Some would say once the travel bug has bit you, you’re pretty much doomed. Your wanderlust shows no signs of abating but you’re stuck at work desperately daydreaming about a long, exciting adventure abroad. Sorry to tell you, but you may very well never recover. Don’t panic just yet as it may be the most wonderful and valuable affliction to have, if you know how to treat and administer the proper care. Yes, stepping out of your comfort zone, exploring different parts of your city, and meeting new people, even at home, are the definite ways to carry on adventuring without going afar, but there is one thing that matters most and makes all the difference no matter where you’re at; that is, making the trip memorable. I’m going to flip age old wisdom that emphasizes the importance of simply garnering experience for experience’s sake. While that certainly does matter, as Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman states, “there is a big difference between experience and the memory of an experience.” If you recall what made that study abroad trip so life-changing or that summer backpacking across a continent literally unforgettable, was how notable and incomparable it was. So simple, I know, but there are a number of factors that influence our experience and we have some power in making it great and everlasting. Since we often take for granted what’s near at hand, I want to encourage you to make your next weekend road trip seem like a yearlong sojourn by suggesting a few ways to make it absolutely unforgettable. So pack your bags, hop in your car, and get ready to go on another standout adventure.
Wherever you may be (but especially if you’re a city dweller) go explore unfamiliar terrain nearby. You may be surprised to know that there are sand dunes, mountains, lakes, beaches, or some other seemingly far yet very nearby natural landscape within a few driving hours of where you live. Disclaimer! I must confess I’m nestled in sunny Los Angeles where indeed all of those places do exist but it was getting out of this exhausting & all consuming city that made me realize that beige sand and warm waters are also a driving distance from snow-covered mountains. I bet you’d be surprised to see what’s also close at hand to you. Other places in the states, like Texas, similarly have the beautiful Panhandle Plains 8 hours away from the warm Gulf Coast. Or if you’re living elsewhere, such as Cape Town, South Africa, you know that in 8 hours you can also go from icy cold Atlantic waters to the warm Indian Ocean of Port Elizabeth. Exploring a change in natural landscape can already make it seem like you’re far away from home without ever having to pack your passport.
I’ve learned quite a bit travelling and living abroad, mostly about my ignorance and resistance, but one of the best lessons has also been about the liberating feeling of being unknown! There’s something about being in a city or place where nobody knows your name, that makes you feel… free, bold, and daring. I’m going to suggest taking full advantage of this and encouraging you to wear hats & scarves, put on a bright lipstick, and channel your inner gypsy. Now is your chance to wear that fun, bold outfit that you’ve always felt too shy to rock in your own hometown with the off-chance that someone you know might see you. For those feeling really inspired, why stop there? Here you are a tabula rasa; take it all the way and perhaps adopt a new persona for the weekend. Maybe you’ve always wanted to channel the beautiful gypsy singer Stevie Nicks or perhaps it’s just the carefree, silly you wanting to let loose? You’ll come back from your weekend getaway feeling like a new, rejuvenated person with an air about you that will have your coworkers wondering, “now where has she been?”
Spice up your regular playlist selection. Embarrassingly enough, I pretty much have a playlist for every major moment (time, place, year) of my life and I’m sure that (whether compiled or not) so do you. Nothing brings you back to a joyous moment in your life like listening to a selection of songs that were looping during that time. Whenever I want to bring back that free and easy feeling, I hear Marc Anthony’s Vivir Mi Vida and am instantly transported to the streets of Cartagena remembering that wild and epic New Year’s Eve spent in Colombia. An eclectic, world music mix will also bring you into a travelling spirit so who says you have to be in Brazil in order to enjoy Bossa Nova or in Argentina to enjoy Tango and Rock en Espanol? Maybe you’re simply a sucker for classic folk, blues, or garage rock; the perfect driving music as you’re going down Route 66. Whatever it may be that gets you going, make a special playlist for this weekend getaway so whenever you hear The Girl from Ipanema playing in the background, you will be smiling as you reminisce about this getaway.
Here’s my dare to you: make it a point to do something a little unfamiliar (albeit safe). I am not encouraging any reckless or dangerous behaviour here, but rather, just a harmless little dare. As it may be, a funny or remarkable story to retell of your first time driving out and camping in the middle of a rainstorm, only to wake up to a breathtaking rainbow the next day. By creating this weekend with many new and rich encounters, it will be ingrained in your mind just as any other extended voyage. Bungee jumping in Tsitsikamma while road tripping South Africa is just as memorable to me as skinny dipping at Deep Creek Hot springs in Apple Valley, California (close to home) because of the wonderful time I had with friends. If none of this seemingly brash behaviour appeals to you, as is completely understandable and perhaps advisable, try to see this escape more as a chance to get out of your comfort zone. I’ve had friends I’ve met along the road who have done somewhat tamer dares, such as joining a rubik’s cube competition in Valparaiso, Chile, or dance battling in Langa, a township, in South Africa. Yes, you may be one of those annoying people who instantly starts laughing when someone asks how you’re trip was, as floods of priceless images come flashing in your mind, but who cares. That unconscious, instant smile tells it all!
Lastly, what made me initially start blogging, was realizing how interesting the world was when I started documenting it. You may want to remember those inside jokes, weird places you happened to stumble-upon, and the names of all the odd and wonderful people you meet along the road. It’ll also help you process everything later when you’ve actually had some to time to sit and reflect. Whether it’s to help you digest the little anecdotes you want to retell or simply something you’ll forever privately cherish, write it down so can read back and remember this time fondly and with detail. Our mind is often very fickle, and as Dr. Kahneman again states, it is how we remember our experiences that makes a difference. Undoubtedly, there is importance in remaining present and connected to what is going on in the current moment, but documenting and writing soon after is how you’ll get closest to your initial impression, prior to your interpretation getting influenced and diluted over time. So imbue your next weekend with as much pizazz, all the while noting it, to make it everlasting.