It’s an average Thursday evening commute and I’m in a daze, staring out the window of the subway car at the grim and grimy stations as they pass. And then a song comes on rotation that transports me to summer 2017 and the back garden of a little hostel in Inverness, Scotland. The greenery surrounding us glowed in that otherworldly light that bathes northern latitudes during mid-summer evenings. I was watching my two friends laughing and hurling good-natured barbs at one another while sharing a bottle of Buckfast*. Present day me can’t hide the smile from my face at the recollection. Then my memory fast-forwards to later in that enchanted week when we visited a small, sleepy highland village a bit further north. A cheerful young man served us tea and couldn’t contain his excitement while announcing his impending trip to the United States. His destination: somewhere in the suburbs of the great state of Michigan! A place about which none of us had any strong feelings but held a world of possibilities for him. There we were, standing across a cafe counter from an aspiring Michigander in a place that was marvelous to us and completely mundane to him. He was so enthusiastic, charming, and full of delight at meeting three Americans on an otherwise ordinary morning.
Something breaks my reverie and I’m back in the present—squeezed in with a businessman muttering curses at his phone, an exhausted mother with her buggy of precious cargo, and a construction worker doing his best to not fall asleep on the shoulder of the old lady next to him. It’s been a long day for us all. But for those few delightful moments, I had escaped into a cache of wonder.
And this, my friends, is the magic of travel, is it not?
You do not need to spend tons of money. You do not have to trek to the most glamorous, most Instagram worthy places on earth to enrich your life and broaden your experience. It is about finding connections, making shared memories, and taking your life – your ‘one wild and precious life’—and putting it in a completely different context.
One day recently I was overcome with longing for the mountains in northern Labrador, where I had the opportunity to learn about the sacred land and beliefs of the indigenous people there. While listening to our guides talk about the importance of the Torngat Mountains to the Inuit and Innu communities, one of them, a local woman, shared with us the many unimaginable hardships she has faced as a result of the relocation and forced assimilation of First Nations people. She explained that when she needs help with the healing journey, it is to the mountains she goes. Labradorite, a beautiful and captivating stone, was in the earth all around us there. And while I love it, I would never have dreamed of taking any for myself. A few nights before my departure, however, the same guide—this humble, quiet woman who had the courage to speak up and help us understand the struggles of her community—approached me and silently pressed a smooth round nugget of stone into my hand.
To this day, receiving that labradorite remains one of the highest honors of my life. It lives in my home and brings me comfort every day. When I am hurt, or sick, or wrestling with emotional turmoil, I can hold the stone and travel back to that mountainside with the clean, crisp air and recall the voice of our guide explaining how to cope with emotional wounds: “Let it go. Give it to the land. Give it to the bird. Give it to the water. They can bear it.”
When I look back on that experience (which was made possible by the amazing expedition travel company, Adventure Canada) I am always overwhelmed with wonder and gratitude. And, as I often do during those moments, I sent a text to one of the friends I made during that trip.
ME: I’m having an ‘I miss the Arctic’ day.
HER: I feel you…
And the beauty is, I know she does. Because of that, we are bonded forever.
The magic that exists in the simple act of moving from one place to another is real and it is powerful. It helps us draw out the lessons we most need, be it through connection with others, new sensations, or deep communion with nature. And again, we need not go far to access this magic. Whether it’s to the other side of the globe, or the other side of town—the power is there for all of us, if we wish to access it.
*For the uninitiated, Buckfast is a syrupy caffeinated wine made by monks and sold as a “tonic wine”. It is exceedingly affordable and full bottles can be found at any Scottish corner store. Empty bottles may be found on any given sidewalk in Glasgow on a Saturday night.
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