Despite the Economy, Travel is Still Good for the Soul

| May 30, 2011

Judith Fein gets to the heart of the matter in this article. As she does with each of her pieces about unusual destinations, she explores conversations with people coming to the end of their lives and gives us unique insights into what matters most, life, love and the remarkable adventures that allow us all to say, Life Is A Trip. In the near future Judith will be working closely with us to create a remarkable competition for people to submit stories and photographs about people and places that inspire them and become eligible for some terrific prizes. Stay tuned!

It has been my honor in life to engage in heart-to-heart talks with people who were severely ill or at the end of their earthly visitations. In each case, they reached into their mental scrapbooks and turned to the pages of their lives that brought them the most pleasure. I sat forward in my seat, waiting to see what they would talk about.

No one spoke about money, portfolios, possessions, salaries or career advancement.

Nobody mentioned inflation, deflation, recession, double-dip recession, mortgage rates, interest or dividends.

There wasn’t one word about asset allocation and all the alliterations that make people feel that their money is safe.

But all of them spoke about travels. Maybe they did this because I am a travel writer, and they wanted to connect, but I suspect it had little to do with me, and everything to do with them. When they went flipping through their memories, the ones that stuck out were the trips they took.

Sometimes they were exotic trips to Timbuktu or Tahiti.

Travel - Flower seller in Tahiti

One man spoke about the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Travel - Istanbul

Another recalled discovering Chichen Itza

Mayan temple at Chichen Itza

Other times they were road trips with a spouse or partner, flying to the Caribbean with a gaggle of BFFs from college. One woman traveled through Europe and kept a journal. When she was 90, she pulled out her journal, re-read it and re-lived the trip. She spoke about the Eiffel Tower as though she had just seen it.

Travel - Eiffel Tower, Paris, at night

So here we are, in the thick of eroding currencies, unemployment, foreclosures, graphs, polygraphs, shrinking portfolios, contracting business, and I am asking you to think about travel?


If you can save a dollar a day, do it. If you can save l0 dollars a day, do that. If you can forego buying ten pairs of super-straight-leg pants, and buy one, put the rest of the money aside for a trip. Not a trip where you wear yourself out sightseeing, but a trip that is good for your soul.

And what is a trip that is good for your soul? A trip where you meet people, learn about other cultures and about yourself, expand, let go of your inhibitions, dust off your high school Spanish or French or German, stop texting, feel sexy and alive, sleep in new beds, try new foods and bring to life the crystallized parts of yourself that have gone dead from routine, fear, stress and worry. If you have very little money, you can look into voluntourism, where you help people recover from natural disasters or poverty or illiteracy.

Or you can share a car and expenses with friends and hit the road. Have you ever visited Cahokia in East St. Louis? Have you toured Presidents’ homes and American history on the Journey Through Hallowed Ground? It can be near, it can be far, but it must be a change from your daily routine and it must be something that whispers, calls or shouts to you. You must follow your heart and go where it pulls you.

To me, travel is the ultimate zen activity. You are in the now-reacting to new stimuli-and not anchored in the past or future. You meet people who don’t know you. You can be yourself. You can breathe in and out in a free way, unconstricted and restricted by habit.

Whether we are in a boom or bust, whether your savings have gone anemic or your portfolio is ailing, you can save money. You can allocate your assets to do something that is good for your spirit: hit the road.

Timbuctu anyone? Or a cooking class in the Caribbean? A spa holiday in the Southwest with your sister? 
A camping trip to a national park with your honey? If you can dream it, you can do it.

There is only one warning: travel may be addictive for you. One trip may not be enough. You may want to have a lifetime of explorations. Goodbye, money anxiety. Bon voyage.

All photos are by Paul Ross.

Judith FeinAuthor Bio: Judith Fein is an award-winning travel journalist who has contributed to almost l00 publications. She is the travel editor of Spirituality and Health magazine, co-founder of and blogs for the Huffington Post. 
Her new book, LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel, takes readers on 14 exotic trips where, through interaction with other cultures, they can learn lessons that transform their lives. Her website is

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