coconut at the sanctuary resort, thailand

6 Ways To Travel The World Without Leaving Your Home Town

While I do believe that there is nothing like getting out to see the world to change our perspective on life, I also feel there are many ways to develop the mindset of a traveler without ever leaving home.  Because the more I have traveled, the more I have come to realize, it’s not about seeing another church or another museum, another beach, or another touristy site.

What it is about is showing up.  Living in the moment.  Being spontaneous.  Letting life happen to me instead of me trying to happen to life.  It’s about the people I meet.  Learning about different cultures.  Trying new foods, smelling new smells, and becoming more a part of this dance that is life.

I feel that you can live everyday like this, not just the times that you travel.  Ah yes, there is work to done and errands and the like.  But it’s about taking the time to do something different instead of staying in a rut.  It’s about getting out and living life instead of spending so much time in front of the TV or on Facebook.  It’s really all about falling in love with others, yourself, and your life.

Woman in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico Jardin

Here are 6 Ways To Travel The World Without Leaving Your Home Town:

1.  Meet New People

When you have lived in the same place for a while, it becomes very easy to spend all of your time with the same people and forget that there are still lots of amazing people to meet.  The person you haven’t met yet might just be the person who inspires you to take your life in a different direction or they might be the one who will share your passion for Cambodian food when no one  else does.  When I travel, my favorite part is the new people who I meet.

It does seem easier to meet new people when I’m traveling, mainly because I have no choice but to make new friends.  But it can be just as easy to strike up a conversation with the person you keep seeing at your coffee shop. Sometimes it can seem awkward, believe me, I know.  I used to be an introvert.  The people who know me now would never believe it, but I used to be super shy.  I finally got tired of being alone, though, and made myself talk to strangers even though it was hard.  Then I started realizing how fun it was to meet new people and got over that shyness really quick!  So, get out there and meet someone new, and experience this joyful part of traveling today.

2.  Deepen Your Connection With The Friends That You Have

I realized one day that one of the reasons that I was always itching to travel is that the conversations that I seemed to have with people on the road were so much deeper.  And then I realized, part of this was my problem.  I think it was easier for me to be more vulnerable with people who I would never see again.  I wasn’t worrying about what people were thinking of me because I knew that the chances of seeing them again were very small anyway.  I also think when you are traveling you usually connect with people without much entertainment being around to distract you.  In our everyday lives, we often go “do” things with friends. We go to the movies or to a concert or out drinking.  Our focus isn’t on the other person , but on the event taking place.

For this reason, I love to give dinner parties.  I like bringing people together for stimulating conversation that usually doesn’t happen in the movies or in bars.  I have also learned to be more vulnerable with the friends that I have.  I am learning not to be afraid to share my fears or insecurities.  I don’t worry so much about whether someone will like me or not. I have come to realize that I want friends who know all of me. If they choose to stick around, I know they are a true friend.  (Of course, with the number of comments that I get from my friends that a video camera should be following me around (I’m pretty silly), I guess some are sticking around just for the entertainment, but that’s OK, too.  I have definitely learned to laugh at myself.)

Man eating ice cream in the Jardin in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

3.  Take Yourself On A Date

It’s weird how many of us think nothing of dining alone when we travel, but we wouldn’t dare eat out alone in the town we live in.  I love my own company, and enjoy experiencing things from my own point of view.  Because I learned this through traveling, I think it makes it easier. But I have come to know my own self on a deeper level by getting out and doing things alone and not just by sitting at home following the same old routine.  I also have met new people by going out alone that I don’t think I would have met otherwise.  I’ve heard people say they are afraid of what people will think of the person dining alone, but I am always intrigued when I see someone out by themselves.

Bebek Bengil

 4.  Try New Foods

We are creatures of habit, and it’s very easy to get stuck in the same routine of going to the same restaurant, even ordering the same menu item, or cooking the same few dishes at home night after night.  When I travel, I love trying the local food.  I love even more coming back from my travels and teaching myself to cook the same dishes I had abroad.  If you don’t have ethnic restaurants in the town that you live in, go to the library and check out some ethnic cookbooks. Make these dishes at home, and expand your palate and your world.  I also have to thank my Mom for teaching me to have an adventurous palate.  She always had me try a “thank you bite” of new foods.  A “thank you for making this for me”, so I will try it taste. She also always said that I shouldn’t always order vanilla ice cream, that I wouldn’t know it was my favorite if I didn’t try all the other flavors, too. And that is exactly how I live my life!

Painting at the Sanctuary Resort, Thailand

5.  Try New Activities

I think we become so caught up in our own identities sometimes that we miss out on who we really are.  We say, “I am not someone who dances, or sings, or paints, or plays music.  The list goes on and on.  How do you know if you don’t try?  And my motto has always been, “Try everything twice”.  After all, the first time you try something the newness of the activity may take away from the experience and, you may walk away not really knowing if you enjoyed it or not.  I am so impressed by my best friend.  She climbs mountains, camps solo, dances salsa with the best of them, does caipora, crossfits, bakes the best apple crisp I’ve ever had, and so much more.  She lives a full life and it shows in her face and in her life.  I didn’t try painting until I was traveling in Bali, and I couldn’t believe that it had taken me 38 years to realize how much I loved it!  I was afraid I wouldn’t be any good, so I avoided ever trying.  But, something about being in a new place encouraged me to try something new, and now I don’t care if I’m good at it or not.  I love the way pouring my creativity out onto a canvas makes me feel.

Man taking a siesta at the Jardin, San Miguel de Allende

6.  Relax

When I started traveling, I made the mistake that many new tourists often make.  I tried to see every attraction and tourist site, and left no time for relaxing.  I would come home from my vacations feeling like I needed a vacation.  I think I fell in love with beaches so much because they forced me to relax.

I actually once had a panic attack when I was getting a massage in Bali. It was like I was crawling out of my skin, I was so relaxed. And it was such an unnatural feeling for me, I didn’t know how to handle it.  I forced myself to just lie there and work through my feelings.  It was then that I entered the deepest state of relaxation that I’ve ever felt.  It was then that I got it.  Relaxing is probably the most important part of a vacation and of travel.  Actually, living life with a relaxed state of mind and not an uptight, fearful one is probably one of the most important things you can learn about life.

The other day,  I wandered down to the Jardin to just sit on the park benches because my heart said to be still. I wound up running into a new friend and I sat with him mom and brother who were visiting from Mexico City. We just sat. We didn’t talk, and there was so much said in just the being. I realized I don’t have to speak perfect Spanish to connect with these beautiful people. I just had to be with them. My new friend played the flute from his heart as we sat and listened and then he drew my picture. It was one of the best moments yet I’ve had in San Miguel.

I dare you to set aside just one day a week where you do nothing but relax.  Go sit on a park bench somewhere and see what happens.  Watch the world go by.  Have a morning picnic.  Take pink champagne and bread and cheese and go watch the sunrise and the world wake up.  Do something different. Relax.  Enjoy the world that is you.

For me, travel is about embracing more of life.  But, you can start where you are.  I hope that you will today.

Leave a comment, and tell me how you are going to travel the world from where you are right now!

Val Dawson

Me with my best friend and favorite travel partner, Ingrid