The travel season is upon us, and we would still love to hear from our readers about any future travel plans. You can also tell us about your favourite holiday destination or an anecdote from your travels. Please click on the comment button below and share the highlights with us in 4-5 sentences. We will feature it in our blog posts during the month of June.

Travels, Memories and Our Mental Health

I’d like to think that I could fly,
To lift my feet and touch the sky,
To soar above, look down below,
And never know just where I’d go.

And if I could, oh what I’d see,
Earth would not be the same to me.

Oh, if the wind would carry two,
I’d hope that I could fly with you,
And hand-in-hand we’d chase the stars
And lock them up in pickle jars.

We’d laugh and smile, then set them free,
To twinkle for eternity.
By Barbara Vance

I do love to fly; it is one of my favourite ways to travel. Well of course I am not actually flying, that would be the pilot of the plane however, if only it were true that I could just spread wings and see the world at a moment’s notice.  The closest I ever got to feeling like a bird, untethered and free was in a glider plane when I was in my early twenties, a little braver and more fearless than I am now.

Travelling, whether it is to another city, province, country or continent, no matter the method, does wonders for our spirit, mental and physical health.  I can’t imagine how awful it would be to have a fear of travelling, known as hodophobia.  The excitement and anticipation of travelling along with the adventure itself, helps to release “happy hormones” in our body. Changing up your routine increases your overall happiness and satisfaction with life as well as enables you to gain new a perspective.  Other proven benefits from travelling are improvements in production and problem-solving skills, increased creativity, stress relief, improved sleep and better overall health.  This is why it is so important to have the chance to take a break, to recharge and experience something new and create special memories.

When I visited Nova Scotia a number of years ago, to see family members and discover the island’s many charms, one of the highlights of the trip was a whale watching expedition off the coast of Cape Breton. I have always been happiest when living near large bodies of water and being on the ocean was incredibly relaxing and I felt such calm and appreciation of the beauty around me.  There was almost a stillness in the air until a large presence rose up in front of us and in a balletic move, spun around and then managed to gracefully touch back down into the water. It was awe-inspiring, and extraordinary especially since we were witness to a rare Blue Whale encounter. She put on a show for us for almost 15 minutes before one final wave of her massive tale and she was off swimming further out to sea.  When we were in her presence we stood and watched in wonder almost afraid to say a word in case we scared her off, but as she swam away, we couldn’t contain the excitement any longer and we screamed and giggled with joyful abandonment, even now thinking about that day fills me with happiness.

Another special memory I have of my travels, is of the time I spent in Italy.  I have often said that I have shopped from the top to the bottom of the boot of this colourful country, but shopping therapy is not the point here.  This was a jam-packed trip, and I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by all the scheduled tours. As much as I was enthralled by the history of the different regions, their architectural wonders and incredible art, I needed a moment to myself. The Medici were a powerful family during the Italian Renaissance, and their affluence and influence can be seen throughout Florence.  I was able to sneak off and quite by chance, stumbled upon their chapel with its tombs, ancient statues, green hedges and walled garden. I walked around the grounds, alone save for one priest who acknowledged my presence with a quick nod and went on his way. As I quietly sat in one of the nooks of the garden, book in hand (no surprise, there is always a book tucked into my backpack), viewing the symmetry around me, I once again felt energized, contented and rejuvenated. I was ready to rejoin the group to enjoy and learn more fascinating details of Florence and neighbouring cities.

During the pandemic, with so many restrictions placed on travel, we were grounded, and it impacted the mental health of those around us including several of our students who struggled with anxiety and depression.  Their families were half a world away, in Africa, Asia or the Caribbean, some suffering with medical issues and a phone call was not enough to give our students peace of mind.  Once it became easier to travel, the chance to finally see their loved ones and hold them close, brought joy, comfort and helped to alleviate the stress caused by worry and fear.  Knowing their parents, children or siblings were cared for has enabled these students to face life with more optimism and greater focus. We are now all looking forward to vacations or some form of travel, to clearing our heads and embracing the feeling of delight from a new and shared experience.