The Healing Power of Travel
How exploring the world gives perspective — often when we most need it
After I burnt out and quit law, I took a journey with unexpected impact. Ostensibly in Portugal for a yoga retreat, it was the weeks I spent in the city of Porto afterwards that gave rise to deep healing.
I’d never visited Porto before, so, after dumping my luggage at the hostel and claiming my bed in a sun-flooded dorm, I ventured out to explore. My heart was immediately captured. Hello, Porto.
Its Atlantic energy, the steep, winding cobblestoned streets, countless vistas along the river spliced between narrow buildings, the boats constantly traversing the Douro, the infinite cute bars and a ubiquitous charm.
Freshly burnt out, I savored my own company. I met a German woman while taking a photo by the river, and we spontaneously had an octopus and vinho verde lunch together; I spent an evening chatting with an older American couple while watching the sun set by the top of the famous Eiffel-designed bridge.
I sensed in both encounters, these people wanted more — an email address, a phone number, the possibility of ongoing contact. Deeply burnt out, I didn’t have the energy to connect beyond the superficial. I guarded my boundaries.
Each night after exploring Porto, always ensuring I watched the tangerine sun sink heavy into the horizon, I’d return to the hostel and chat to its amiable bartender. A favorite, fiercely contended topic quickly emerged: Who was the best 90s grunge band?
I delighted in an animated debate on something about which we were both passionate yet was ultimately meaningless. It distracted me from the intimidatingly large questions which hovered close.
My relationship was suffering badly, scorched by the flames of a catastrophic burnout. Would it end?
My career was not at a crossroads, but at a juncture with infinite options. What would I do?
At 32, my career choices felt more urgent than they had before. As I walked the streets of Porto, it became clear that if I wanted to make the most of what remains of my one precious life, I had to be more conscious and courageous in my decisions.