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Travel - The Perfect Tonic
- Calgary Luxury Living Magazine (1400 words)
- Winter 2003/2004

Life is pretty good here in Calgary, which begs the question, why would anyone want to leave? Perhaps the dump of white material that blanketed our city not so long ago might lend a clue. Now, granted, that first glimpse of old man winter certainly lit a fuse inside Calgary’s ski aficionados, however it also made the red lights go on for many others of us who don’t willingly strap boards to their feet. “Winter’s coming… Time for a margarita with a little umbrella on it…served by a smiling waiter…on a pristine, sandy white beach…with the warm blue sea… ever… so gently… kissing my toes.”

It seems obvious to me that those who like to travel are motivated by certain things. There are also others wouldn’t be caught dead traveling more than 100 kilometres away from home. On one end, my 81 year old mother-in-law finds that a day trip out of Kitchener to be her “extreme” vacation, while on the other hand, some find great joy in standing bare-chested on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro or sitting for days in a tree in Borneo waiting for a rare bird sighting. Everyone has his or her passions.

It seems that there is further subdivision of interests within vacation groups. Many people are quite thrilled to sit by a swimming pool or absorb UV rays on the beach, while others prefer to push the absolute limits of their physical and mental capabilities. (For the beach group, this may means walking across the street for another bucket of ice.) Some find that putt-putting around 36 holes each day is very stimulating, while others prefer the almost musical chatter of a tour guide.

Which vacation do you prefer? The one where eight meals a day on a Red Deer sized cruise liner are scheduled around the Vegas style shows? Or…the one where you need 3% body fat and the Max VO2 of an SUV airbag for that 5am mountain bike race through Whistler.

Travel is a wondrous thing that offers a chance to take a person out of their regular routine and into a whole other world. The odd things that we see and eat while on the road contribute to helping us figure out our place in the world. Travel is a great teacher and frequent “tutoring sessions” help give perspective, especially on an increasingly fractured planet.

It all goes back to one’s personal experience. There are blinding moments of brilliance that travel can open a person’s eyes to. Be it historical or whatever. There is always something that I can bring back to my home after a trip. It might be as simple as a marvelous new recipe or it might be the enlightenment of some old man, met on a mountain path somewhere.

Usually it’s the little things that we remember, too. In my travels there are a few blinks of light that have burned in unforgettable images:

Standing in awe of the grandeur of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, with the shadows of the sleazy go-go bars, with women numbered like cattle only a few blocks away.

Sitting around a room on the floor with 4 other local Fijians, while a tropical flood gushed waist high water through town. This finished with the oldest presenting me a native mask he carved with the name of each person around the floor etched into it.

Walking into a monastery in Danang, Vietnam and being overwhelmed by an incredible and unexplainable feeling of pure goodness emanating from the 30 year-old monk who lived there.

Seeing the absolute terror on the face of a 1980’s Czech man in an airport as he was absolutely fearful of Russian eyes watching his every move.

The pure unadulterated joy of being in Olympic Stadium in Seoul, Korea watching Ben Johnson power by Carl Lewis in the 100 metres, then having the wind rip from your lungs a couple of days later when he was stripped of his medal.

Striding into a Moscow airport during the cold war, being confronted by a soldier with a machine gun, watching his eyes dart left and right, then having him eyeball my hat and in fractured English hear the whispered words… “You coboy?”

Experiencing the look on my then girlfriend’s face, midst the after-work pandemonium of a 500-year-old pub in London’s Covent Garden just as I presented her with an engagement ring.

Trekking through the northern hill tribes of Thailand and seeing the smiling faces of the poorly clothed kids as a distant voice in my head reminded me of the scores of shirts and suits I hadn’t touched in years.

Sitting around a table in St. Petersburg with eight other people and at times, needing three people translate though three languages to make a point to someone on the other end.

In that same St. Petersburg, stepping into the Hermitage museum, and being awestruck walking down 100-meter hallways filled with breath-stealing artworks from the masters.

After learning to crew a 60 foot racing yacht on the Great Barrier reef for a week, being handed the wheel on the last day and told to skipper the boat all day.

Watching a friend’s eyes go wide as saucers as he came up from a Virgin Islands dive with a crinkled old gold coin with Spanish writing on it dated 1723, only to have him drop the coin while swimming back to the boat we were crewing.

Watching a spectacular Santorini sunset in a restaurant on a mountainside turn a Greek sky into a landscape of a billion stars.

Walking onto the immaculate grounds of Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and feeling the chills as I was finally able to date my family tree back 1300 years.

Going to stately Raffles Hotel in Singapore for (what else) a Singapore Sling, while the dresses swirled on the ballroom dance floor.

In a chance meeting in a Jamaican corner store coming upon the handsome early morning countenance of Keith Richards as he bought bathroom supplies. (and you thought he looked pretty on stage.)

Receiving a frantic letter from a couple I met in Kiev in 1980 after Chernobyl blew up in 1986 asking for help in getting their 5-year old son out of the city before he got cancer.

These are moments that one bathes in when you make yourself available to travel. The world is quite a place and the vignettes you read on this page are never as good as the stories that you have personally written on your own travels.

I guess the point of all this is very obvious. Don’t be afraid to stretch your personal boundaries and see something outside your normal world. I have been very fortunate to have done a lot of travel, but I have chosen to do so and made the effort to buy that ticket. I have also made the effort to get out of my hotel and actually discover some things on my own other than the margaritas, the little umbrellas and the lapping waves.

The best thing I can suggest in the interim is to check out www.EscapeCalgary.com for your fall travel options. However, the thought here was to plant a travel seed in your heart. Like I said earlier, we all have different travel passions, whether they are sunshine, activity or history related.

In the July-August issue of Calgary Living Magazine, Ron Sisson wrote a golf article in which he stated “Accepting Situational Outcome is critical to your long-term survival in both golf and business.”

I would like to add something to that. Your own travel experience will allow you to immerse yourself and deal with situations in the places you visit with confidence and the diversity and cultural uniqueness of these places can only make you a richer, more complete human upon your return.

Without getting too philosophical here, I also might add that travel is fun… plain and simple! It is a great escape and creates a lifelong movie that plays happily in your head whenever you feel the need for a time-out.

As we started out saying here a few paragraphs back, Calgary is a tremendous place to live and love. Sometimes it takes a short escape to really appreciate it, though. Good luck on your travels and Happy Trails, everyone!


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