One thing that can harsh a traveller’s Zen is being bogged down with too much stuff. This is where Buff comes in. I’m truly surprised by how much I love my Buff. I’ve used it for extra warmth during cross-country skiing, alpine touring, and hiking Mount Elgon in Uganda. I’ve used it for sun protection at Austin City Limits, while hiking on hot summer days in Alberta and at the beach in Zanzibar. I’ve also used it as a pre-filter with my water filter while hiking in the Rwenzori mountains. Buffs are warm, lightweight, some have a sun protection factor of 50+ and all are versatile. Bonus points for affordability, as most are only around $20.
4) Give the Gift of Travel
Research shows that experiences create more happiness than things and there are plenty of ways to gift an experience to a traveller. Discount websites like Groupon and Travelzoo offer deals on hotels, meals in restaurants, and activities that the traveller can schedule on their own. Many hotels offer gift certificates, as do some airlines. In short, it is easy to give a traveller what they would like the most, more travel!
3) Gift Your Points
Have you been collecting Air Miles for years and don’t plan on using them any time soon? What about those points for an airline that may expire soon if you don’t use them? Many reward programs will allow you to transfer your points to an eager traveller who will gladly put them to use. It may seem like a stingy gift, but I know I for one would be thrilled to have them over some special from a big box store any day.
2) Local Currency
All the monies in the world! Source: nerdwallet.com
If the resident travellers in your life have been talking about their upcoming trips, chances are they would love to receive some local currency to wherever they’re travelling to as a gift. Not only does it show your travel-crazy friends that you actually listen to them, it can also help to alleviate some of their stress by having a bit of local currency in hand when they arrive in a new place. Also, it makes it more likely that you will receive a nice souvenir from them in return, thereby creating an infinite loop of gift-giving happiness and who wouldn’t want that?
1) If you can’t afford to buy them a Go Pro, Go Old School with a Travel Journal
Ibn Batutta’s tomb in Tangier, Morocco I’ve blogged before about how I really could have used a Go Pro Hero 4 during certain moments of my recent trip to East Africa. But in the absence of one of those fancy contraptions which I cannot justify buying for myself, a plain old travel journal will suffice to record memories. Gifting a travel journal to your favourite traveller will allow them to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Ibn Batutta whose journal has inspired explorers for centuries. It has the added bonus of making the traveller think of you every time they open it, so if you miss them when they’re on one of their rambles, you could think of it as a gift that guarantees you’ll always be in their heart, wherever in the world they may be.
“The participants in our study mistakenly thought that having an extraordinary experience would make them the star of the conversation,” (…). “But they were wrong, because to be extraordinary is to be different than other people, and social interaction is grounded in similarities.” In other words, being extraordinary is isolating and could lead to negative, rather than positive feelings.
The article author then goes on to say the takeaway of the study is: “If you expect your super-awesome vacation to lead to great conversations with friends and colleagues when you get home, think again—and hide the photos.” I have so many issues with this statement, and my experiences have been very different. I know that nobody wants to be around the person who won’t stop talking about the places they’ve been, and doing so can actually be a symptom of reverse culture shock, but every time I have returned from somewhere, people have asked me a lot of questions about the place and stated that they want to see my pictures.
I experienced a bit of reverse culture shock myself when I returned to Canada after living in Mali for 5 months. For me what was alienating was not that I wasn’t the centre of attention, but that it was so hard to explain to everyone just how truly life changing that experience was. No I wasn’t just backpacking around Africa for 6 months, I had made a home and learned to live within a new culture. I had made friends and learned to love my host family. I experienced things, good and bad, that I know most people I know will never experience. I was different and changed but people treated me the same. Just like when I had moved to Bamako, I had to learn to live a new normal when I returned to Canada. One where my friends and family may not always understand what I had experienced and eventually I learned that there was no point trying to explain it. People asking about my time there wanted the highlight reel, rather than the whole, complex and gritty truth. In the end, I think that it is enough to be eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to experience something that was so epic, to me.
Looking for something to do during a weekend in Bamako? Get your fortune told to you.
3 years after returning from Mali, I met up with one of my friends I made there in Montreal. We wandered from dive bar to dive bar and stayed out until the wee hours of the morning drinking cheap draught beer and sharing stories and memories of our time there, as well as our experiences when we got home. “It was just so….epic, for reasons I can’t really explain” my friend would say multiple times throughout the evening, and I understood her. The night was cathartic, and I left feeling like I wasn’t alone in having a hard time readjusting.
I doubt most of my Canadian friends will ever experience fish head on plantains…
More recently, since returning from a 5 week adventure travel excursion to East Africa, my coworkers, friends and family have all emphatically asked to see my pictures and quizzed me on what were my highlights to the point that their interest surprised me. I was expecting the nonchalance that the study participants experienced, but instead received genuine, earnest interest. That being said, I don’t bring it up in every conversation even though it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in my life recently, and I always make sure to ask questions about what is new and exciting in the person’s life who I may be talking to. Finally, while it might be true that if you’re travelling so that you can be the most exciting, adventurous, and cultured person around, you may be disappointed if you don’t get an enormous amount of attention once you return home. But if you’re travelling for the many other reasons there are, and never mind that it is downright good for you, then whether or not your colleagues think you’re a rockstar, should not influence your decision to travel. The takeaway here is: travel is for you, and no one else.
I started this blog to remember the incredible moments that my partner Philip and I experience both here and abroad and to share how we made them happen. “Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.” – Rose Kennedy
I’ve written about those staggering, resolve-testing and awe-inspiring moments before while trying to make a home in Mali. There, I discovered that collecting truly incredible moments doesn’t necessarily have to mean checking off items on your bucket list or travelling to the most exciting locales to do the thing the guide books told you to do. Rather, there is beauty and awe in simply looking at your surroundings with an inquisitive and appreciative eye. In doing so, lessons are better learned, new places and their people are more understood, and those moments you experience will stay with you for life. They will become part of your Zen and we could all use a little more Zen in our lives.
So what is Zen? I don’t really know, and that’s ok. I like to guess at what it is and to me Zen is losing yourself in the moment. It is slowing down enough to be present in the here and now and appreciate what the world is offering you. I believe that nowhere is this easier than when encountering a new place or experience for the first time. With an open mind and a mindset in the present, truly extraordinary moments will occur.
Believe it or not, I felt pretty Zen during this sunrise on Lake Bunyonyi.