Change of Scene

Dr. Jinroh Itami, who developed Meaningful Life Therapy, used travel as one of his non-medical tools. He famously took a group of Japanese cancer patients to climb Mt Blanc three decades ago, long before strenuous exercise 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 criteria.

Travel to foreign lands often opens our eyes and causes us to pay attention in ways that the predictability of life at home does not. Our senses are awakened by the sights, sounds and tastes of a new place different from our own. Reports from travellers indicate that in spite of 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.

I had a powerful experience after cycling the Cabot Trail, which was in my own country but a very different venue. After completing the 300 KM ride, mostly hills, I felt so filled with exuberance and satisfaction that I was certain I could take on the world. This trip had been the most challenging activity I had ever exposed myself to and I seemed to stay in the flow, to my complete surprise, for about six more weeks.

I suppose the crux of the matter when we do something different is we take ourselves out of our comfort zone and expose ourselves to learning new things and sometimes risk. (never fool hardiness, by the way) When we learn new things and immerse ourselves in the flow we temporarily disappear along with our worries and anxieties.

I am currently 4500 KM away from my home but still on the continent of North America and in a place I formerly lived. I notice the air, how light it is; the giant red fireball of sun sinking behind a mountain; the peeling bark of arbutus trees hanging over the water, and the wonder of old friendships renewed in person rather than through updating an app.

I know people, who unable to travel, create the activity of travelling at home. There are many variations on this theme but one example comes from a brilliant woman wanting to walk the Camino. (and she no longer could) 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 travel to. With each time dated goal in mind they made it across the city and surrounding areas covering the mileage they would have walked on the Camino. They all loved it.  Why would they do this?

Four reasons: purpose; companionship, laughter and activity. They all looked forward to their walks and they all experienced a greater sense of well-being. Evidence based? Maybe/maybe not? Anecdotal evidence. You bet. That literature has lots to say.

Worth a try? What have you got to lose? Zooming around a curvy trail on your motorbike; zip lining at Whistler; walking from town to town in England; 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, in front of your city hall. Exploring with a magnifying glass a one metre square patch of grass in your own backyard. We have no idea what we might discover about our world, each other and ourselves. New adventures, both home and abroad, just waiting for you and for me.

Note: Greetings from Gabriola Island, BC. A place where the summer of 2018 is hot with no humidity. How great is that.  Until next Wednesday, Trudy