I know I’m not alone in the 3 p.m. daydream.
You know the one - It begins about the same time that the sun is starting to sink in the sky and the snow melts off the branches outside. You let your mind wander to cobblestone streets, larger-than-life monuments, vast landscapes like the ones displayed on your computer desktop.
Most of us have two weeks every year to take off and see the world; to walk those streets, explore those monuments and stare over those vast landscapes with a sense of wonder. Even if you are one of the lucky few to have more than two weeks off, when that time does come to take a holiday, our big plans to “travel” and see the world turns into an all-inclusive in Cuba.
Now don’t get me wrong, Cuba is beautiful. The heat, the turquoise water so clear you can see your toes burrowing in the white sand, it’s all very tempting. But how many years will you return to the same beach, giving up your dream to see the world?
Back in 2013, I made the decision to take my two weeks of vacation and turn it into a dream trip. For me, the problem wasn’t deciding where to go, but how I wanted to travel. Not many of my friends at that time could afford to travel ,which meant if I wanted to go, solo was the only way.
After some research, I discovered a world of tour operators with trips geared towards people my age. There were different styles of travel ranging from camping, to hostels and hotels. No matter what option I went with, there was the promise of a luxury coach bus, food and once-in-a-lifetime experiences ranging from adventurous (sky diving, helicopter rides, bungee jumping) to cultural (museum tours, whisky tasting).
In two weeks, I saw 17 cities in nine countries and met 49 incredibly fun, like-minded people on the bus. In those two weeks, I stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and walked inside the Colosseum in Rome. We took a gondola down the canals of Venice and climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We froze on top of Jungfrau mountain in Switzerland and ate fresh cheese in Edam, Netherlands. In those two weeks, I experienced more of life and culture than I had experienced in 18 years. Since that trip, I’ve all but begged others to travel the same.
Now I know some of you will be saying, “Emily, I don’t want to see 9 countries in the course of a few weeks. I want to take my time and live the life of the locals.” And that is the beautiful thing. Travel isn’t about seeing everything, it’s about the experience. That is why the following year I found myself on a more leisurely, but no less spectacular tour through Scandinavia.
The experience of sailing down a fjord with waterfalls on either side of us and dolphins swimming alongside the boat is something out of fairy tales. I think the only thing that could top waterfalls and dolphins on my Scandinavian adventure was our visit to the Olympic Bobsled Track in Lillehammer, Norway – a visit that included a ride down the 1,710-meter track.
Travel is a beautiful thing. The places you see are only a fraction of the wonder. It’s the people you meet, the memories you make; the stories you come home with. You can only sit in your cubicle, staring at the three walls around you for so long before deciding it’s time to experience the world.
And yes, Cuba is tempting. There are days I crave a margarita on the beach. But the craving to stand in front of thousand-year-old monuments, to walk the footsteps of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, to stand on the shores of an unknown country; it’s those cravings that always win.
My advice; don’t settle for Googling exotic desktop backgrounds for your computer. Don’t talk of the trips you’ll take when you retire. Take two weeks and explore the cafes and vineyards of France. Go to Australia and swim the Great Barrier Reef one day and pet a kangaroo in Melbourne the next. Have all the fresh sushi you can eat in Japan and then climb Mount Fuji. Start planning that dream trip and commit to seeing the world.
Keep your eyes peeled for next month’s article when I delve into the luxury of cruising!
-Emily Wilson is still relatively new to the wonderful city of Medicine Hat, having moved here in May 2016. Born and raised in Ontario, she lived in Australia for a year-and-a-half and has travelled to 31 countries. Traveller's Tales appears monthly on www.chatnewstoday.ca.