Celebrating “Travel that changes you”

photograph of Rishikesh, India at sunset

Breathedreamgo is taking a new direction

Starting now, Breathedreamgo will be about “travel that changes you” and other transformative experiences like yoga and of course life itself. My yoga teacher in India, Swami Brahmdev of Aurovalley Ashram, says that we are here to learn, change, grow and transform. That’s the purpose of existence. I agree.

The most dramatic transformational experiences of my life have been my Mother’s sudden and unexpected death in 1998; 12 years of Gestalt Therapy training and practise; close to 20 years of yoga study and practise; and traveling to India for six months, in 2005/06, to recover from the depression brought on by my Mother’s death.

The trip to India transformed me in just about every way, which is why I write about it so much. But of course the transformation took place within me. India does have a certain magic, but the personal transformation wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t open to it.

We are here to change, grow and connect

photograph of women wearing Indian jewelry in Rajasthan, India

Photo courtesy of Lisa Field-Elliot of Dorrwaystraveler.com

Immersing myself in a foreign culture has had a profound impact on me: among other things, it gave me a perspective on my own biases, assumptions and preconceived notions; perspective on the culture I come from (middle-class Canada); and it opened the world to me – and brought the grinding poverty and other realities of life up close.

We are also here to connect with each other and influence one another. Humans are social animals. I don’t travel to change the world, but to change me – but if by changing me, I inspire and influence others, then I feel I am living fully, or whole-heartedly.

I think travel is an incredible privilege and one of the most transformative experiences you can have (if you’re open to it). And I also feel that if by taking risks, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and actively pursuing my dreams I inspire others – then, I feel honoured. Thank you.

And that’s what this blog is about. Travel that changes you.

If you’ve had a transformative travel experience, or you’ve been transformed by my other passion, yoga, I welcome you to write a guest post for Breathedreamgo.

[NOTE: I deleted a paragraph that I realized later was negative and unnecessary. But it is the paragraph that the first three comments are referring to below. Thanks for your feedback. I made a mistake.]

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10 Responses to Celebrating “Travel that changes you”

  1. Sally January 16, 2011 at 4:51 pm #


    To answer your questions:

    1. Don’t they realize how lucky they are to have had this experience? To have the education and means to own a computer and write about their experiences on the Internet?

    Of course, I do. In fact, in that very post I discussed the many advantages I’ve been given that have allowed me a chance to travel (a good education being just one of them).

    It’s these privileges which have made my journey to where I am today a relatively easy one. Meanwhile, I come into contact with people who could never imagine a life like mine.

    I’m currently volunteer teaching in Chiang Mai — all of my students are migrant workers from Southeast Asia. Most of them have had to face huge obstacles to reach Thailand and the majority of them are not even allowed to return to their home countries. I can’t even imagine the hardships these students have had to overcome to get to where they are today.

    These people deserve to be hailed as inspiration.

    Me? Not so much.

    2.Haven’t their travel experiences changed them at all, or given them any self-awareness or perspective?

    Yes. 100% yes.

    Sometimes when I think about the miserable, self-indulgent twenty-year-old I used to be, I thank my lucky stars that I am no longer that person (I also thank my lucky stars that not a lot of people punched me in the face back then — because certainly I deserved it!).

    Travel has made me a lot more aware of my place in the world — and aware that I’m just a tiny part of this big, beautiful world. It’s this increased self awareness that is the reason why I find the idea of being anyone’s inspiration so incredibly and completely astounding, amazing and, well, terrifying.

    Me? An inspiration? What? Mother Theresa, I could understand. Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Anne Frank. These people are inspirational. Me? I’m just… well… me.

    Frankly, I would rather serve as “encouragement” or “reassurance” than an “inspiration.” I am comfortable with advising, supporting and, heck, even giving a gentle nudge now and then… but I’m not so comfortable with being put upon a pedestal. (Plus, I have really bad ankles and a horrible sense of balance… I’d fall off that pedestal in no time!)

    3.And if not, why are they taking the time and trouble to write about them on the Internet — and then tweet and promote their blogs!?

    Frankly, Mariellen, I read a lot of travel blogs and, honestly, a lot of these blogs come across as braggy and self-indulgent (to ME — chances are these bloggers are not TRYING to sound braggy or self-indulgent. Just like I was not TRYING to sound disingenuous or manipulative).

    In my blog, I try to be as honest as I can with myself and with my readers. Just like Matt, I don’t believe in painting an unrealistic portrait of travel… but I, also, don’t believe in painting an unrealistic portrait of myself.

    The point that I often try to get across in my blog posts (and with the title of the blog itself) is that I’m not particularly special. Aside from the aforementioned privileges, I do not possess any secret abilities or talents or bravery that make it possible for me to travel. I am just an ordinary person doing some extraordinary things (and not so extraordinary things… I do tend to eat a lot of cookies). Given the right circumstances, anyone could do what I do… if anyone wanted to.

