If you travel a lot like I do, when you don't make an effort to stick to a healthy diet, it's easy to pack on the pounds. Lots of fish 'n' chips and Guinness aren't exactly a good way to stay slim. After gaining 10+ pounds in a year or so of frequent travel, I finally managed to lose it and in the process have come up with a number of ways to prevent it from returning in the process.
I think a lot of us could use some travel therapy right now - a chance to truly escape the barrage of bad news, the natural disasters or even broken relationships.
Not sure what travel therapy is? Well, traveling is the therapy - it can soothe the soul and bring enlightenment, but mostly, it opens up an entirely new way of looking at the world. It can change your perspective on life, and sometimes even change your life entirely, in ways you never thought were possible.
While the destination in itself doesn't always matter, there are some that do truly provide the ultimate escape, allowing you to forget about your worries, break away from the daily grind and the chaos of the modern world. Perhaps you'll connect with nature, discover an unknown talent, or even find the meaning of true happiness.
Research has found that traveling actually boosts levels of perceived happiness, lifts one's mood, lowers the risk of depression, decreases stress hormones and even reduces blood pressure to help you live a longer, higher quality of life.
What does travel therapy mean to you?
Whatever the answer is, these destinations are likely to provide the getaway you've been desperately in need of.
There are many spirit-renewing places in Ireland to spend time in. Visit Newgrange, a short drive north of Dublin and you'll experience Europe's oldest megalithic site. It's at least a thousand years older than the Giza Pyramids. Venturing inside enlightens the soul, no matter what your faith.
Head to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, accessible by ferry or plane. It's home to one of the finest Celtic stone circle forts in all of Europe, Dun Aengus. Lie down on the soft grass at the edge of the nearly 330-foot-high cliffs and gaze out at the Atlantic - the dramatic cliffside location, the desolation, the ancient stones, all make this spot incredibly unique.
Visit the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inisheer, for an especially tranquil experience. Wander around the maze of paths that wind through old stone walls, with holy wells, castle ruins, rare plants and birds spotted along the way.
Isle of Islay, Scotland
The southernmost isle of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides offers an especially serene, magical beauty, as well as lush scenery that includes idyllic stretches of sand that sit at the edge of brilliant azure waters. An enchanting energy is often sensed here, by both locals and visitors, especially while walking over the hill to view Loch Finlaggan. There are also multiple spots that are known as “natural power places," along with numerous ancient relics spread across the picturesque landscape.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu has long been considered a place of power. This mysterious "lost city" is truly special - in fact, its original inhabitants believed it was the true center of the universe. Those who live in this region today emanate faith and wisdom that often leaves visitors with a profound sense of significance in the world.
Sedona, Arizona is known as a 'thin place,' where the veil between spirit and flesh, life and death, is believed to be more permeable. It's considered a spiritual power center as the power that emanates from the multiple vortexes in the area is said to produce some of the most remarkable energy on Earth. Some say that you can actually feel it, but whether or not you believe they actually exist, there is one thing that’s undeniable, people are drawn here for something more than just its incredibly stunning beauty
Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico
Officially designated a Pueblo Magico, or Magic Town, in 2006 by the Mexican Tourism Secretary, magical is most certainly the word that best describes it. Every time I've traveled here, I leave with a sense of feeling renewed. Located just off the Pacific coast, about 50 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, it boasts a natural oasis of palms and lush fruit trees along with endless stretches of golden sands that are often empty, even during the peak of the busy season.
In town are nearly an endless number of outstanding eateries, many serving dishes based on fresh, local ingredients like organic produce and seafood. Browse through the art galleries and small local shops tucked between old brick colonial buildings. The 1733 mission Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Todos Santos not only offers stunning views of the Valle de Pilar and the ocean, but if you time it right, you can take in the scene with a backdrop of beautiful song that carries from the church, floating through down the hill, across the palms and out to the sea.
