7 Ways To Scratch The Travel Itch

13 April 2015

I'll never forget the first time I ate squid.

I was 15, on my first trip overseas on a family holiday. One week in Singapore, one week in Hong Kong.

I was a suburban kid living in a time before Australia had fully embraced multiculturalism, something that was most evident in our national diet. Meat and three veg was standard, the occasional Chinese takeaway a rare treat.

I was a keen fisherman as a boy, so I saw squid as bait - slimy, smelly bait at that. I couldn't understand why a fish would want to eat it, let alone a human.

So when dad took the family to a harbourside restaurant in Hong Kong and ordered a wok-full of whole baby squid stir-fried in chilli and soy sauce, it was a moment of truth.

I could have refused to eat it, based on my prejudice against squid, or I could have left my comfort zone and had a go.

I chose the latter, and it changed my life. I had never before tasted anything so delicious. It was exotic, new, exciting and amazing.

 Bait on a plate (Image: Getty)

In that first taste of stir-fried squid, I saw my future. I would not rest until I had seen - and tasted, and heard and touched - as much as this incredible world as I could.

Since then I've had lots of wonderful experiences, and, like that first encounter with a tasty baby squid, most of them have involved travel.

It's not to say that you can't have great experiences in and around where you live. You can, but the very fact that you are in familiar surroundings, mixing with familiar people and eating familiar food means that the wow factor can be elusive.

It's what makes travel so compelling - it offers the the chance to try something new, meet someone from a different culture, try food you never knew existed, push yourself to the limit, test your resilience, confront your fears, expand your knowledge, excite your senses, feed your soul.

In short, live a full life.

A series of studies has just highlighted the flaw in the adage that money can't buy you happiness.

It can buy you happiness - as long as you spend your dough on experiences, not things.

 Travel is about opening your world up (Image: Getty)

“We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University in the US who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you.

"In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

The whole point of travel is to experience something new. But new what? Here are seven ways you can use travel to enhance your life.

1. Immerse Yourself In History

The march of humanity out of the plains of Africa to all corners of the world and into civilisation is nothing short of extraordinary. If you are at all interested in how we got to where we are today - and it is a compelling tale - there are some places you must visit.

A short list would include the pyramids and temples of Egypt, Petra in Jordan, Machu Picchu in Peru and Angkor Wat in Cambodia; the ruins of Italy and Greece; the rock paintings of Kakadu; the castles of Britain; the churches of Spain; and the ancient treasures of China, such as the terracotta warriors and the Great Wall.

That's just the bare minimum. There are countless places of historical interest and you'll never see them all in three lifetimes, so you better get cracking.

 The rock art of Kakadu (Image: Getty)

About that Safari in Africa. Spring Break Safari In Africa

Lesser-known wonders of the world. Seven Architectural Wonders You Never Knew Existed


2. Test Yourself

The very nature of modern life means that most of us are bogged down in routines. We are stuck in traffic going to work to pay for mortgages and kids and bills.

You know you have an inner warrior yearning to break free and take on new challenges. The exhilaration of a few weeks outside your comfort zone can sustain you through a year of  drudgery.

As an antidote to the daily grind, try trekking to Everest Base Camp, walk the Appalachian Trail or follow in the pilgrims' footsteps along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela;  go on a sea kayak adventure to Mexico, Alaska or Antarctica; raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon; ride a motorbike through Rajasthan or Mongolia; bungy jump in New Zealand.

 Pilgrims on Camino de Santiago (Image: Getty)

3. Get In Touch With Nature

It's a beautiful planet full of incredible scenery and amazing creatures. You've simply got to see them.

If an African safari isn't on your bucket list it should be.

The great waterfalls of the world - Victoria, Niagara, Iguazu, Jim Jim to name just a few - have to be seen to be believed.

How could you not be amazed by the birdlife and crocodiles of Kakadu, the bears at Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia,  the Great Whites in South Africa and South Australia, and the unique animals that inhabit the Galapagos.

The soaring mountains of Nepal, the amazing deserts of Africa, Australia and the Americas and the jungles of the Asia and South America will leave you breathless as will the coral wonderlands of the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea.

 The world's natural wonders are an experience that make travelling worthwhile (Image: Getty)

4. Learn Something

Knowledge is power. Education is illuminating. Acquiring a new skill is life-enhancing. Combine travel and learning and you have a winning combination.

How about doing a Thai cooking class in Bangkok, a yoga retreat in India or an art appreciation tour of Italy? Learn to surf in Hawaii, fly-fish in New Zealand, paint in Holland or speak Spanish in Colombia.

Somewhere in the world there's a learning adventure waiting for you to grab it.

5. Life Swap

You can have a great holiday simply by changing your environment. If you live on a farm, go stay in a city for a week, or vice versa.

If you live in suburbia, book yourself into an inner-city hotel for a weekend, even in the same city that you already live in.

If all you can hear from your bedroom is traffic or lawn-mowers, book into a place where you can hear surf pounding on the beach, birds trilling in the gardens or the scrunch of snow underfoot.

 Find a seachange along the golden shores of Hawaii

6. Arts & Minds

The world is packed with treasure. Museums and art galleries are full of the fruits of humanity's creative side. Paintings, sculpture, ceramics, jewellery, furniture, clothes and glassware are preserved and revered for the insight they offer into the human experience through the ages.

Spectacular buildings too stand as testament to the architect's genius.

You could spend weeks visiting just the museums in one city like London, Paris or New York, or a weekend visiting MONA in Hobart, GOMA in Brisbane or the War Memorial in Canberra.

7. Get Festive

A great way to let your hair down is to immerse yourself in a festival - of music, theatre, writing, comedy, dance, culture and food. Or all of those.

Australia has a terrific roster of festivals big and small. My favourites are Womadelaide and Woodford, for their showcasing of music, food, art and culture from around the world.

 Fiesta San Fermin in Pamplona (Image: Getty)

Food, wine and beer festivals in South Australia and Victoria are great for giving your tastebuds a holiday. And we love our sporting festivals, like the Spring Carnival racing calendar in Victoria, the Birdsville Races, the Formula One Grand Prix, Moto GP and the V8s.

Overseas you could lose yourself in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Fiesta San Fermin in Pamplona (aka the running of the bulls) or Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

.........................................................................................................................................................

Visit your local Flight Centre or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest travel deals.

.........................................................................................................................................................

Rory Gibson

Rory Gibson somehow makes a modest living writing columns for newspapers and magazines on the subjects of beer, travel and dating advice for his three sons, and roams the world looking for material to fill them.