The Feel Of Travel
Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist
The real reasons I find travel precious.
I didn’t realize at the time I quit my job to travel that it would be for so long. Even when it became long term, I hadn’t yet plugged in to the realization that the real gift I gave myself was being able to feel the places I spent time in. Instead of running like mad to see all the bucket-list tourist sites, I got to spend hours walking aimlessly along unknown streets, paths and trails discovering wildlife, gorgeous scenery and meeting fellow travelers. Here are some of the reasons I love travel, and what I’m looking forward to returning to.
Enjoying sunset in Namibia.
Copyright, 2020. Heather Markel.
Connection To Places Previously Unknown
In Africa I felt a visceral connection to the land. I’ve never felt anything like it; it was as if I had returned home, even though I had never been there before. The openness with which whites, blacks and colored people talk about life, racism and politics was refreshing and I learned so much about slavery and history that nobody ever taught me in school or conversations. I felt welcomed by loving strangers, invited to participate in everything and joy in seeing animals in their natural habitat. For once, I was the zoo and got to watch the animals roam freely. It is their land, their territory and I was the trespasser. Every moment was so different than anything in life I’ve ever experienced, it was a joy to be there, and I can’t wait to return.
Variety And Cultural Traditions
In Argentina I was captivated by rolling hills, mountains, flats, changing temperatures and penguins. The beauty of sharing a metal straw with a stranger to imbibe heaps of yerba mate as I formed friendships or shared intimate conversations warmed my heart and made me feel grateful. The currency fluctuated every day and I learned what people do to survive and that, even without money, there is much joy in the hearts of everyone I met inspiring my compassion and curiosity. My Spanish improved, but even when not perfect, the mere fact that I tried gained me friends and some of the most helpful people I’ve ever met. Gracias!
In Colombia I burned away stereotypes of guerilla warfare, violent gangs and drugs. Instead, I met beautiful people, proud of their country. In fact, I felt surprised as my preconceived notions were replaced with awe and a desire to explore more. I was captivated by views of the Andes, drank the most amazing coffee I’ve ever had (well, up there with African coffee!!) and ate seafood fresh from the ocean on a beautiful island. Today’s Colombia is nothing like that of it’s 1970’s shadow, and I can’t wait to see more of it. Here I felt pushed into life with salsa dancing and the beats of music at the Cafe Del Mar.
In Costa Rica I filled up on Pura Vida. It was every place I went, calming me, letting me shed my former layers of self and embrace the new ones about to come. This was where I began my journey almost three years ago, and the friends I made there, I am still in touch with to this day. Some of the happiest people I have ever met. This is also where I felt completely lost, which is how I began to find myself. The navigation, the lack of addresses, the going with the flow were all a big part of my journey. Pura vida! It was perhaps ziplining for the first time in Monteverde that captured my senses. Complete fear, combined with incredulity at the landscape whizzing by my quick descent on cables with a small gear that I had to trust to stay on track. The sense of facing a huge fear and surviving was unparalleled.
Rio Celeste. Copyright 2020, Heather Markel.
Seeing A Day In The Life Of Someone Else
In Vietnam I was in awe every moment. The families of 5 on motorbikes careening by in some unchoreographed dance of traffic, filling the air with visible bits of pollution, massages cheap enough I had one at least once a week, Hanoi spring rolls second to none, and fish markets full of colors, slimy movements, and smells. Night buses with beds felt like a luxurious way to travel, and the most disgusting toilets I’ve ever used that I will never forget. Some of my favorite coffee is from here, and who would ever have thought egg coffee could be good? And yet, it’s delicious! I felt connected to my grandparents and great uncle here. I’ve seen so many of their souvenirs from this part of the world, it was like they were there with me as I discovered what they already knew.
Meeting Strangers Who Feel Like Family And Developing A Monk Crush
In Cambodia I felt cherished when I was greeted, by everyone I spoke to, with hands in prayer and a bow. It was a feeling deeper than being cherished by a loved one. Because we all began as strangers, the cherishing seemed more spiritual and connecting. While there, I couldn’t help but follow the monks, talk to them, and take their photo. I found them both beautiful and mysterious. I was often confronted with how I put them on a pedestal when I found them smoking or speaking on cell phones! I met a wonderful family from Sweden who adopted me into their travels, and their sons became like brothers as we photo-bombed one another constantly. I never felt alone, even when I was alone. There was always someone to see me, and bow, hands in prayer.
In Peru I was lost in the vibrant colors of tapestries and crafts and ponchos. I wanted to hug all the llamas (and did hug a few). I tasted some the world’s most amazing food in Lima, and witnessed the spirit of the nation come alive during World Cup soccer where coming in second place was treated like a first class win. I traded fear of being kidnapped at the airport for love of people and past that came to life when I visited, awestruck by the architectural genius of generations gone by. I could feel the touch of the Incas every place I went, as if that past was happening in the present time.
Proof That The Impossible Is, In Fact, Possible
On Easter Island I was humbled by statues with an impossible existence, explained, quite possibly, by aliens. I was also delighted to find a land where cows roam freely, all over the island, like elephants do in Africa. There are few places in the world where local inhabitants are so closely related, to all the other inhabitants, that they have to marry outside their country. This is one of them! I found myself feeling so lucky to have found my way there, to this small island with huge gods standing guard, making me feel oddly protected.
Connection With Nature
In New Zealand, kiwis are so nice they make me want to be a better and more pleasant person. I’m inspired by the normalcy of people to walk barefoot. Someone explained to me that it’s about feeling a connection to earth. They surmise that because they start walking barefoot at a young age, their feet have thicker skin so the rocks etc don’t bother them as much. The connection with nature is all around me, and a sacred part of Maori culture. I don’t just walk in it, even with my shoes on, I feel how grounding and connecting it is to simply be here.
Bay Of Islands. Copyright 2020, Heather Markel.
Travelling this world has made me feel enlightened, inspired, scared, open, amazed, spellbound, humbled, happy, and more. I can’t wait to feel my way around more of the world soon. Taking Latin dance class in New Zealand, I am reminded, with every song, of tango dancing in the streets, and music blasting in Colombia, and walking the many streets of South America that I have been. The smell of fish and chips transports me to Cape Town where I enjoyed a delightful meal just a year ago. I constantly daydream about the beauty I have seen, the feelings I have felt, and the colors I have admired all throughout my travels. I feel constantly connected to them by people I meet from around the world, transported to memories with a taste or a sound. Travel is part of me even when I am not traveling, and for that, I feel deeply blessed.
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