So at instant of drafting this post into my notebook, I am sitting in a bagel restaurant in Prague in the Czech Republic. It is an American Style place; cubed ice, unlimited refills on drinks, pop music playing over the speakers, not to mention a bunch of English language conversations in the air. “Wait,” you might thing, “why go all that way across the world to do something you could get at home?” This to me is an ideal example of how I travel and what I do to keep happy while traveling.
Oasis in the Storm
Travel is stressful. This is not the type of inward stress of life and unwanted responsibilities pushing in. That is what most people think of when they hear the word stress. “My day was stressful.” “I am so stressed, I can’t think.” “Stop stressing me out.” Travel is a type of stress attached to growth and learning. It has an end to attach to the means and a reward to show for the effort. This is a good type of stress and one that exhilarates rather than depletes the spirit. The better I am able to manage this stress, understand it and not let it bother me, the happier I am traveling and less likely to burnout. Oasis’s help me do that in several ways.
- A place to recover your energy
Stress takes energy and this energy needs to be replaced. I like the type of travel stress because I feel like the energy comes back faster than for say work stress, but I have found that I need a place and a time to just relax, even while traveling.
- A chance to collect your thoughts
Sights and sounds can easily overwhelm. The more exotic often the more overwhelming they can be. It is easy to get so caught up in seeing new things and being new places that you won’t be able to remember it all. An oasis lets you disconnect from those sensations, if only briefly, and organize your thoughts. If you journal to keep everything straight in your head, this is what I’m talking about. This is also an opportunity to plan out your travels if you are so inclined. Some days I am a bigger planner, some days not.
- A place to connect with others
The first two benefits are for me about being alone, if only in my own head. This one is about being around others. A good Oasis lets you meet other travelers and also lets you interact with locals. If experiences are the main goal of travel (and that is definitely true for me), then being around others definitely provides a good source of experiences. I like talking to other travelers: to get their stories on what to do or where to avoid, to tell me own stories, to feel the camaraderie of the journey.Contact with locals is also a big component. They have tons of practical knowledge (like the color of the local post boxes or good places to go or language knowledge). One of my other main goals in travel is to meet people from all over the world and see how they live.
- A place to connect with home
I know some people that travel as a lifestyle, but most of us have a home. A place that go back to often and have a deeper connection there: be that friends, family, a house or a job. We all have people that aren’t traveling with us, but are still part of our life. It is important while away to still maintain these relationships. Whether that is a dark corner of a tourist office with an hour of Internet time to E-Mail or Facebook; or it is writing post cards to friends and family. Most of the world at any one point is not traveling, I like to have the time and opportunity to keep in touch with those not with me.
So the concept of an oasis is a place that provides a chance to recover your physical energy, realign mentally, be social with new friends and stay in touch with old friends. Relationships are very important to me. The new friendships that I make traveling are important. It is one of my goals in travel to meet people, but the established relationships at home are essential to me as well. I also value the relationship with myself; keeping my body fed and rested as well as my mind clear; understanding what I want out of a trip and enjoying being there. An oasis provides a good basis to travel from. They help support the traveler physically, mentally and socially.
Finding the Oasis’s
Often I can’t find one place that provides me all these things. Sometimes I crave the change and don’t even want to merge them all together. I do however see these needs and seek out places when I need them. Even on a very long train ride, I will sometimes sit in the bar car talking to the bartender from Minsk. Hostel bars, local pubs, even like my week in Prague at the Bagel place, many places can be your Oasis. I have a favorite gelateria in Bologna next to a park. They don’t even need to be physical places, meditating in a patch of sunlight sometimes is even more effective in restoring energy than sitting in a busy cafe.
Find what exactly you need to keep balanced and look for it. Just because you are away from home, doesn’t mean you need to feel far away.
I believe every traveler needs an oasis. I am very fond of oasis’s and in every new place that I go, I try to find a place that will be my oasis no matter how long I will be there. Bohemian Bagel is for this week in Prague one of my oasis’s. The more familiar and home-like I can make that oasis the better off I am at traveling and happier I am being in a place. I often have several oasis’s in a single town that each provide different things. There is nothing that kills travel more dead in my experience than missing out on these things. Feeling tired, confused, disconnected, homesick or just plain old burnout will ruin a pleasant trip. Oasis’s provide me a way to avoid these and enjoy the travel.