dear husband and his family. We visited Florence, Bologna, Cinque Terre, Rome, Sienna, and Venice. We saw cathedrals, canals, museums, famous statues, and licked gelato in every beautiful piazza we passed. We learned, we laughed, and we loved… and of course, it being Italy, we ate. And, I can’t wait to repeat the trip with an adventure along the Danube next year.
9. The Metropolitan Weekend – New York, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, Vancouver, San Francisco are all perfect locations for a weekend getaway of food, museums, theater, and that relaxed feeling that comes with having nowhere to go and everything to do. It’s tempting to always plan the “big” trip, but my husband continues to remind me that a few small trips to great locations can be just as relaxing, and gives us more overall travel each year.
10. The Staycation – Sometimes, it’s just about reconnecting with your own life, taking a few days off to clean out the closets, visit local attractions, sleep in, and watch terrible day time television can be an incredibly re-energizing.