Reflections on Travel and Healing
Nowadays travel and healing is a popular topic, especially since the power combination of “personal wellness travel” has taken off, becoming marketable in the industry. Don’t believe me? Just do a quick Google search.
Unquestionably, in your search engine results, you’ll see a lot of retreats. Writing retreats, women only retreats, and so on.
These healing places to visit are usually set in jungles, beaches, and desserts. Retreats are popping up on Instagram and online travel magazines at a fast rate. One of my favorite companies, G Adventures, has even started running their own wellness tours.
Now I promise I’m not a hater. I think it’s absolutely important to travel to reconnect with ourselves. I’d take a wellness tour in a heartbeat. Sedona? Tulum? Yes, please.
It’s fairly obvious that we need to relax. After all, we’re busy people.
Too damn busy.
We’ve careers and friends and family and romantic partners that demand much, if not all, of our attention. Rarely, do we have energy leftover to nourish our spirits.
Travel gives us a much needed break from our daily grind. No doubt about it.
Is Travel and Healing Even Possible?
Sometimes, though, I’m not sure how to feel about travel being lauded as essential to one’s personal wellness.
Keyword being “essential” or “a thing that is absolutely necessary.”
For instance, I talk a lot about travel and mental health on this blog, because I think a common misconception is that travel alone has the power to cure anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and other problems.
Uh, not true.
Of course, travel is life changing. For example, I’ve built a tremendous amount of personal confidence on my solo adventures around North America and Europe. My life is way richer than it was prior to my adventures.
However, I don’t want anyone to walk away with the (false) belief that spending money for trips is “essential” to achieve personal wellness.
Have you seen the price tags on some of these retreats? Yikes. Some amounts could cover my rent for the next three months, and I live in an expensive area, being only forty-five minutes or so from Manhattan.
Not to mention, serious anxiety and depression are best handled by professionals, not plane tickets.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are plenty of ways to care for yourself at home. Personal wellness is something accessible to everyone regardless of their bank accounts. Or, at least, it should be.
Healing Places to Visit and Improve Your Spirits
Of course, I don’t wanna knock traveling too much. I love going to new countries! Traveling is one possible way to heal emotionally and spiritually. It’s just not the only way.
Without question, visiting action-packed cities and making friends with incredible people always benefited my state of well-being. Personally, I’ve been lucky enough to visit many healing places around the world.
Now keep in mind that this list stems from my own personal experiences, as well as my emotional state at the time of my travels.
Lastly, I want to add more incredible destinations as I continue to explore this beautiful planet. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments, too.
1. Scotland, United Kingdom
Without a doubt, Scotland is one of the most healing places on the face of the earth.
I took my very first solo trip to Scotland, and it changed my life. At the time, I wasn’t able to find a full time teaching position (thanks, budget cuts). Friends and relatives in my age bracket hit major life milestones as I struggled to pick up substitute teaching gigs.
To say I was depressed would be an understatement.
So what did I do? Packed my bags and went to Scotland for two weeks with money I should’ve saved in my Roth IRA.
Best. Decision. Ever.
Particularly, Scotland’s Highlands are great for empowering one’s soul. Epic mountains and ruined castles everywhere. Plus cell service is spotty, mostly in western Scotland, giving a much needed social media break.
Read More: Buy Your Lonely Planet Guide to Scotland
2. Banff & Jasper National Parks, Canada
Guh, the Canadian Rockies are beyond pretty. It’s kinda impossible to use words to describe these majestic mountains.
Anyway, way back in 2014, I went camping in Banff and Jasper National Parks for two weeks just to prove that could handle the craziness of the outdoors, haha.
Needless to say, I wasn’t used to sleeping in a tent, on an inflatable mattress, as well as strictly using public bathrooms that occasionally had no showers.
Yet Banff and Jasper forced me to slow down. I had to adjust my expectations and realized that it was possible to live without tons of extra material goods.
And I discovered that in the silence. In the cold mountain air. Peace is possible.
3. Plitvice National Park, Croatia
I went to Plitvice National Park on a hot and sticky July morning. I’ve seen pictures of this magical place while researching Croatia, but, of course, nothing compared to seeing the lush green hills and aqua pools in person.
And I don’t know about you guys, but I think waterfalls are immensely soothing.
Once in Croatia, I wanted to perch myself next to one of the lakes and listen to the falls for hours. Water hitting rock again and again. Plitvice Lakes National Park was one of those destinations where I wanted more time after visiting.
Hopefully I’ll go back soon in the future.
Read More: Buy Your Lonely Planet Guide to Croatia
4. Utklippan, Sweden
On a press trip, I had a rare chance to rediscover myself in Utklippan – which is a tiny island located in the Baltic Sea.
At the time, I was (again) very torn on certain career choices and felt adrift. I still couldn’t find a public school position, and my patience was razor thin.
Not to mention, I had other passions roaring in my mind. Did I want to teach or write? The decision weighed on my mind like lead.
