My life has never been changed or broadened by a piece of jewelry or an item of clothing, or many tangible things for that matter. What sticks with me are the memories and experiences that challenged what I knew and informed who I’d become. There is no greater vault of lessons than those given in travel. And the best part is, they’re specific to each of us and they’re wonderfully unpredictable!
I went on my first international trip to Mexico when I was 12. I have vague memories of a bright blue ocean (much brighter than anything I’d seen in Florida), delicious food, tequila lines (unfortunately I was not allowed to participate) and friendly locals. I can still taste the homemade tortillas, the spicy salsa, and the piping hot, uniquely creamy, cheese.
Food is a common language and regardless of mother tongue, we can share a meal together and absorb the warmth in the room. Despite our income levels, each of us is grateful to satisfy that basic need of hunger, and more often than not, we prefer to share this experience with others. For the first time I felt the passion imbued from my Italian grandmother alive in the eyes of strangers, whose words I could not understand, but whose smiles and cooking were just as sincere as my own family’s.
I’ve been fortunate to add more stamps to my passport since then, learning and appreciating how other countries connect through food. I’ve tried many questionable edibles, some I’ve loved, some I’d prefer to forget; the connective magic of receiving the gift of food, and enjoying it with another, as a means to get to know them and their country better, left me a lasting impression and memories that I seek to repeat.
Observing how other countries celebrate and wash down their grub is equally fascinating and possibly more entertaining. Only through hands on experience do I know how grappa, oozo, tequila, raki, beer and wine taste, and more importantly, how they effect me.
Responsibility is a must, but ringing in the New Year or merely celebrating life with a new friend and their traditional customs is a learning opportunity that sticks. I’ll never forget those memories. Magnets, figurines, trinkets come and go, but the energetic feeling has lingered on. And it always will.
Witnessing the art, history and sport of another country provides insight a guide book can merely allude to. Standing inside the Colosseum in person, envisioning the brutality that our fellow human beings lived only centuries ago provides a very palpable and effective background to a reality our history books simply cannot fully reflect.
Whether the history or historical figures are positive or negative, there is so much to be gleaned by walking the streets and witnessing what’s left in the present. You cannot possibly predict how you’ll process the information, the lessons, the beauty, and again, no book or film can lend the same viewpoints.
Beyond the obvious joys in exploring a new place, the cuisine, the spirits, the architecture, and the historical context, lies the real benefits of travel: perspective. I’d never witnessed true poverty, and on the same token, resiliency, until that first trip to Mexico. The feeling in my gut taught me some of my first life lessons on empathy, compassion and humility. Suddenly, the awareness of another’s life opened up an awareness of my own. I had a lot to be grateful for.
I’ve recognized over and over how little money has to do with being rich, how much the quietest voices can teach us the most profound lessons, and how beauty and love exist everywhere. Whether the country is first, second or third world, there’s magnificent human beings in them all.
Whether primitive or industrious, we’re all breathing the same air, and the more we move and share the air with others who differ from us, the more we expand our ability to understand and to love. I am better because of what I’ve witnessed and those who’ve taught me invaluable lessons on the road.
Similar to how Yoga encourages us to explore the cavernous depths of our being, travel provides the external perspective to foster a more balanced way of living. Our minds and hearts are more open, simple as that. When reflecting upon my life, there are patches of blur interspersed with moments of great love, great pleasure, great meals, great friendships, and great lessons. Most came my way through travel. I can’t wait to see how travel will broaden me next.
All About Danielle: Danielle Robinson is Never Not Hungry. A Yoga, travel, food, laughter and life enthusiast, Danielle lived, studied and traveled in Italy for 3 years, and then embarked on her teacher training in New York City with Sonic Yoga. Since, she’s lived and taught in Chicago, stretched, folded and chewed throughout the U.S., and now is thrilled to lend her passion as a writer and teacher to the Travel Yogi. She is stupefied to be alive and grateful to share the gift of Yoga to the world.