Benefits of Travelling

Travel and Dr Itami

Dr. Jinroh Itami, who developed Meaningful Life Therapy, for cancer patients, used travel as one of his non-medical tools. He famously took a group of Japanese cancer patients to climb Mt Blanc almost four decades ago, long before exercise of any kind was encouraged in cancer circles. He also took another group to Yellowknife to experience the magic of the Aurora Borealis at New Year’s and the opportunity to be part of an Indigenous Healing Circle. Both trips involved a change of scene, customs and new experiences. Showing up with an open mind and open heart was the only criterion.

Travelling to foreign lands often opens our eyes and causes us to pay attention in ways that do not predict the predictability of life at home. The sights, sounds, and tastes of a new place, which differ from our own, awaken our senses. Reports from travellers indicate that despite the challenges that travelling brings, they often feel stronger, more alive, and more hopeful, especially when they stretch themselves and engage in mental and physical challenges. (we are not talking of recklessness)

Cabot Trail

Some of my readers know that one of my most powerful experiences came from cycling the Cabot Trail. Yes, it was in my own country but in a very different venue. After completing the 300 KM ride, mostly hills (minus 20 KM that I didn’t do), I felt so filled with exuberance and confidence that I was certain I could take on the world. This trip was the most challenging activity I had ever exposed myself to and I stayed in the flow, to my complete surprise, for about six more weeks.

I experienced the benefits that Dr. Itami had suggested would happen to his patients when they challenged themselves. He was convinced that challenges such as this helped us become tougher,  more resilient and confident as we went through cancer treatment and other difficulties.

I suppose the crux of the matter when we do something new and challenging is that we take ourselves out of our comfort zone and expose ourselves to learning new things, where there is always an element of risk—if not physical, it could be psychological. When we learn new things, we are beginners and often feel vulnerable. Best to remind ourselves that as beginners, we are not expected to know how to do it, and the upside is we can ask lots of questions. So when we are trying out something new, let’s not waste the opportunity to learn by pretending we already know how to do it. Or avoid an opportunity simply because we might look foolish. What do we really have to lose? We are all on our way out, so let’s sing while there’s voice left.

Ten years ago

I travelled to Japan with friends for one month—an unforgettable trip of a lifetime. This year, in October, I am returning with my daughter to hike the Kumano Kodo accompanied by eight Japanese friends. This will also challenge me in every possible way, and I am determined and dedicated to doing so.

Many people are unable to travel, still, they can create the activity of travelling at home. There are many variations on this theme, but one example comes from a determined woman wanting to walk the Camino for a second time and a health condition that prevented her from doing so. She worked out the mileage and created a local walking trip, based on that mileage. She organized some friends to join her, and they created passports and mapped out specific and significant locations within their city where they would walk to. With each walk recorded, they made it across the city and surrounding areas, covering the mileage they would have walked on the Camino. They celebrated every milestone and it was a meaningful trip for them all.

What made an Option B trip special?

Purpose, companionship, laughter and activity. They all looked forward to their purposeful walks and experienced a greater sense of camaraderie, significance and, hence, well-being. Evidence based? Maybe/maybe not? Anecdotal evidence. You bet.

What can we do locally and abroad? Zooming around a curvy trail on your motorbike (not for me), zip lining at Whistler (nope) walking from town to town in England (sounds good)… cycling, singing or reciting poetry in Ireland, strolling in a park at the other end of your town; sitting on a park bench people-watching; visiting an arboretum in your town; short or long hikes…perhaps explore with a magnifying glass a one-metre square patch of grass in your own backyard to see what enters and exits your field of vision.

If you think about something you would love to do and can do it – I suggest you don’t wait.  If, on the other hand, you are not able to do Option A, then don’t give up on other options. We have no idea what we might discover about our world, each other and ourselves. New adventures, both home and abroad, await you and me.

Notes

1:) A few small joys this week – early morning walks with Rowan, my grandson; local strawberries on vanilla icecream; a delicious raspberry gelato in Aylmer at Cassis with my granddaughter; a monthly visit with a friend; my Wellspring Webinar on health benefits of humour; the joy of having a 55-year-old son and celebrating his birthday from afar.

