On Travel: Don’t Just Visit ~ Immerse Yourself

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When I began traveling alone abroad, at the age of 22 to visit my sister who was stationed as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sri Lanka, I quickly discovered that immersing myself through an extended stay and/or knowing another/others who live where I am visiting is my best path of truly experiencing a location and its people. After all, I do believe that life is all about relationships.

When I am solely a tourist and I am passing through a land consuming materials and resources in pursuit of an ‘adventure,’ then I miss the opportunity of really meeting a location. People make places. Period. Unfortunately, in the year of Covid, our meeting places have been, by and large, eradicated. For a lot of us, the places we frequent are bars, restaurants, salons, churches, our place of employment, malls and stores, studios and more. For me, I mainly just need a space where a group of people gather together to dance, at least weekly.

Thus, it was a good thing how farmer’s markets have been able to relatively survive this nasty year. Some farms have too. When we were passing through Bend, Oregon in July, in-person Ecstatic Dances took place outside at a farm as well as at a park. In Maryland in November, we were also able to visit a holiday farm for outdoor sledding, roasting marshmallows, visiting with farm animals and more. (So, it hasn’t completely been a bust of a year! Also, I am extremely privileged to have the funds to be able to live like this. Millions of people who were already struggling have been ravaged economically and psychologically by Covid all over the world.)

Thus, my life experiences have taught me that at least 3 weeks in one location is an ideal approach to travel. I can use this location as a home base that I move in and out of in experiencing the local culture and its people. I can attend some of its regular, weekly offerings and, who knows, maybe make a new friend or two.

Our most transformative experiences on this Mama Caravan have happened in places where we stayed longer and we interacted more deeply with our environment and its people. From Vista to Marin County, California and from Washington to New Jersey, I felt the most changed by our more in-depth visits.

We can immerse ourselves into the lives of others through volunteerism, joining already existing groups and meetups, and just talking to the people we discover around us in our new locale. E.g. I like to ask others for directions, by relying less on my phone and more on my ability to ask for help.

I hope this opens up new pathways for you to connect with others, even if you are traveling within the comfort of your own neighborhood or town.