Martha smiling broadly with a hat on in an open Land Rover.

Tolstoy wrote that “all great literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town.” 

I believe this is true of our life stories, as well. Every life-changing idea I’ve ever had about my career came to me while I was traveling. And many of the “strangers who’ve come to town” to meet me have become the most important people in my life.

Travel turns the pages of our lives, creates new chapters, gives us our most exciting stories, and turns us into the heroes of various sagas. 

This is true for me even though I’m a terrible traveler. I hate leaving home, I’m bad at logistics, I suffer from back pain, I cannot handle jet lag, and I get severe social anxiety when confronted by, you know, people.

Because of all this, when the time comes to travel I pack my bags reluctantly. I shuffle off dreading delays and cancellations. My back starts giving me hell.

And then I have: The. Best. Time. Ever. 

I’m not talking about going to some perfect beach where I can slurp down drinks made of equal parts sugar and alcohol. I usually travel for work or speaking engagements. (Did I mention performance anxiety?) Often, things go wrong. Sometimes everything seems to go wrong.

And still, every trip gives me something precious to hold onto for the rest of my days.

The very disruptions we suffer when we hit the road seem to press the “reset” button on our minds, our imaginations, our sense of identity and purpose. 

I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of traveling to beautiful places. I’m about to go on a “familiarization trip” to a resort in Costa Rica where my partner Ro and I will be running a retreat in 2025. But I’ve also had many, many times when I earned a few desperately needed dollars by going to uncomfortable, cold, drab places. I remember sleeping on the floor of a lavatory in a Midwestern state during a blizzard, trying to brave the weather in time to run a seminar filled with dauntless weather-defying heroes.

And even then, travel worked its magic. I came out of that trip with a dozen new ideas, some great new friends, and an adventure story to tell.

This can happen even on very short, inexpensive trips. I love to go on what Julia Cameron famously calls “Artist’s Dates.” As Cameron puts it: 

“The Artist Date is a…festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic”—think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play… hey feed our creative work.”

These days, just coping with an ordinary life requires phenomenal creativity. Travel helps catalyze it.

So if you feel bored or stagnant, take a trip (large or small) to put the zest back in your life. If you’re overwhelmed, thinking it would be prudent to solve all your problems at home before going anywhere else, consider traveling anyway. 

Arrange an Artist’s Date for yourself this week. And next week. Make a plan for a bigger trip sometime in the future. If you’re anything like me, you’ll get massively cold feet as your departure date draws near.

And then, just maybe, you’ll have the Best. Time. Ever.