2:) As of yesterday, I received an unexpected gift—a portable air conditioner for my study—a gift from my Ottawa family and installed meticulously by Rowan. It lets me sit at my computer typing away, as cool as a cucumber. In all seriousness, it is life-changing. Deeply grateful.

3:) The banner photo is of the Victoria waterfront at night, courtesy of Rob. The bikes are my daughter and son-in-law’s, taken during their recent trip to the aforementioned Cabot Trail.

4:) Treasure once-in-a-lifetime chances – this moment will never happen again. The Japanese concept of ichigo ichie.

5:) Thank you for reading my blog. I am deeply honoured by your kindness and perseverance, sticking with me, week by week. And never hesitate to take a break, either. We all have so much to read and only so much time. A deep bow to you all. Warmly, Trudy

 

Summer was Half the Year and other musings

Elusive Time

We all know that time is relative depending on what we are doing during that time period. We hear that time goes faster as we live longer. Whether “they” are right or wrong, speaking from my experience, I mostly agree. As you know I have been talking about these past thirteen years and, how, looking back they seemed to go by so quickly. Furthurmore, compared to my  childhood summers in the 50’s the rest of my life in retrospect has been travelling at warp speed.

When I was a girl I loved school and I loved summer. In fact I thought the year was divided evenly between school and summer holidays because both of these time frames were welcome in my life. I didn’t need a calendar or a clock to measure time – I revelled in both.

Each time period had its own magic:

school- new teacher, new books, poems, subjects, scribblers and pencils, new grade, new clothes, new school bag and friends and many activities that I loved.

summer- endless days and evenings to play, explore, swim, spend time with my cousins, aunts and uncles, be outdoors all day except for meals, pick berries, eat popsicles, play croquet, bike,  hide and go seek in the evening,  skip rope, and read all day in a hammock if I so desired. Watch the clouds, build sand castles, picnics…

What I had in my childhood summer was spaciousness freedom and fun.

I was devastated and humiliated when my classmate proved to me in no uncertain terms that I was wrong – and that summer was only two months and school ten. She couldn’t believe that a smart girl could be so stupid. (nor could I, for that matter)

Lost in the joy of my summer days that seemed to stretch forever, I never felt that time flew by. On the contrary, I had all the time in the world. I suppose because my days were unstructured and spent outdoors. And the school year didn’t seem too long because I loved learning, structure, (interesting) and all that came with going to school.

As we live longer and take on responsibilities of all kinds it is no longer the case that we have all the time in the world. We are managed by our calendars and clocks. This is natural and happens to  us as we grow up. Of course, like all change there are upsides and downsides.

Grandchildren

My own grandchildren don’t experience my childhood summers because life is different now. They are already operating with calendars and clocks. This is not up for comparison as I can see the many advantages that come with their life. Still, I suspect that one of the reason they love the west coast or going to the maritimes has to do with a peak into the past –  freedom, spaciousness and no obligations.

They get to live for awhile close to nature with magnificent star-filled skies, the sound of the waves, family lore, a million cousins, few rules, and the beauty of coastal mountains, forests, bays and the sea –  close-up. And of course there is the great allure of the city of Vancouver – family  and all that happiness along with the coastal mountains and the water taxis… But in a seashell, so to speak, they revel in the wonder of a different kind of day, space and time.

Don’t we all need a little taste of this from time to time.

Pico Iyer, a beloved writer, writes about stillness and the need for regular breaks from our overly organized lives. (See the link in notes.)

Still, I have noticed another aspect of modern time. How it gets compressed the minute we are with people we love even though it may have been years  since seeing them. We pick up as though there have been no time gaps. Yet,  how time is interminable when we are waiting for possible bad news/hoping for good news regarding our medical tests.

My Mother lived to be 100 and if you asked her how old she felt she always said about 70. She too was surprised how her internal clock operated on a different time than the calendar. “Why 70,” I asked? She usually explained it like this – her spirit, who she was, didn’t appear to age at all – she felt ageless. However, her physical body changed more significantly somewhere around 70 and she knew she was no longer a young woman. She also added that when I turned 50, she obviously could not still be that age. -:) Also, she could see that her body had lived a long time and needed different things from her – so she made adjustments. Not excuses, rather cheerful adaptations to reality.

