As I was just beginning to think about my travel plans for summer 2016, I got an opportunity to teach a graduate qualitative research course in Limasol, Cyprus. I had never considered visiting Cyprus, but of course, I said yes. I was told that after my class, I could extend my stay by booking my return flight whenever I liked. I decided to visit Vienna because the flights to and from Cyprus were convenient. I split my time in Vienna with Budapest and Bratislava before flying to Istanbul to visit a friend for a long weekend.
A couple weeks after I returned home, my kids and I traveled to Belize and Guatemala. We were honestly considering traveling to South America, but I found a really great deal on flights, so Belize and Guatemala we went!
In much of the same fashion, I traveled to Beijing to present a paper at a conference almost as soon as I got back from Central America. I’ve long wanted to see the Great Wall, but China is a country that has never been on any of my ‘to-see’ lists.
Apart from Istanbul, a city I love and have visited before, I just sort of fell into the other destinations. Because of this, I didn’t have any expectations. I didn’t know what I wanted to see or do. I just showed up.
And it was brilliant.
I took advice from locals, wandered down streets because they appealed to me, ate at restaurants because they looked lively.
This isn’t too far off from how I normally travel. The main difference comes in the preparation beforehand, as I love to read about the places I’m visiting. So while I might not visit every recommend attraction, I still know that they are there.
This summer, I knew nothing, and I think that created a sense of awe every time I turned the corner and discovered something new.
It was a nice reminder that it’s not always the destination – it’s the sense of discovery, the learning about a new culture, and the meeting of new people. It doesn’t matter where. It could be in your own backyard.