Utklippan, this small rugged island with limited cell service and no running water, gave me the tranquility I needed to shut off my buzzing brain.
And there’s nothing quite as special as seeing a midnight sunset. I’ll never forget it.
It’s easy to understand why the Swedes flock to the Archipelago in the summer months.
Read More: Buy Your Lonely Planet Guide to Sweden
5. New York, New York
Everyone who reads this blog already knows that New York is one of my favorite places in the entire world. You can be whoever you want in America’s largest city. I’m dead serious. No judgement. No second glances.
Okay, sure, New York is insanely expensive and kinda cruel at times, but the whole “if you can make here, you can make it anywhere” attitude is addictive and therapeutic.
I always schedule spontaneous day trips to New York whenever I go through tough periods at home.
New York makes it easy to “get lost.” I mean, who hasn’t shut off their phone and blindly roamed through Central Park on a breezy sunny afternoon?
6. Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como is perfection. Seriously, if you’re visiting northern Italy, then you need to set aside a day to explore Lake Como. It’s to die for. You feel as though you’re in a James Bond movie, haha.
As for me, I was lucky enough to go to Como in April when all the gardens were in full bloom. Explosive pink, purple, white, and yellow everywhere!
My favorite place, without a doubt, was Villa Carlotta’s botanical gardens. Just … wow. Walking through these paths provided spectacular views of the lakes and mountains, as well as the necessary quietness to think about my goals in life.
On the boat journey throughout Lake Como, I reflected on certain people in my life (no names) and wondered if they truly had any business there.
Hard decisions are easier to make in gorgeous settings, huh?
7. Grunau im Amtal, Austria
I had been laid off from my first teaching job (see a pattern?) when I visited Grunau im Amtal. Sad times, my friend, sad times.
Grunau im Amtal isn’t known for big museums or nightlife. Here, you’re forced to relax. Not to mention, this tiny Austrian town had very few tourists allowing me a rare chance to connect with myself.
So what did I do? I took a twelve kilometer bike ride to Lake Almsee which lies among the Totes Gebirge mountains.
Oh, and funnily enough, I got a call saying that my old job was waiting for me after someone voluntarily left his position. Cool how that works.
Read More: Buy Your Lonely Planet Guide to Austria
8. Madrid, Spain
Madrid sometimes gets a bad rap compared to other Spanish cities, but I loved this capital city! And the trip happened at the right moment.
I traveled to Madrid literally a week after a breakup. In my hostel, I met a guy around my age who told me, “Spain is the best place to recover from a broken heart. Trust me, you’ll be fine.”
And he was right!
In Madrid, I loved exploring all the incredible art museums such as the Prado Museum and Reina Sofia. Not to mention, I felt completely at peace exploring Madrid’s gorgeous literary neighborhood Barrio de las Letras.
Eating tapas, learning Spanish phrases, and visiting nearby cities such as Toledo made returning home a million times easier. After all, I was still a brave and beautiful person regardless of one person’s very wrong opinion, haha.
Read More: Buy Your Lonely Planet Guide to Madrid
9. Seattle, Washington
Ahhh, last but not least.
Seattle is a place to pamper yourself on a solo adventure. And I took pampering to the next level in the Pacific Northwest.
What did I do? I took myself on a series of dates all over the city! For instance, I bought myself Fran’s Chocolates and chilled out in Kerry Park, staring at the best view of the Space Needle.
I also decided to buy myself a four course meal at The Walrus and The Carpenter – a famous oyster bar in the Ballard Neighborhood. My credit card hated me, but whatever, I was worth the extra money.
Finally taking a day trip to Mt. Rainier was immensely healing for me. Gazing at the snow-capped summit and sniffing wildflowers was an ideal way to spend an afternoon. Mt. Rainier’s lack of cell service is nice too.
Read More: Buy Your Lonely Planet Guide to Seattle
Travel and Healing: Final Thoughts
Again, I want to emphasize that I don’t advocate running from your problems. Travel won’t cure someone’s mental health. If you need help, I’m the first person who would suggest seeking it.
Yet I think there are benefits changing one’s scenery in the midst of hard times – such as a sudden job or an out of the blue breakup.
Being a new place doesn’t just allow you to learn about history or culture or cuisine. You’re given rare moments to reconnect with yourself and your purpose. For example, perhaps you’ll book a ticket to San Diego and enjoy the meditation gardens, or a ticket to Paris and get lost in the Rodin museum’s gardens.
During these times, you’ve time to think about what’s truly important in your life.
Not to mention, exploring a new country builds a tremendous amount of confidence.
If possible, I always advocate going away during rocky periods to clear your head and come back a stronger force.
Is it mandatory to travel to find healing? No. But it’s helpful. Do it if you can. I highly recommend it.
Do you think travel and healing is possible? What were your experiences? What suggestions do you have for healing at home? As always, feel free to share all your thoughts in the comments.
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