Enchantment is such an important ingredient of authentic travel. Besides visits to spaces that are themselves enchanting, how else can we encounter the lush joys of enchantment? Here are three quick ideas for your next trip.
1. Take something beautiful home with you as a memento
Obtain a beautiful object, and treasure it in your daily life. It could be an attractive pebble you keep in your pocket to remind you of the wonderful day you spent at the beach with your family. It might be a piece of art for your home, a hand-made journal, or a piece of jewellery. But it should be something that will ground, or re-ground you to the place that you visited- far into the future.
Here’s what I mean.
I lived and studied in Montréal for three years, at a really pivotal time in my life in my twenties, in the late 1980s. (Yes, I am that old.) My experiences there were life-changing. But after moving back to British Columbia (on the opposite side of my country), it took several decades before I would eventually return. When I finally did go back, I felt an incredibly strong mix of joy and nostalgia. I can even recall one day, standing in the streets of Vieux Montréal (the city’s historic district), when I felt a wave of anguish about having absented myself from that place for so long. And, later in the day while in that very district, I bought some ornate silver earrings with the city’s symbol-an abstract flower. Something about that felt very right- I knew on the spot that the earrings would be an important memento of my earlier life there as well as of my return. Whenever I wear them now, I re-live my love for Montréal, with fond memories of all my times there. I also get ideas about my next trip back.
2. Do something that scares you but that others enjoy
I’m not talking about taking crazy, unsafe risks. Think of this as a prompt for a micro-risk. We all have irrational fears that hold us back. Is yours a fear of heights? Of looking foolish? Of certain animals or reptiles? Of boating? A holiday is the best time to try one of these things, because you typically have fewer stresses on vacation. Go for that hot air balloon ride, that jungle excursion, or that silent meditation retreat. (Note that I have listed that as a scary thing to do, because the idea of not talking for three days frightens me.) I am slightly afraid of heights, and so whenever my mountain goat of a husband wants to climb up an historic tower to get a better view of the city below, I gulp a few times, agree, and then feel exhilarated once I’ve climbed back down.
3. Be generous
Everything your parents told you about being kind, and how generosity ultimately makes the giver feel incredible is true. We all know how to be generous- the one thing I would add is that generosity is about ensuring that what you give will be helpful (rather) than harmful to the recipient. This means thinking about the cultural context and, sometimes, about where the need is greatest. While travelling in Mexico recently, we certainly ran into many people with low incomes, whose daily lives contained a lot of struggle. But we also knew that we weren’t sufficiently grounded in the community to know who best to help, or in what way. And so, we did not give to anyone begging for money on our trip, but on our return home made a donation (much larger than what we would have given in aggregate to the individuals in need who we met—and yes, we did follow through!) to a charity whose work we had learned about while in the community. The key thing here is that the charity was directly linked with local people who knew best what their community needed.
This post has suggested three active ways that might help you achieve a sense of enchantment on your next holiday. It is certainly not the last word on this topic, as there are many more ways that you can do this. Please feel free to suggest your ideas as well!