Everyone seems to have a bucket travel list. Instagram is populated with hero images that aim to make us green with envy. You know the ones where it appears someone is teetering alone on a mountain edge, admiring the panoramic view. Or standing by the ocean on a vast deserted beach. The more exotic and off-the-beaten-track the destination, the more authentic and life-changing the experience. New and remote locations are the only ones worth seeking out, right?
I’ve been planning trips for 2020 and thinking about where I’d like to visit. As a travel writer there’s the tendency to feel you should be going somewhere new and thrilling each time you pack your bags. Life’s too short to revisit the same place or even the same country. After all, once you’ve been somewhere you’ve seen it all, experienced everything it has to offer and it’s never the same going back.
‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ Henry Miller.
Not so. I’ve lost count of the numbers of times I’ve toured Europe and each time it’s been a unique and, if not life-changing certainly life-enhancing, experience. On each return trip to France, Italy or Spain I view the surroundings, and meet people, in different cultural and social circumstances. The world has moved on. It changes by the second. Each sunrise and sunset is different because each day is a new beginning. I’m a changed person too from yesterday, because of each day’s unique experiences.
In travelling terms, the destination and even the activities might be the same but we experience them afresh, from a new state of consciousness. We couldn’t create an identical encounter if we tried.
‘Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.’ Gustave Flaubert
Often travel writers list how many countries they have visited by way of credentials. As if this naturally results in a higher number of experiences, or more meaningful ones. You will find my list on the home page.
I’ve stood on snowy mountain peaks a number of times and been awed by the sense of space and utter peace. I’ve travelled through the scorching Sinai Desert twice, once by camel and again on a quad bike. I’ve snorkelled in the clear coral reefs in the Red Sea. Ice skating in Central Park in the snow was certainly one to tick off my bucket list. But, despite having seen many beautiful art works in many European cities, standing before Michelangelo’s David in Florence gave me a huge emotional rush at the imposing size and luminescence of the marble. I wouldn’t have missed that return trip for the world.
This spring, I’ll be returning to Venice for the third time and I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with St Mark’s Square and exploring the latest exhibition at the Guggenheim. On my last visit I arrived by ferry in heavy rain and everywhere was flooded so hopefully this time will be different (warm and sunny, fingers crossed!).
‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’ Marcel Proust
I don’t feel the need to rush around the world actively seeking the next momentous thrill. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to those one-off wow! moments but each time I take a slow drive through the South of France I’m delighted anew by the soft and green landscape. I’m also always surprised at the calming effect, returning home refreshed after a week or so. Every time, I meet different people and learn a few more words in French. I try new wines and eat new foods (last summer it was octopus pie beside a lagoon!).
I’ve been on many boats over the years on the seas or rivers, and always love the slap of the water and the the feel of the breeze through my hair, and the wide blue skies that stretch to the horizon take my breath away.
“Traveling’s not something you’re good at. It’s something you do. Like breathing.” Gayle Foreman.
A healthy curiosity about the world around us is natural and personal growth can come from return visits and repeated experiences. You don’t have to travel far either to feel a thrill of exploration. I’ve made a resolution this year to explore more of my own country after some wonderful trips last year to the Yorkshire Dales and the Cotswolds.
Making the time to take an adventure is a luxury. But it can be the small incidences when we get out and about that spark a deep and lasting emotional experience. Learning, and memories, can come from simply keeping our eyes and our hearts open every day to our surroundings. Don’t feel you have to travel far afield to have a bucket list moment!
Where are you planning to travel to this year? What’s your favourite place to return to and what makes it special for you? Leave something in the comments if you’d like to share.