Travel is one of the only things you can buy that makes you richer
In The Things I Should Have Told You, travel helps my characters understand the true meaning of home, family and love. Here’s what travelling has taught me
Carmel Harrington: Sometimes, when I’m having a bad day, frustrated with whatever curve balls I’m dodging, I’ll dive into my eclectic box of travel memories
According to my mother, I’ve always been a little bit quirky and a whole lot independent. I’ve also always been a bit of a risk-taker. I like jumping out of my comfort zone the odd time, shaking things up. It was this trait that led me to throw myself from an aircraft at 3,000ft and fly around South Africa in a two-seater Cessna.
The older I get, the fewer risks I take. That’s more about the responsibilities I now have, in particular to my children and husband, than my age. But while my parachute jumping days are over, every now and then I still like to push myself to try something new.
It was perhaps inevitable that I would include travel in one of my novels. In The Things I Should Have Told You, I tell the story of the Guinness family, who spend eight weeks travelling around Europe in a camper van. The family are all under stress and as a result, none of them are the best versions of themselves. But with each country they visit, they begin to see the world with fresh eyes. For them, travel helps them understand the true meaning of home, family and love.
Travel is one of the only things you can buy that makes you richer. I thought I’d share why I believe this to be true …
You’ll always have something to talk about at parties
You don’t have to have a Romancing the Stone holiday to be an interesting guest at your next shindig. Sliding down a mud bank in the Columbian jungle, with a treasure map in hand, will probably guarantee you a rapt audience. But in my experience, no matter where you’ve been, it’s likely you have an amusing or odd encounter to share.
There’s no place like home
It’s not just the Lyons tea or the Tayto crisps we miss while gallivanting around the world. Stepping out of our mundane lives teaches us that home isn’t so bad. My family had a holiday of a lifetime a couple of years ago, hanging out with the Disney gang in Orlando. Despite enjoying every single second, we all clicked our heels three times, happily, to return home.
Travel is the great educator
I loved history in school. I’d read about the Berlin wall, but touching it, feeling the graffiti grooves beneath my finger tips, brought it to 3D life. Standing in the Garden of Remembrance made me weep for those that had died.
Travel isn’t just about visiting places we’ve learnt about in class. It teaches us so much more, about ourselves and others. The world is both a big and a small place. Kindness can be found in the most unusual and remote locations.
No wi-fi? Hallelujah!
In my twenties – the olden days as my cheeky son calls it – we didn’t have mobile phones. While I embrace technology and all the advantages it gives us, sometimes I miss those swipe-free days!
Despite reliance on smartphones, travel does give us an opportunity to take a break from social media. Unplugging ourselves – literally – from the pulls of home and work, is a wonderful detox for mind and body.
It slows things down
Juggling work and family life, meeting endless obligations, is exhausting. Travel slows down our frantic lives. Whether your perfect holiday is lying by a pool in the Spanish sun, or trekking across a Mongolian desert, I guarantee that you’ll feel reinvigorated afterwards. My days of cheeky lie-ins are gone, but I find that being on holiday makes my mindset more relaxed, which means a better night’s sleep.
Meet new people/cultures!
No matter the continent, learning about the cultural heritage in each country I’ve visited has shaped me into who I am. My travels have made me more tolerant and open to change and diversity.
Give yourself a new perspective
In 1995, I got my first glimpse of a shanty town, as my plane descended into Maputo. They crept downwards towards dirt roads, like tangled vines. I found myself struggling to understand the level of poverty I encountered. My youth and inexperience at that time left me ill-prepared for the impact this had. I wasn’t earning much back then. But in Maputo, I realised with shock, I was rich in comparison to most. When I arrived at my opulent hotel, I was overwhelmed at the stark contrast to the towns we just passed. It was the first time that I’d seen abject poverty rubbing shoulders with lavish wealth. And that changed my perspective. It changed me.
Develop hidden talents
There’s nothing like arriving in a strange country with only a pocket tour guide to help get your communication skills in gear! Before you know it, you’re driving on the opposite side of the road, ordering a three-course meal in a foreign language, smashing plates in a traditional Greek dance!
I’ve always been afraid of water, but on my honeymoon, my husband persuaded me to have a go at snorkelling. I was sure I’d be rubbish at it, but before I knew it, I was underwater, discovering a whole new aquatic world. I was charmed with myself!
Unleash your courageous palate
There’s nothing like travelling overseas to make delicate Irish taste buds brave. I remember that visit to Maputo, where strong Portuguese influences were in the cuisine. I’d never been a fan of seafood, but by the end of the holiday I was a convert. Now, whenever I travel, I’ll always eat one local dish each day. Sometimes I pick the wrong thing, but no matter what, it’s always fun.
Create unforgettable memories
Sometimes, when I’m having a bad day, frustrated with whatever curve balls I’m dodging, I’ll dive into my eclectic box of travel memories. Backpacking around the Greek islands with friends, travelling to Australia with my grandmother, drinking mojitos in Barcelona mid-afternoon with my husband, watching my children do the hot-dog dance with Mickey Mouse. Relieving those moments soothes me, puts me in a better mood.
Wherever your next destination lies, let the adventure begin …
Carmel Harrington is an awardwinning author from Co. Wexford. Her latest novel, the Irish Times bestseller, The Things I Should Have Told You (HarperCollins), is on sale now. Her novels are translated into eight languages. She is a regular on Irish TV as a panelist on TV3’s Midday Show and is chair of Wexford Literary Festival