I know I Sound Like a Broken Record

What I wish for is that all of you can create and catch  timeless moments this summer.Whether it is hiking on a carefree day, or sitting by a campfire at the lake roasting s’mores, or up late under the stars telling stories with friends and family as you watch the meteor showers. Anything at all where time can disappear and you have that feeling, that awesome luxury of all the time in the world.

May you enjoy July.

Notes

1:)Pico Iyer 15 min Ted Talk on The Art of Stillness

2:) Thanks to Rob -pictured here- for providing beautiful photos. And Happy Early Birthday Rob – enjoy your weekend celebration in Victoria.

3:) What looks like a dragonfly is a Cardinal Meadowhawk from the dragonfly family Libellulidae.

4:) My first hike was in the Gatineau on Sunday and was a wonderful outing with lovely people.  Realize how I have missed being on the forest trails.

5:) I hope you are all doing well enough and having some idyllic summer days. I appreciate you stopping by here to read my blog. Warmly, Trudy

PS Just saw that Oliver Burkeman has a new book coming out in October called Meditations for Mortals. It is bound to be one I will enjoy.

 

 

 

Musings- old and new – ending of June and beginning of July

What a week

This has been a great week. The graduations happened, followed by celebratory dinners and gatherings. A friend’s 80th birthday party on Sunday, and we finished off with a  Canada Day Celebration on July 1st at a friend’s beautiful lake house. Dragonflies were at the lake, and they enhanced an already great day. Furthurmore, we participated in a regatta as such, with most people on the lake going crazy. Boats decorated to the nines for Canada Day and sailing from one end of the lake to the other in convoy. It sounds a little corny, but it was a lot of fun. These moments of celebration remind us of how important it is to always make room in our lives for family, friends and community.

Those were the bigger highlights that we all experienced.  However, what really stood out this week was the unexpected fireflies close by on my evening stroll around the block. I discovered this wonderment on Friday night, and each evening, I go back. Fireflies have been embedded in my hippocampus since childhood and still stimulate unadulterated joy.

Anniversary

And then there is the 13th year anniversary of my cycling the Cabot Trail for my 65th birthday – a big, audacious, crazy goal that went so very well (and could have gone so wrong) and is one of my favourite memories. What is significant is that this year, in the same month as my trip, my daughter, her husband and friends are also cycling the trail. They leave Friday morning and are gone for one week. I am pleased about this partly because I am hoping to get a little credit for my prowess (haha) since they are only 50-52.  I hope that they enjoy it half as much as I did, and I await their report.

So now I am starting my next 13-year cycle, including my dream of hiking the Kumano Kodo this October. Serious and realistic training mode is about to begin as I do my part to get ready. So, today, with the help of two people I haven’t met yet, I am signed up for my first two hikes in the Gatineau with The Ottawa Rambling Club. This is not something I would usually do because I am not a fan of heat, humidity, bugs and group events. I love people, but I am not much of a joiner. However, in the interests of my major purpose this year and the responsibility of preparation, I am venturing out of my comfort zone to see how it all goes. It reminds me of 13 years ago when I was filled with trepidation about biking the Cabot Trail and the fear of holding everyone up, getting eaten by a cougar, and flying over the cliff into the sea because I lost control of my bike—none of which happened. Whew! It goes to show you that our insecurities should not be in charge of what happens next.

Truthfully, I am really excited. and will get my bug spray before Sunday.

Poppy season in Vancouver is still strong, and my son keeps me stocked up with beautiful specimens.  I am awash in the beauty of it all. Please remember to test out awe walks for yourself, especially when facing something difficult. Several short spurts of beauty help over the long haul.

Notes

1:) It is summer 2024 – may you make memories. Have fun, relax, listen and look. Make each day memorable in small ways.

2:) A poetry break Li-Young reading From Blossoms (a lovely summer poem)

3:) Rainier cherries from Washington State arrived, and I indulged, as I do every summer, in these delicious fruits. This is the only cherry I buy from afar, and I do so without apology. Fortunately, they arrive a month ahead of the local ones, so I don’t have to choose. What do you find irresistible?

4:) “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”― John Lubbock

5:) A hundred thank you’s for stopping by here. Warmest wishes, Trudy