Travel is Transforming Me

If there was any shred of doubt that the islands of Hawaii—and in particular, Kauai—are one of my greatest teachers, it’s gone after my latest wander there. So many lessons learned there—the latest as a result of a trip to Maui and Kauai


“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” | OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


Life is mostly lived on level ground. Occasionally, it takes you up to the highest peaks, into a quiet valley, or into a dark and scary abyss. At the moment, I’m on one of those peaks on what has come to feel like “my” island.

I’m back on the North Shore of Kauai, once again near the end of the road in Ha’ena where I’m clearly supposed to be right now. The only multi-tasking I’m doing at the moment is writing and listening to a duet being sung by visiting birds and the rhythmic pounding of waves. My To Do List isn’t in charge and time is abundant.

I finally had time to read a blog that has been patiently waiting for me—can you guess why I might have been intrigued by “Meaning to Travel: Pack Your Bags With Purpose” by Debra Moffit-Leslie?

Debra gets it…

“When Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, hit a wall in her life, she set out on a journey. Travel became a way to find purpose, heal a broken heart and grow. Soul-seeking has often been associated with travel and if you’re feeling the urge to hit the road as a way to gain meaningful insights, you’re not alone. Some 300 million people worldwide make up this fast growing group of intentional or transformational travelers according to Global Travel Industry News.”

I devoured Eat, Pray, Love a few years ago. It brought me to the ugly cry on several occasions. God, did I relate to Elizabeth. Like her, one of the ways I demolish my “walls” is through travel.

There is a reason the book—and now the movie—are striking a chord with so many women. What Elizabeth teaches us is that traveling with purpose is as necessary to our spirits as oxygen is to our bodies.

Having two kids, I didn’t have the luxury of taking an extended sabbatical from life like Elizabeth did—but, I am extremely fortunate that I have been able to take lots of mini ones over the last decade and a half.

At first, I wandered for stimulation. Each trip, as well as the pre-trip reconnaissance and post-trip travel therapy session, was like exercise for my under-used at-home mama brain.

My wanders quickly evolved into discovery missions where I would find pieces of myself—my true interests, my own opinions, my deeply buried desires, and glimpses of my purpose.

It saddens me that a wife and mom traveling without her husband and family raises eyebrows or, worse, a red flag. People are suspicious…

Is there something wrong with her marriage?
Is she unhappy?
Why wouldn’t she want to be with her husband and kids?
Why does her husband allow her go?

My husband actually supports my solo trips because the woman who comes home is more confident, vibrant, intuitive, and positive—and is a better mother to his two children.

On this latest wander to Kauai, I spent much time connecting with people. It was fun to search and find common ground with each person I met. The more colorful they were, the more I relished them.

It was awesome to discover that I have a precious gift of fostering deep connections relatively quickly. People trusted me.

It’s ironic that my solo wanders have also been the most social—and the ones where I’ve made the most meaningful connections.

If I wasn’t alone the other day, I would not have sat in the single seat at the bar and struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. We ended up eating together three more times over the next week and talking about angels.

If I wouldn’t have been alone yesterday, the hostess at the local bar would not have sat me in “the best seat in the house” next to Uncle Art, a grandfatherly local who treated me to three evenings of stimulating conversation about his long and fascinating life.

If I wasn’t alone during my two guided hikes on this trip, I would not have gotten to consider him a friend.

If I wasn’t alone, I definitely wouldn’t have talked to the guy next to me on my return flight for five straight hours!

Sure, you can still make connections when traveling with others, but somehow it’s not the same as when you travel solo.

A few other takeaways from this latest solo journey:

  • I belong on the less beaten path.
  • Outdoor showers (with hot water!) are a gift!
  • I have deep respect for those living passionate and authentic lives and an understanding of those who have chosen to hunker down in the Kalalau Valley.
  • I completely agree more with my hiking guide—love and leisure are the two most important things in life.
  • Sugar cane with lime juice and real dark chocolate are absolutely divine.
  • Travel is transforming me.

I have some wishes for all travelers, but especially my fellow women—take at least one solo journey in your lifetime and go deeper than what hotel you’ll be staying at, what clothes to pack, or what tourist attractions to see on your next trip.

Debra has some outstanding advice:

“Once you’ve examined your needs for travel, consider the places that most help you fulfill the aim. Setting an intention for travel can bring rewards, invite synchronicity and open new doors. It can revive a weary soul, promote healing, allow for time to bond with family and friends, and give a new perspective on what’s important. The destinations for intentional travel are vast.”

In my next Travel Therapy session, the blinders come off after a sweltering family wander to New York City.