Heading out on a trip can transform your life – here are just a few ideas for how you can find a new you on the road…
It’s never too late to pick up knowledge – and travelling offers countless opportunities. Learning a new language is a popular choice: Antigua in Guatemala is one hotspot for taking Spanish lessons, but how about heading to Kyoto to tackle Japanese? Alternatively, plenty of dedicated tours offer the chance to try something new: you could master mountaineering on an Alpine climbing adventure, try twitching on an introductory birdwatching trip, or brush up on your painting skills on an art safari in Africa.
For centuries, travellers have set out on foot to visit holy sites – and even today pilgrimage trails bring together those in search of spiritual meaning, solitude, companionship, a clear head or just a wonderful hike (or cycle). The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage has brought devotees to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain since the Middle Ages; the most famous skein of this network snakes around 800km west through northern Spain from the Pyrenees, though there are numerous other variants. But plenty of other options beckon: there’s the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury in southern England; the Via Francigena from England to Rome; the Kumano Kodo through Japan’s Kii Peninsula; or the remote Kailash Circuit in Tibet.
It’s amazing what you can discover about yourself – about resilience, fortitude, determination and more – when you push your body and mind to the limits. Pick a challenge – anything you think will stretch your experience, skills and fitness. Perhaps you’ll tackle a big climb such as Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5,895m the loftiest peak in Africa; starting from either Kenya or Tanzania, it’s a tough but rewarding five- to seven-day hike. Or paddle a white-water river – the Zambezi above (and below) Victoria Falls is popular, but consider also the wild Franklin River in Tasmania, the Colorado in the USA, or the Rio Pacuare in Costa Rica. For something close to home, you could try wild-camping in Scotland or on Dartmoor in the UK.
Travel doesn’t have to mean turning your back on a career – it can open doors to new ones. You might simply discover a new passion, or take a course that could set you on a fresh path. A popular route is to gain a qualification to teach English as a foreign language, enabling you to work in places all over the world. But how about learning to be a dive instructor in Thailand or Australia? Training as a game scout in South Africa? Or honing your travel-writing skills on an expert-led workshop?
Increasingly, travel allows us to improve our fitness at the same time as embedding ourselves in new cultures and environments. You could join a running training camp in Iten, western Kenya, for example. Or build poise, balance and core strength (as well as mental clarity) at a yoga retreat – Sri Lanka, India and Thailand are popular destinations, but there are also great places to immerse yourself in yoga in Andalucia, the Caribbean, Greece and Mexico. Alternatively, take your cycling up a few gears – Mallorca and the Canary Islands host some respected road cycling training camps. And if you want to push yourself in multiple disciplines, consider a triathlon camp or multi-sport venue - again, the Canary Islands and Caribbean have various options.
If you really want to explore to the max, there’s nothing like improving some key abilities. Navigation – the art of understanding and using maps – is something we often become blasé about in an era of smartphones and Google Maps, but it’s an essential skill in many off-grid situations. Various courses in the UK and elsewhere will help you brush up on the finer points of navigation, along with survival skills – making shelters, building fires, foraging and cooking food – that can revitalise your travelling experiences.
There’s nothing like travel to refocus the old grey matter. It can be as simple as taking yourself into a new environment – perhaps immersing yourself in clear mountain air, or heading out to sea on a sailing boat. But an increasing number of trips offer chances to reset your brain. Consider a mindfulness session, a silent retreat, or even laughter yoga in India.