“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” — Benjamin Disraeli
Traveling has always been good for my soul. It allows me to see with new eyes, and it opens up my heart just a little bit more. I love to travel, as I always come home with some takeaways—lessons and observations that help me see and appreciate the life I have been given. Recently, my husband, John, and I traveled to the beautiful country of Ireland where, in many ways, we felt that we had stepped back in time. Ireland is an amazing country full of history, old ruins and castles, rugged coastlines and rolling hills and mountains. We were fortunate to spend three weeks there, so we had plenty of time to really dig in and see a lot of the country.
Here are some of the takeaways I gleaned from our experiences abroad:
Takeaway #1: It really is okay to slow down and smell the peat moss (or roses). One of the goals we had on this trip was to try our best to take it slow, and to see what we could see. We often found ourselves on a beach, near the edge of a cliff, or on a mountaintop, just sitting and taking in the scenery. So many times, I got a bit misty-eyed as I watched waves crashing into shore or birds soaring around the cliffs. I was in awe of it all. We took the time to watch, to listen, to hear, and to observe life around us in all of its beautiful and mysterious ways. I wondered often if I could take this simple approach home—slow down, observe, listen—and be in the environment instead of moving through it to get somewhere else. We so often get through our days in a blur going from Point A to Point B, and then comment on how fast the days go by. If we just slowed down, we might find that time also slows down!
Takeaway #2: It’s just not hard to be nice, to be cordial, to be patient. Sometimes I think we can forget that as we go from place to place and do the things we need to do. In Ireland, I think we heard one car horn honk at someone—just once in three weeks! It was noticeably absent. And that wasn’t because everybody drove so well—trust me on that one, or that bicycles or people were out of the way…it’s just not done, apparently. Even when we’d cross the road a little too slowly or go the wrong way on a one-way street, we didn’t get honked at or yelled at or waved frantically at—and it really made a difference. It was quieter and calmer and more relaxed. People were friendly and courteous—not overly, not gushingly, just polite, even if they were trying to get to work or closing up shop. I thought how easy it can be sometimes for “locals” in the United States to get impatient with tourists…those who may not speak the language very well or know where they are going, and it’s all unnecessary. We will get where we are going and do what we have to do, but how we behave is a direct reflection on us—and maybe on where we live and who we are as people. I want to remember this always.
Takeaway #3: Doing something different is good for you! In Ireland, you drive on the opposite side of the road—not the wrong side of the road (thank goodness John was driving!). Other things were different too, like the way the showers worked, or the signage on the roads, certain words, phrases or pronounciations, and that was part of the fun. More than once, we would wonder what the heck that road sign meant, or hear a turn of phrase that we thought was interesting (like half 9, which meant 9:30, or tree-tirty—which is 3:30—no “h” sound). But the takeaway was that we could have our “way” and still embrace their “way” without anything having to be right or wrong. And that it was not only good for us (brain neurons firing away), but it was fun!
Takeaway #4: When crossing the road, look both ways (twice), hold hands and run! Since the cars in Ireland drive on the opposite side of the road, we had to keep reminding ourselves to “look right, look left, look right and left again, grab each other’s hand and run, because invariably we would not look the correct way for traffic and end up giggling a mild expletive while running across the road. More importantly, we held hands—we helped each other, and we didn’t get honked at either!
Takeaway #5: Nature is so freaking awesome—and healing—and meditative—and needs no other explanation. Every time we got out there, we felt better, we healed, we moved our bodies and expanded our minds.
Takeaway #6: Plan as much as you want or need to plan to be comfortable, but then be open to spontaneity! We planned a fair amount of the trip—knowing the general direction we would be heading and booking all of our accommodations in advance. We had sights to see and places to go—with no less than three guidebooks (we left the fourth at home), so we felt ready to roll. And then we would see a sign or an interesting ruin off in the distance, or a cool road or town or lunch spot, and we would stop. What we found was that the unexpected turned out to be the best. The non-touristy stuff was so cool and interesting and uncrowded. In a sense, we trusted ourselves to go where the wind took us. Doing this uncovered a whole other world—hiking to a mountain vista without using a trail and being the only ones up there; pulling into a town just as a bagpipe band competition was about to start; taking a shortcut that was described as this: “walk down the road, past a wooden fence where you’ll see bluebonnets in the field and one or two goats, turn there and walk up the long narrow road…or you can take the car to the parking lot.” We took the dubiously described shortcut, which lead us up a small country road with wildflowers and sheep and laundry hanging out in the wind, beautiful scenery all around us…all before we even started our intended hike! How often do we trust ourselves to listen to our intuition; to take the road less traveled; to try something new and untested? Some of the best things in life can be experienced this way. All of life doesn’t reside in a guidebook or an instruction manual, and sometimes that can be scary, but it is so worth it if you are willing to give it a go.
Takeaway #7: This one always comes at the end of my travels. Home is where my heart feels best. Although we had an incredible trip, my thoughts were never too far from home – from family and friends and all that makes my life so worthwhile. We got home late at night, and as I woke the next morning and opened my eyes, looking out the window, I smiled and realized what an amazing and wonderful life I have right here. Then I took a shower and realized I love my shower! Then I talked with family and dear friends, and just hearing their voices made my heart sing. Once again, I am filled with gratitude, with love, and with an appreciation for all that is in my life. We don’t have to go away to realize any of this but, once again, I’m happy for the reminder.
Henry Miller said, “One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” Travel helps me with perspective. It helps me remember that people all over the world are the same—kind, respectful, helpful, making their way through as best they can. And I know that we don’t have to travel far to gain that perspective – just step outside your front door and see what you might see that is both ordinary and extraordinary.
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness,compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.