There are many people who don’t travel. Some cannot afford to travel. Some are perfectly content to stay at home and just do their “staycations”. I’m not about to judge anyone for their decision, just like I hope others don’t judge me when I travel to France again and again.
“À chacun son goût” = “To each his own”.
So why travel to France….or anywhere in the world? Travel for your well-being.
1. Comfort Zone
This picture is me at a team building retreat at Noisy River in Ontario, Canada where I was to jump off a platform which was 40-50 feet off the ground. The task was to try to touch a pole hanging in the distance. My knees were literally shaking from being up so high. Thank goodness I was tethered and supported by my team mates. Did I do it? YES!
Travelling can take you out of your comfort zone (if you let it), forcing you to possibly speak another language and eat different foods. While some find this unsettling and want things “just like at home”, your brain is being exercised! You can grow and learn when you encounter new experiences. You learn that you CAN and that although initially things were uncomfortable, life went on and you were OK.
2. Learn New Things
When you travel you learn so much: how to eat oysters, how to speak French, how to make macarons, learn new cultural norms (ie. saying “bonjour” when entering a store), and how to cope when things don’t go right (ie. getting on the wrong train from Paris to Spain). I am constantly looking for new experiences in France whether they be active, educational, or culinary. This makes my travels so much more interesting.
3. Learn About Yourself
When I travel, I write in a journal and when I was much younger I wrote about my career aspirations and things I liked and didn’t like to do. It was a time for reflection and learning about myself. We are often so busy, on life’s treadmill, that we don’t slow down. Travelling gives us permission to do that. You learn that you can achieve a lot and solve more problems than you ever imagined (ie. what to do when you leave a concert outside of Annecy and realize there aren’t any buses or taxis to take you back to town…that’s in a future post).
4. Introvert or Extrovert?
Theoretically, introverts get their energy from within. Extroverts get their energy from other people. For me, people can wear me out, but in France, they don’t! (and I am an introvert, although my friends would scoff at this).
I think when I travel, I have been able to balance the “socializing” with “alone time”, which introverts need to reenergize. When you travel you can DO whatever and BE whoever you want to be, especially when you are travelling alone. No one knows you!
5. Perspective: See Things A Different Way
I get annoyed when I hear people make negative comments about the French. They say they (especially the Parisians) are rude. Is it just that I have NEVER encountered a rude Parisian? I have, but in Toronto I’ve also encountered rude Torontonians but I am NOT going to generalize a whole population and label them rude.
So when people say the French are rude, I tell them about my experiences…that I try to speak French. That I try to follow their customs and do things “as the French would do”. Think of it this way, if you were from France and came to North America, would you not try to speak English? Isn’t it arrogant to think everyone else in the world should speak your native language? When I am in France I try to speak French and I AM sometimes corrected. I truly believe its a cultural thing when they correct you. I do not take this as a slight. I actually welcome it as it will improve my French.
When we have a greater understanding of another culture. We become more tolerant. Maybe that’s what the world needs now: greater understanding.
6. No Rules Except Your Own
When you travel you are not constrained by “rules” (even if you’re on a bus tour). You can do whatever you want. You want to sit at a cafe and read? Do it. It’s your vacation. You want to hike up Mont Blanc in the French Alps and do some yoga on the way? Just do it. You are your own boss. Travelling to another place gives you freedom and permission to do whatever you want and often doing something that is out of the ordinary will open up doors.
7. Doors Open
On my very first trip to France, I was NOT a wine drinker. I travelled to Provence and stayed in Gordes with my family. I was introduced to Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines and from that point on I became interested in wine—-French wines to be exact.
I took a number of wine courses and when I visited other towns in France, visiting vineyards became one of the interesting things to do. Had I never tried the wine, I would never have visited the Fête de la Veraison in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and experienced a famous wine festival which is filled with dancing and wine tasting (of course).
8. In The Moment
There have been more times in France that I have been “in the moment” than anywhere else: riding my bike along a canal in Burgundy, sitting in the courtyard at Ecole des Trois Ponts language/cooking school doing my homework, sitting in a cafe in Paris watching people go by, gazing at the canal in Colmar in Alsace France (above), and lying on a boulder in the French Alps staring at the clouds, taking a nap.
When you travel, your senses come alive. You become much more attuned to your surroundings and worry less about the past and future. You are, in the moment, and I think this is healthy.
So, if you haven’t travelled much or you have only been to France once, give it another try. You’ll be amazed at what it can do for your well-being.