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How You Can Broaden Your Horizons with Travel

How You Can Broaden Your Horizons with Travel

Instead of just sitting on some tropical beach and sipping pina coladas during your vacations, it is very possible to get a ton of personal growth from your travels. But in order to do this, you will have to get off those all-inclusive beach resorts and five-star hotels. Although there might be some exceptions, most of these resorts will be too comfortable — unless there are some attractions nearby that offer some type of personal growth opportunities.

Even so, the reality is that the majority of tourists who stay at all-inclusive resorts will never go off site during their entire vacations. If you want to go to the most rewarding travel destinations offering the most personal growth, you have to steer clear of the places that are too “touristy” and aimed for the masses. You have to find less-traveled locations where you may not have the comforts and conveniences of luxury travel.

Direct Interaction With The Locals

One of the best travel experiences comes from direct interaction with the locals. Many Canadians and Europeans have been vacationing in Cuba for years and despite the US travel embargo, there are American tourists who travel there with official special permission as well — and by using other indirect routes from time to time.

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As expected, the vast majority of tourists stay at new all-inclusive beach resorts. The only Cubans they will see during their entire stay are the resort staff and those at the airport. These tourists will never leave the resorts to see the real lives of Cubans in their own local communities.

When I was down there, I chose to stay for part of my trip at a casa particular. These are rooms at homes that average Cubans rent out to travelers. I ended up getting a full apartment in Havana. Although it was not a five-star luxury suite, it was clean, safe and comfortable.

Instead of eating at tourist restaurants, the family who owned the casa particular prepared home-cooked meals for me. Through my rusty, basic Spanish, I got to interact with the family and see how average Cubans really live. They told me about Cuban life while I entertained them with some facts about life in my own country, Canada (especially our winters).

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The personal growth I got out of this interaction with the family was priceless. One just cannot get this by staying at a five-star resort. Not to mention that staying at a casa particular with the home-cooked meals was actually less than 50% of the cost of staying at the resorts and hotels. I was providing some much needed income for the Cuban family as well, which made it even more worthwhile.

Get Further Away From Tourist Spots

During this same trip, I also decided to venture out further. I got private transportation and traveled five hours west of Havana to a remote location that was a recognized biosphere called Maria La Gorda. Here, I scuba dived in pristine waters untouched by the tourist crowds. Sure, the transit was a bit rough, but going to places like this really broadened my horizons.

The trip along the way was also an experience in itself as I got to interact with my local Cuban taxi driver one-on-one for the entire ride. He pointed out interesting things along the way, told me about Cuban baseball, discussed classic American cars that are still running on the island and how his family dealt with hurricanes.

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You just can’t get any of these experiences by staying at an all-inclusive resort.

Do Your Advance Travel Research

Of course, instead of having everything catered to you as in an all-inclusive resort, you have to figure out where to stay, where to eat, where to travel and how to get around and some safety precautions. All of such information is available if you spend enough time doing advance travel research.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of information that you can access online via travel forums, travel reports and even social media including YouTube (I uploaded a few Cuban travel videos you can search there as my contribution). You can also get information from travel agencies that deal with adventure or specialized travel and from consulates from destination countries.

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Travel away from the tourist resorts does take more planning and you may have to rough it out a bit. I have taken similar trips in Asia, Central America and Europe. But the direct interaction and connections you make with people from other cultures as well as experiencing special destinations that the tourist masses will never see, make such travel incredibly worthwhile.

If you have or plan to travel to special places to broaden your horizons as well, please feel free to share below.

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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