Today I am back to work from a month and a half hiatus. Due to the seasonal nature of my work, which is most intense June through November, and the fact that amid the holiday rush of December it seems that people are either too busy or too broke to take a class, I have made a habit of not scheduling events from approximately mid-November until a week or so into the New Year. This has proved to be a good opportunity to take on small freelance projects, spend time with my family, and generally focus on the spirit of the season.
This year we also did a good bit of traveling in the interim in order to see family and friends and visit new cities and familiar. I’ve been gone 25 days–almost as many days as I’ve been home–since school let out for Thanksgiving break on Nov. 20. It’s been loads of fun, we’ve had many adventures, eaten tons of great food, and I’ve managed to stay relatively healthy (knock on wood) through it all, but I can definitively say that I am happy to be [mostly] at home with my feet on the ground at least until spring break.
The bulk of our travel wasn’t limited to late fall and winter. In fact, in the last 12 months travel has been more concentrated than ever. We’ve been fortunate to have visited lands far and wide–travelled internationally a couple of times, made stops on both U.S. coasts and many places in between whether for pleasure, to see family and friends, to attend weddings and conferences, or to engage in [personal] continuing education. It’s taught me some important things about life.
- It feels wonderful to live lighter. Traveling isn’t as easy as it once was–especially air travel. Unless you have elite status with an airline, you are likely to be charged for every last ounce you want to haul along. In the spirit of thriftiness, I have taken recent flights with just a tiny carry-on plus a makeshift purse for a 5-day trip to the West Coast (it helps that it’s very casual and much warmer there.) And in the couple of instances this year with flights on back-to-back weekends I barely even unpacked my suitcase before loading it again, I’ve learned to streamline my toiletries, snacks, electronics, and clothing. It’s amazing to realize just how little one actually needs in order to function (and even enjoy oneself!) for a week or more. When I return, I often have a more refined vision of what clothes I really love and feel comfortable in and have fewer emotional ties to the rest. Furthermore–some of you are familiar with my road to minimalism–this new focus moves me to weed out and sell more “stuff” and, consequently, add more spending money to my travel budget. The decluttering and minimalism movement is gaining speed; many friends say that purging makes them feel better and has brought in extra cash. What a great place to start if you are wondering how to build a travel fund.
- It’s helpful to get new perspectives on the world. You don’t have to visit a third world country to have your eyes opened to life beyond our fast-paced, Smartphone-dependent, consumer culture. There are new ideas waiting to present themselves whether you travel to a quiet rural artist community across the state; to the walking/bicycling cultures of Europe; or to the dense, public-transit laden cities on our East Coast. I think it’s important and valuable to see how other people live. Keep your eyes open and your cell phone in your pocket and your curiosity might be piqued. I love journaling about new ideas while traveling so I can remember how I felt or thought when I return. I always feel inspired in one way or another after traveling. The more I do it, the more my juices flow.
- It’s good to try new foods. Having worked primarily in the culinary world for the last 15+ years I feel it’s my obligation to taste interesting things and visit new restaurants while traveling. Eating out is a special, infrequent event for our family so when we travel it’s an opportunity to go outside our comfort zones. I’m not the world’s most daring eater, but I have enjoyed new preparations, interesting ingredients, and subtle flavors that I’ve talked about for months and years after my trips. Again, it makes me feel inspired upon re-entry and ready to explore my own city for new ingredients and dishes and to refresh my cooking habits at home.
- There’s no place like home. Above all, traveling frequently makes we realize how much I love my home base. I don’t usually think of traveling as “running away from it all,” though I admit there’ve certainly been weeks leading up to a trip that are hellacious enough schedule-wise that when I “clock out” I put the pedal to the metal and don’t look back until I’ve had my first cocktail on the other end. But going away, whether it’s a positive adventure or one full of mishaps and terrible service (the things that great stories are made of!), brings a new perspective to the routine at home, the physical flow of our lives, and the valuable time we have together. I appreciate washing dishes, vacuuming, doing laundry, preparing my own meals, and walking my daughter to school much more after being part of someone else’s routine or living in a hotel room over a few days. We travel so that we understand what we love and where we find meaning in our little lives.
I look forward to all of the travel–both big and small–that 2016 will bring. I can’t wait to see what will inspire me…and what I’ll want to get rid of when I return. 🙂