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Travel can help our spiritual lives.

So apparently in business you are not supposed to talk about a few things. Among them is politics and religion. We could probably add death and taxes to that mix too. So let's dive right in, throw caution to the wind, stand on the proverbial soapbox and preach to the hills. Or something like that.

SPIRITUAL HEALTH Much can be said on this topic but the point I want to get across is this. 

Questions of meaning and hope, inner peace and comfort are often ignored or hidden because we get so busy in our daily "grind" (as we like to call it) to pay attention to those questions. This does not mean that we are happy or content or joyful or at peace - just that we have not taken the time to recognize the reason why we might be grumpy, tired and stressed. In J.R.R Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo Baggins says it well when he states, "I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread." Sound familiar? I certainly can relate. mentions that no one really knows for sure how spirituality is related to health. However, it seems the body, mind and spirit are connected. The health of any one of these elements seems to affect the health of the others.

Some research shows that things such as positive beliefs, comfort and strength gained from religion, meditation and prayer can contribute to healing and a sense of well being. Improving your spiritual health may not cure an illness, but it may help you feel better, prevent some health problems and help you cope with illness, stress or death.

The questions.

Travel can help to improve our spiritual health because, if designed properly, it can give us the opportunity to introduce a bit of silence into our crazy, chaotic lives. I talk with a lot of people about the value of travel and taking a break. What I find is that many people say 2 things.

1. "I do not have the time to take a break." To which I say, "if you do not make time you most likely will not 'just happen' to find it." As if extra time just hides somewhere in a dark corner and we might stumble upon it at the wee hours of the morning on the way to the bathroom. You must make it a priority to stop. Travel is one way to do that which also combines new experiences and time with people you love.

2. "I never realized how much I needed a break until halfway into my vacation when I finally relaxed." To which I just smile.

The value of silence to appreciate life.

Silence allows us time to think about what is important, to value the blessings we have each and every day and even to learn more about who we are. This space - this silence - may even allow us to find our fears and develop courage.

Recently I was on a trip back from a travel trade show in England and had the opportunity to watch the movie "Chasing Mavericks" during the in-flight entertainment. Based on a true story, a young surfer, Jay Moriarty, wants to surf some of the biggest and most dangerous waves in the world. Not only does he become a world class surfer, but he also develops a close relationship with a mentor whom he comes to love like a father.

Literally facing life and death each time he surfs Jay (1978-2001) says "you just got to appreciate everything. I think that’s one of the most important things in life, is just appreciating it. Because you know we only get to do this once. And it’s not for a very long time. So enjoy it."

Each day and each moment we have is infinitely precious. We never get another moment quite like this one or the last one. Even the bad moments - what do we learn from them? How can the next one be different or better? Our circumstances may even suck, but how can our approach to them and our reaction to them change the outcome?

We are so busy that we do not take time to stop and reflect. We do not take time to appreciate and be thankful and to let others know that they are precious. Many times we cannot help others because we cannot help ourselves. We are tired, stressed, confused, hopeless and we don't even realize it until something serious happens to us or the ones we love. Stop now while you have the freedom and choice to do it of your own will.

A few days ago I was driving down interstate 83 staring at the road as one does when they want to stay alive and in the correct lane. It struck me that I was staring at an endless series of painted lines when all I had to do was look up and take a moment to see the trees, to see the majestic sky, to realize the wonder and beauty that's in front of me that so often I miss. Sometimes we (yes that means you) just need to stop. And look up. Travel can give us that chance. Why? Because we take the time to stop and reflect. So now live.

Suggestions: The most obvious correlation to spiritual health and travel would be travel as a spiritual pilgrimage. Help with a church in the Bronx, NYC. Teach English to students in Japan. Take a trip through the Holy Land of Israel.

There are many opportunities for volunteer tourism. Have issues packing light on vacation? Buy new clothes on vacation. They become wonderful souvenirs that bring back great memories every time you put on that new pair of jeans. You also help to support the local economy. Leave the clothes you brought from home with the hotel, a local school or non profit organization to provide much needed clothes for others. Do something to help others on your vacation and you will find that at the same time you help yourself.

Simply walk out the back door and sit on a bench in the woods for an hour while you listen to the spring birds. Get up early to watch the sunrise with a fresh cup of Turkish coffee or your favorite blend from the local cafe. Go 'hunting' with binoculars or a camera. Plant some trees at a tree farm in British Columbia. Volunteer to help at an animal sanctuary. Relax on a beautiful beach with a good book and your feet in the sand. Perhaps put the book away and just feel the wind on your face and watch the waves rolling in. Stay overnight at a cabin in the middle of New Mexico surrounded by Walter de Maria's 

Lightning Field installation. Kayak around Pinchot Park. OR just turn off the TV, the cell phone, stop reading this rant and simply concentrate on breathing and how good it is to be alive. 

DID YOU KNOW? Skift, a website devoted to travelers did a study of 30 different countries and the typical amount of combined vacation time and government holidays an employee was given in a single year. The United States comes in at 25th of 30 with a total of 20 days off, 1/2 that of the #1 country (Russia). What might be even more amazing to me than that, is not the lack of time that we are given but the lack of time that we actually take. The average American does not use 3 or more paid days off per year.

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