Travel Made Me Do It
There I was, fresh from the sauna and completely naked as a motherly Turkish woman poured warm water over me. As I stood there in the ancient bathhouse with its domed ceiling and smooth, grey walls, somewhere in the backstreets of Istanbul, I realised I was doing something I would never have the courage to do back home.
I hadn’t planned on booking in for a Turkish bath before I arrived, and I certainly hadn’t planned on going sans clothes. But that’s what travel does to you. A British survey of more than 1000 adults found 51 percent would try something new while on holiday, while another 28 percent said they would be tempted to.
So, what is it about travelling that makes us leave our inhibitions behind? It could have something to do with the change in environment. In another study, looking at the personality effects of a group of German students who travelled abroad, researchers found that as we adapt to new surroundings, we become more relaxed about trying new things.
Many of us (including me) may not think of ourselves as adventurous in our daily lives, but travel is the perfect opportunity to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and perhaps even go a little wild. I mean, no-one’s watching, right?
I first travelled by myself after high school, venturing on the well-trodden path to the UK. I look back now, from the comfort of home, and wonder who was this girl who stayed with complete strangers, navigated unreliable train timetables, and traipsed through London at midnight after missing a flight (learning in the process to always double-check which airport your flight departs from).
Since then, I’ve been on hikes by myself and spent a month exploring Quebec on my own. And while I now have a travel buddy, I still crave that solo time. Whether it’s a jog or taking myself on a shopping trip, I always get a little lift when I make it back to my accommodation without getting lost.
Solo travel makes you more self-reliant and confident in your problem-solving abilities. Plus, you get to eat whenever and wherever you want!
Just Eat It
Speaking of eating, I can out-adventure others when it comes to trying new and different food. In Vietnam, my travelling companion looked sick at the thought of eating a fertilised duck egg with its embryo intact, but I gulped it down without a second thought before turning my attention to the worms.
Food features heavily in our holiday memories – what you ate and where you ate it. Like the salty sweet lamb-and-possibly-offal-kebab from one of the tiny cafes around the outside of the Grand Bazaar, or tripe sausage in Paris, or chicken with the feathers still on it consumed on a Vanuatu beach. Food is a huge part of culture, and you can’t really say you’re experiencing it if you’re making yourself tuna pasta every night.
Unless you’re guaranteed to get food poisoning, I say go for it. Pick the spots where the locals are frequenting and eat your heart out. You might not get the chance to try it again.
In the traditional sense, “adventure travel” usually means doing something physically challenging somewhere off-the-beaten-track, but rock climbing on the side of a mountain isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time (certainly not mine). Instead, I’ve given myself an air punch for conquering a five-day hike, snorkelling for the first time, and going up in a hot air balloon.
Recently, I found myself hurtling through the Swiss Alps on a sled, clinging on for dear life. I failed to negotiate a bend, flew off my tiny plastic sled and landed face first in snow that really wasn’t very soft. I dusted myself off and went back to the top to do it all over again. I may have had a few bruises the next day, but for a snow novice like me, it was worth it for the sheer child-like glee I experienced.
I’m looking forward to the next time travel makes me do something new – whether it’s cycling around a new city, riding a camel or eating food I’ve never tried before, because I know I won’t regret it.