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Judith Fein on the Transformation of Travel

One of the best parts of my recent trip to Poland was meeting and bonding with some fantastic travel writers. None stood out quite like Judith Fein, a travel journalist, speaker, blogger, and editor (though her husband Paul Ross put a fair effort to match her steady flow of jokes that had us in stitches). Before the trip, I’d researched my fellow writers and discovered that Judith had published two books. I started reading Life is a Trip immediately.

I highly recommend the book, because it deals with how travel changes us. Judith takes us on her adventures around the globe, and you truly feel like you are there with her. I wanted to talk to her about how transformative travel is for this interview.

In your book, Life is a Trip, you talk about the transformative power of travel. Can you speak on what it is about travel that transforms us?

I think we travel and our luggage is stuffed with preconceived ideas, worries, self-imposed restrictions and rules, notions about how the world is and how people are and how we are in the world. If we allow ourselves to simply experience where we are and whom we are with, it can be transformative. But that means emptying out our luggage. 

Sometimes when I’m traveling, it’s too easy to get caught up in the stress of the moment, of the unknown, to appreciate what I’m experiencing until after my trip. Any tips for slowing down and savoring it?

Your question contains the answer: slow down. See? You know it already. Your nervous system gives you false alarms, and you have to acknowledge them but not let them dictate your behavior. Instead of fear of the unknown, you can have excitement about the unknown. Instead of appreciating things after the trip, tell your nervous system that you are going to appreciate things now, right now, in the moment. When you open up this dialogue with your nervous system, you will soon find out who is the boss. 

You’re amazing at connecting with people! I remember in Poland admiring how you would walk up to anyone and ask any question you pleased. Do you have advice for those of us who are a little shy?

The advice is that the people you speak to are generally adults. And adults can take care of themselves. It is not your job (and what a lousy job it is) to decide what other people are comfortable with. What is the worst thing that can happen? Someone will tell you he/she doesn’t want to answer. Or someone will ignore you? Generally, people love to be approached, love to talk about themselves and what they know. If your goal is connection rather than self-preservation (based on erroneous assumptions), you will be able to step out of your shyness/ comfort zone. and you will be very proud of yourself. Of course always approach people with a smile and an open heart. 

How do you relive your travels? How do you remember all your trips?

I have little 3 X 5 notebooks and i write everything down. And I mean everything. Five years from now I can open a notebook and recreate the trip for an article, for example. I don’t remember everything about my trips. I remember what is important to remember. What mattered. What made an impression on me. And of course my husband Paul Ross takes great photos. 

What’s one single lesson travel has taught you that we can all apply?

Adventure begins when you step outside of your comfort zone. Period. At home. On the road. It’s all the same. If you want to be in life, rather than a tourist in your own life, you have to put your heart first and your curiosity first and your nagging nervous system second, or third, or last. Of course you never want to do anything dangerous, but you want to engage people and communicate. If something isn’t dangerous, just say YES. 

How can readers follow your adventures?

If people want to follow my travels, they can follow me on Facebook. Or, we have a list of people to whom we send a monthly link to articles we have published. Sign up here.

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