A Travel Challenge with a Twist: Are You In?


Once a year, go someplace you have never been before.

-Dalai Lama

Travel is soul food.

It opens your mind and expands your potential for empathy. Travel turns your familiar on its head and makes you re-sort your understandings. It is an invaluable source of wisdom. And, well, it’s just so much fun.

Personally, I crave it. It fuels a part of me that nothing else quite can. Though it is not always easy, I always love it.

I just recently returned from some time in Greece, so I’m emerging from a great big, giant dose of it. I’m sure from all my gushing travel praise, it’s pretty clear I’m a bit hopped up on its goodness, a travel high if you will. I feel like yelling from rooftops, “Everybody pack your bags! See the world!” I have no doubt what I’d do if I won the lottery.

A Reflection on Travel…

As I have had some time home this week, I have been reflecting on why I find these travel experiences so enjoyable and recharging. Along with all the pluses above, I think when we are traveling we embody that key life principal for which so many of us strive: we are totally present.

You kind of have to be, right? There’s all this novelty you have to navigate through. You can’t just rely on the autopilot we often turn to in our days at home. Whether it’s finding yourself on maps, planning the course of your day, or just wandering around soaking up the experiences, travel keeps you in the moment without a lot of work.

One of my very favorite parts of traveling, is when I feel myself just totally sink in to an experience. I can’t quite explain it in any other way than just sinking in. I had many of these “sinking-in” kinds of moments in Greece. But, one in particular stands out to me:

As we were walking through the winding, cobblestone walkways of Santorini, we passed many charming little places to grab a bite to eat. Often as we passed, someone was outside beckoning passerbyers to enter. Somehow we paused in front of one particular place as a very persistent, though totally charming man tried to convince us that this was where we needed to be. It was two levels of tables hovering over the beautiful view of the caldera. The view alone may have pulled us in, but we give full credit to Edgar, the one man show at the cafe.

There were a handful of other patrons there who had been watching the exchange with chuckles, and shared that they too were here because they had fallen for Edgar’s charming persuasion. Within moments of sitting down, I could feel myself begin to sink. I knew I could stay here a while. We were soon filled with saganaki, crepes, cocktails, stunning vistas, and great conversation. We chatted with the fellow patrons and most interestingly of all, we continued getting to know our new Greek friend, Edgar. Sink, sink, sink….

What a feeling of full contentment to be submerged in a moment, not thinking of being anywhere else, not even thinking of anything else….just present.

These are the moments that seem a little extra abundant in travel, maybe it’s because you truly have no where else to be. But, what a wonderful thing to take time to ask questions and to learn so much about all the people who share your space, or to sit without even speaking and just take in the view, to just sink in…no where else to be.

We did end up spending much of the afternoon right there. It was wonderful. The ocean breeze was calming and the food was delicious. We learned all sorts of things about Edgar’s life in Greece, his family and his plans, and he learned a lot about us. Several hours into full sink mode, I commented to Edgar that he was so lucky to look out on this view every day, what a treat. He replied by saying he really wanted to be in the United States. I told him he was crazy to want to leave this. He told me he would trade with me right then; I could stay here and he would go back and teach my students in the U.S. Pure silliness, I thought.

But, when I got home, those words of Edgar’s kept playing again in my mind. Here was a man living in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and he wanted to be here in the U.S. I started to think, maybe the way I could keep my travel high a little longer was to take some time to look at my own “backyard” with Edgar’s eyes, with traveler’s eyes.

The Dalai Lama says,

Once a year, go some place you have never been.

I agree with this and say do so even more if you can. And I think to really grow, it is good to sometimes cast that travel net wide, to really reach and include experiences that will open your mind and grow your perspective. But I think in between big travel adventures, we can tap into more of the benefits of travel by also being a traveler right at home, right in our own backyards.

My Backyard Travel Challenge

I decided to challenge myself to embrace this concept and see if it works. At least once a month, I am going to be a Backyard Traveler. I am going to go somewhere in my own city or state that I have never been. Really, I have some pretty good options here in Colorado.

Maybe I’ll have an overnight in a mountain town I haven’t visited yet, or visit a new hot springs. Perhaps, I’ll tour a brewery or visit a museum. I could just take a road trip to a nearby town and have dinner, or maybe just spend the morning in a different neighborhood’s coffee shop….really the list of possibilities is endless.

But this is the important part; when I get there, I’m going to put on my “travel-colored-glasses” and look at the world as a traveler. I am going to slow down. I’m going to chat with the people I meet and ask them questions. I’m going to take pictures, and stare, and sit with nowhere else to be. I’m going to sink in….

So, who’s in?

August starts in just a few days. Join me in this challenge! Where will your first destination be? Brainstorm a list…a hometown bucket list. Pick a place, pick a date, grab a buddy or just go on your own, and get started. Just think, somewhere across the ocean, you may very well be the envy of a man staring out into the Aegean Sea. Soak it up and sink in!



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4 Responses to A Travel Challenge with a Twist: Are You In?

  1. Margaret Greivel says:

    Wow, Sara, you have beautifully described why I love traveling!
    I particularly love your idea of taking “local” trips to enjoy
    our own gorgeous state – keep writing…..

    • Sara says:

      Margaret, thank you so much for your kind comment! I’m so glad it resonated with a fellow traveler! Hearing that someone else connects with what I’ve shared, is one of my favorite parts of this little project. So, thanks for taking time to drop a note. We do have such a beautiful state, I need to pick my August Backyard Travel destination!

  2. Steve says:

    What a nice way to capture your vacation in this post. I love the idea of going some place you have never been – and you are right, it does not always need to be someplace exotic or foreign.

    In fact, I just went to my high school reunion – I was pretty apprehensive about going – not knowing who I would see and how it would turn out – and I ended up having a very nice time. So, hey – sometimes it is just being somewhere you have not been with people you have not been around. Sort of just simplifies the everyday stuff into special moments with interesting people.

    • Sara says:

      That’s a nice way to reframe new experiences Steve…”simplifies the everyday stuff into special moments with interesting people.” I like that! The world has so much to offer and sometimes in our daily life, I think we just move too fast to always see it! Are you going to join me in my Backyard Travel Challenge? I bet you could find some fun places to explore with your kiddos. Watching kids is often a good reminder of how we should be taking in the world ourselves!

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