For the past seven years I’ve been a psychology instructor at a community college, teaching Stress Management, Child Development and Human Growth and Development to students from ages 15 to 76 (the oldest known student I’ve had). Many of my students are right out of high school, while another many have returned to school to shift their life direction, some beginning from scratch. It’s inspiring to watch people move in the direction of their truer passions, sometimes after decades in other places. 

My passion has long been clear to me. How to best express it is another story. I am, and have always been, a teacher at heart. Sometimes in a classroom, other times as a speaker before small or large groups, or as a life coach, advisor or writer. Whether working with high school or college students, or speaking to educators, wellness professionals, individuals living in a halfway house or those working in a government agency, I seek to connect with and offer what I can to people in various places on their journeys. All for the dual purposes of trying to make a difference to others while trying to best become myself. My teaching mantra comes from Jonathan Livingston Seagull: “We teach best what we most need to learn.” 

If not in a classroom, teaching a specific topic, I usually work in the realm of personal development and self-care – talking about the science of happiness, how to better understand and know ourselves and create a life that is true to who we are, how to manage the ups and downs, the stressors that threaten our mental, physical and emotional well-being. I’m passionate about the brain and the mind and how we can work with them to grow ourselves, and more deeply engage with life. So we can create a life of authentic purpose. One of Meaning. 

So what the heck am I doing here, writing a blog on travel? Who am I to do such a thing? Am I having a midlife crisis? Perhaps. I myself and looking for the connections, the patterns in experience that led me to this page. I know they’re there. They always are. 

I shared in my first post how my travel passion began – with my son’s passions and figuring out how to make his interests become lived realities. My experiences have always, in my own head, been narrated into lesson plans. Ha! That’s when you know you’re a teacher. Anything learned becomes something to share. When I wrote my novel I also created a Creative Writing class. It just works that way for me. So here I am, amassing all I’ve done and learned through planning our travels and figuring out how to share the information, hoping it is helpful in some way.

Also, though, I know there is something else at play here. It has to do with what it means to dive deep into what life means to us.  Humans are busy creatures. We DO a lot. Why? Because we learn early that’s the path to success and happiness. We DO so we can Have, so then we can BE…what? You see, the truth is, we’re all after the BE…the feeling we want to live. All the stuff, all the busyness…merely ways we think we’ll find the feeling we seek. Ways we believe we’ll live out the larger values we hold dear.  

I do two Values activities with classes and clients, to help them discern what matters in their lives and how their living out those values. Try one or both if you like. Quick instructions are below and if interested, email me questions or ah-has! If not, you can just skip to below. 

Values Activity 1:  

  1. Tear up a piece of paper into 15 smaller pieces, just big enough to write a word or two on. 
  2. On each little piece write down one thing that you find of high value in this life – what are those things that make up “a life well lived?” 
  3. Your items can be tangible or intangible. More concrete items like: family, friends, a house, money, travel. Or, more conceptual ideas like: love, success, purpose, fun. 
  4. There is no judgement…these are YOUR items and ideals of value. 
  5. When you’ve finished, lay them all out so you can see them. 
  6. Then, take away five. Discard them. This is hard. Keep in mind, you are NOT discarding these as though not important. Remember, they made your top 15. But now it’s time to dig deeper and discern. 
  7. When you complete that step and are left with 10 items…take away another five and discard them. (See #6)
  8. You are then left with your top 5 values. Spend a moment feeling that out. Does it fit? Is it right? 
  9. Now, spend a little time with each. On a piece of paper expand upon what each of the top five means. What does it look like? What does it include? Why is it so meaningful to you? 
  10. When you’re done, arrange them in the order of how much time you spend on each. How do you show that value time? What do you do to express it in your life? 
  11. Finally, ask yourself…which of these would you like to spend more time expressing? How might you do that? What would it look like? Feel like? 

Values Activity 2: 

  1. Fill in the following blanks: 
    1. A happy life is a ______________________ life. 
    2. A successful life is a ___________________ life. 
    3. A meaningful life is a ___________________ life. 
    4. A good life is a ________________________ life. 
  2. Take each word you used to fill in the blank and expand upon it. What does it mean? What would it look like if you fully expressed it? How would your life change? How would you? 

A few years ago, when I did the activities with my groups, I found the words “travel,” and “unique and beautiful experiences” showing up in the first activity, along with “connections” and “learning.” in the second activity I was driven to write phrases like “A meaningful life is a deeply experienced life.” And upon expansion I included things like, “traveling with ‘my boys’” – my husband and son – and creating, as best I could, exceptional moments for them. These ideas touched something deep inside me that made me truly happy. 

I have always lived a lot in my head, and I believe these adventures – ordinary ones made extraordinary through experienced passions – have served to connect me with life in greater, deeper, grander ways. They’ve opened my mind and heart, and broadened my opportunities to live mindfully. For me it’s been about discovering that single beautiful treasure in the larger treasure box of experience that helps the heart sing. 

Inspired Travel. For my son it’s about connecting with creatures and rare sights that he loves. For me…it’s about creating those chance encounters for him and finding the deeper meanings. My husband? He says he’s along for the ride. But I see it in him…opportunities to make and record incredible memories for us. 

So, what would YOUR most inspired travel look like? 

What are your great curiosities, interests and passions? 

What makes time stand still and brings you fully, firmly into the moment? 

What do you love? 

What feeling are you after when you live, and how can you create travel that touches upon it? 

Yours don’t have to be “deep” or anything at all specific. They just need to be yours. 

Do you seek to relax? See amazing sights? Be closer to nature? Make a difference? Learn about a culture? Or get lost in the jungle of a city’s smells and sounds? What makes you feel…alive? Make your own list. 

To me, that’s the best place to start when planning your next travel experience. Take some time to ask yourself the questions. For any trip you are in the midst of planning, spend a moment, close your eyes, breathe and ask, “What do I most want to feel through this experience?” and then, “What is one moment – one sight or experience – that would bring me closest to that?” 

Along the way we’ll talk about how we take the very most from those moments. For now, just revel in the ideas.