Even as the wave of familiarity hit me, I knew I’d never actually been there. The tiny, over-crowded stall in the Marekesh souk was as far from my small-town eastern Ontario roots as it was possible to be….but the feeling that I’d been there before was overwhelming. I felt certain that I’d watched the gnarled brown hands of the old couple serving me grasp their wooden spoons and ladle pungent powders into small bags. I’d smelled the heady mix of cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and saffron before – but when?
Travel déjà vu isn’t rare – every adventurer feels it from time to time. An inexplicable sense of having walked a certain path, seen a particular face or heard echoes of a familiar-and-yet-not familiar tune can overtake us in a moment, making us feel curiously at home when we’re anywhere but.
Days or weeks later, when your bags have been unpacked and you’re settling back into the routine, your mind and memory plays another set of tricks. A whiff of coconut sends you reeling back to the beach, and the sound of church bells makes you expect to see well-worn European cobblestones under your feet. It’s the power of transformative travel – a life-changing experience that enriches your life far more than any bank account ever will.
Transformative travel experiences occur when you’re whisked from your comfort zone and taken to places where you can’t logically expect to find any connection to your own life – but do. It requires some confidence and a touch of courage to explore challenging places, but what you’ll learn there – not only about other ways of life, but fascinatingly, about hidden aspects of yourself – will make it all priceless.
Fortunately, you don’t have to load up your backpack and hike out into the wilds alone in order to experience transformative travel. Creative cruise lines and tour companies and clever travel advisors are now offering opportunities that give guests hands-on experiences, introducing them not simply to tour officials, but rather to working artisans, farmers and more – to those who actually live in the exotic destinations visited. Those introductions to the people, the food, the art, the music…the entirety and immediacy of another cultural reality…are what will spur those moments of déjà vu, awaken new understanding, and fuel years of memorable travel stories.
One hot afternoon, you’ll escape the Grecian sunshine to stand in a weaver’s tiny workshop on the island of Mykonos. You’ll watch as she tosses the shuttle back and forth and suddenly you’ll know exactly what those fibers she’s working with feel like, and will be able to picture the fully finished pattern, though it’s only just beginning to appear. Perhaps you’ll buy the scarf she’s making and each time you wear it, you’ll hear her soft voice, speaking a language that’s not your own but that you understand perfectly well all the same. That scarf will become a treasure and perhaps a symbol for you – a way to wrap yourself - both figuratively and literally - in lasting travel memories.