We're told the world is a scary place. That there are terrorists or drug cartels waiting, just outside of airports, hotels and so on, ready to rob, kidnap or kill us in other countries. And when that's not the case, we might be told it's dirty, or people will be rude to you because you're an American.
Only a little over one-third of Americans have a passport, compared to nearly three-quarters of Australians and Brits. Much of the reason behind that is fear (and lack of funding, of course).
If fear has been holding you back, you should know that much of the world is quite safe to travel in. In fact, in rankings based on "crime/homicide rates and drugs and crime, likelihood of terrorism and terrorism casualties, police force effectiveness, costs of security within the country on business, reliability of protection services, rates of property crime and violence," as SafeDestinations.com notes, it's the U.S. that looks a lot more scary, ranking at No. 73 of the safest countries to travel, below Albania, Bahrain and Kazakhstan. View the entire list here: Safe Countries For Travel
Are there any surprises? Which countries did you think were probably safest, and which did you think would be more dangerous?
You also might be surprised to learn that many Europeans I've met are actually afraid to travel in the U.S. because of gun violence and other issues.
It's time to give up that notion that we can only travel safely at home - the key, no matter where you travel, and whether or not you travel alone, is to follow a few common sense safety tips.
The first thing you should do, even before purchasing those airline tickets, is to check for travel warnings, alerts and particular requirements in your desired destination by visiting travel.state.gov. Here you can also learn about local customs and laws, medical care and visa requirements. Some foreign destinations require you to have certain vaccinations, so you’ll want to be sure you have plenty of time to take care of that in advance, if necessary.
Make copies of important documents
Make electronic copies of all your important documents before you leave, including a copy of your passport, visas if necessary, driver’s license, medical insurance card, travel insurance and immunization record, if applicable. By scanning these items you can email the file to yourself so you can access it easily on the road should any of the paperwork become damaged or misplaced.
What not to bring
Although it’s a good idea to avoid bringing valuables no matter where you go, it’s especially important when heading to poorer countries where there may be a greater threat of having items stolen. There’s really no need to bring all of that shiny, sparkling jewelry with you anyway. While you may think you look like an icon of style, to con-artists and criminals, you’re a great target. If you must bring it, keep it in a hotel safe and take it out only for special occasions.
The key is to not look like a tourist, but to be confident, and fit in with the local crowd as much as you can – it makes for a more authentic experience too.
Research your destination
Before you go, take time to get to know your destination by doing some research online. Find out if there are any areas you should avoid. You may also want to review a map of the area to make it easier to get your bearings when you arrive. Take note of the nearest U.S. embassy and carry those contact details with you, in English as well as the local language in case of emergency.
Be aware of common scams and be prepared for pickpockets
Before you go, do some research into common scams – for example, in Rome thieves may try to distract you by offering to take your photo with a parakeet, once the bird is on your shoulder, they’ll make off with your purse or wallet. Pickpocketing is common in many big cities around the world, which means you should never keep anything in your back pocket, like your cell phone, hotel room keys or wallet. Women should keep their purses around their neck, and not over their shoulder.
Give Someone a Copy of Your Itinerary
At least one person back home should have a copy of your itinerary. Then be sure to update them by email, social media status updates, or phone, so that they know you're safe and happy. If for some reason they don't hear from you, they'll at least have an idea as to where you last were and where you're headed.
Get a Global Data Plan For Your Phone
Being able to use your phone while you're abroad is a great way to stay safe - you'll easily be able to use it if you get lost, for example - and you'll also be able to stay in touch with people back home easier too. These days staying connected is cheaper than ever before, so there's no reason not to have a working cell phone with you.
Listen to Your Gut
If it doesn't feel right don't do it. Your intuition is one of the best things you have when it comes to staying safe.
Following these tips and simply using common sense, can help ensure that you enjoy the best possible, incident-free experience.
After spending much of her life in a cubicle, at 40-something K.C. decided to finally LIVE. Today, she is always on some sort of adventure, or writing about it.
She hopes her journey will inspire you to do the same.