Why travel is good for the soul
“They want to know where you bought your sarong?” asks my guide. We are in a busy market in
Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. I have wrapped a kikoi (African cotton fabric) round my waist to
respectfully cover my knees. The female stall-holders in the market are absolutely fascinated by
the different colours and patterns of my cloth compared to their own. Suddenly, I am connected to
these women on a deeper level, as we bond over issues of design, beauty, and fashion - even
though we can’t speak each other’s language.
I have long believed that travel is crucial for spreading global goodwill, because authentic
engagement enhances the psychological well-being of both traveller and host. Travel is good for
the soul because it gives us the chance to celebrate our differences while bonding over shared
passions and values. In the riverside villages for example, along the Irrawaddy river from Bagan
to Mandalay, my husband bonds with the men mending cart-wheels when they fall into discussing
(via our translator guide) the previous night’s Manchester United football match, which we had
watched live on TV in a restaurant with several hundred locals.
We all of us long to make connections with other human beings. And on that trip, I realised that
deep down - no matter what our race, or age, or faith, or gender – we all long to feel heard. By
interacting with the people from Myanmar and hearing their stories, their perspective, their
opinions, swapping tales about everyday pastimes like fashion or sport, we found out more about
their life and they about ours than any guidebook ever could describe.
Lucy Beresford is a broadcaster, psychotherapist, and writer. One of her novels, Invisible Threads, is set in India, and she has had 3 sabbaticals working clinically in New Delhi. Travel is her passion, and she has been lucky enough to have now visited 100 countries.
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