Seeing departure signs in some big airport reminds me of…

On a ferris wheel in Budapest on a trip that changed my life a long time ago.
Atop a ferris wheel in Budapest on a trip that changed my life a long time ago.

In the words of the great poet, Jimmy Buffett, “Changes in attitude, changes in latitude. Nothing remains quite the same.”

When you live in Louisiana, July can be the longest month. Traveling to cooler climes is literally a breath of fresh air. Our family vacation to Northern California and Lake Tahoe came at the right time, and much to our bliss, it required the daily use of fleece and sweatshirts. We all came home refreshed and ready to face the workaday world.

Traveling revives me in a way that nothing else does. I can’t do justice in describing the richness it has brought to my life, the friends I’ve made in new places or the relationships strengthened by the shared experience travel offers. Therefore, I encourage everyone I know or meet to travel as much as possible.

Get a map. Buy a travel guide. Drive your car or buy the ticket. Just find a way to get to a place that you want to go — whether it’s because someone invited you once upon a long time ago, because you saw a picture that you can’t get out of your head or because you read a book or saw a movie set in a place that tickled your fancy. Be it near or far, find a way to get there.

As a parent, I’ve tried to create as many travel opportunities as possible for my children. Maybe it was the right thing to do. Maybe it wasn’t. The jury is still out. Maybe travel can’t be fully appreciated until you’re the one footing the bill. (For that matter, maybe nothing can be fully appreciated until you’re the one footing the bill!)

But travel doesn’t have to be all about expense. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. I believe the greatest enjoyment in experiencing a new place comes in that perfect balance of planning versus spur of the moment. Without enough planning or research, you won’t make the most of the experience. However, with too much crammed into too few hours, you will wear yourself out and it will all be a blur. As with the rest of life, the magic happens somewhere in between. For me, travel is more about realizing a new way of looking at things than it is about seeing the sights — it’s about truly being somewhere as opposed to doing something.

On the other hand, as James Michener, one of my favorite writers, said, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”

Eating the food, learning about the customs, respecting the religion and interacting with the people are the ingredients required to yield the kind of adventure that opens the door to a place and says, “Come in. Enjoy. Tell me about yourself and let me tell you about me.”

Something about traveling keeps us young. Seneca said, “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” So if, as the English scientist Ashley Montagu said, “The idea is to die young as late as possible,” — travel could be the key.

If you’re looking for a sign, here it is. Go somewhere. And when you get home, tell me all about it at JanRisher@gmail.com.