    If you reached the end of the post, I hope you would come away with my main point which is this: I believe ANYONE can be an inspiration. (And, yes, this even includes me… as much as I don’t want to admit it).

  2. Daniel N. January 16, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    I think this only proves that you have not entirely read Unbravegirl’s post. Don’t judge a post by its title, eh?
    She just says that people should not look up at her as an inspiration, but simply BECOME their own inspiration.

    Anyone who reads this blog has a computer and access to internet and could pretty much live the life we travelers live if they only had the guts to believe in themselves.

    Traveling around the world opens your eyes and makes you more knowledgeable, but it does not make you better than other people.

  3. Mariellen January 16, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    Thanks for responding Sally. In fact, I feel inspired by your response 🙂

    I used to practice Gestalt Therapy. It took me awhile to realize that I didn’t need to be perfect to be a therapist, I just needed to be authentic. It’s a real person being really honest that can affect change. And that is how we influence and inspire others. Through our humanness. It’s because we eat too many cookies or yell at the cat at or haven’t cleaned our bathroom in a month or whatever — but we still get up in the morning and try. We take that flight across upmteen time zones. Or write and publish that little book. Or walk into that classroom in a foreign country and allow ourselves to be affected by little upturned faces.

    We are all equally special or not special — but some of us are willing to take some risks and then write about them on the Internet. And that can be inspiring. And there’s nothing you can do to control that. As I learned at the Gestalt training institute, “What you think of me is none of my business.”


  4. SpunkyGirl January 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    I wasn’t going to comment on this at first, but as you can see, I’ve changed my mind.

    Yes, the ability to travel and see the world is a gift, but travel is different for everyone. Your travel values and standards, are not going to be the same as everyone else. That’s part of the beauty.

    This post has mixed messages. You speak of travel that changes the person, and you say “but if by changing me, I inspire and influence others, then I feel I am living fully, or whole-heartedly.” This, in itself is a good solid message. However, I immediately forget this message when you write a much larger paragraph afterwards calling out 2 very specific travelers. Yes, Matt’s writing has the ability to piss a lot of people off, but he’s young and still learning. Unbravegirl’s writing is (and always has been) full of dark humor and you’ve missed the message and the point of her post.

    It’s important to remember that we were all young and still trying to figure out who we were and what our voice would be. This is the digital age. Blogs are the new diaries/ journals. If certain messages don’t fit inside your standards, it’s best not to read them.

    I think this particular post would be more powerful, if the negativity was taken away and you expounded on some of your more powerful travel experiences -which would stay true to your original message.

  5. Mariellen January 16, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Very astute comment SpunkyGirl. I think you are absolutely right — and in fact, that is the way I usually write. I almost always take the high road, the positive route.

    I was trying to do something different with this post and jump into the dialogue.

    But maybe my lesson here is to be true to myself. Or maybe not. I have to think about it. Maybe I need to learn how to mix it up more. I also need to figure out how to write from my perspective as a 50-year-old in a world that is largely dominated by 20-and-30-somethings (the internet and travel blogging).

    Thanks so much for commenting. As I just said to Sally / Unbravegirl on Twitter, this is how we grow — by spurring each other on.

  6. Priyank February 3, 2011 at 4:17 am #

    Hello MariEllen,

    All the best in the new direction your blog is taking. I read it infrequently but whenever I do, I try to make up for the old posts and I enjoy it immensely. I am back from sunny Mexico to snowy Toronto so we should connect someday. When I was traveling, I met several people at Cancun airport who complained about Mexico. When I asked them “where did you travel?”, the response was “Oh just in the resort and a bit around.” Now I roamed the country and I didn’t have any complaints, I was puzzled why they did. When you say that travel could be one of the most transformative experiences one can have, if one is open to it, and willing to take risks… it seems like many people simply don’t get it. 🙂

    Anyway, I am curious to analyse if your experiences would somehow contrast mine. Afterall, I have immersed myself in a completely new culture!


  7. Prime March 15, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    Hi Mariellen:

    I found your site via GBN’s facebook page and immediately signed up for the newsletter, attracted by the line “transformative travel.” Travel has indeed changed my life in many ways I even wrote about that in my recent post (http://solofemaletravel.net/travel-tools/woman-travel-alone-fearless/). Im very keen on contributing to the newsletter.

  8. Mariellen March 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    Thanks, Prime, I will be in touch with you about contributing to an upcoming issue.

  9. J October 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Enjoyed reading the post as well as the comments.
    I would surely like to contribute something soon about a reverse phenomena: an Indian psychologist traveling in USA.
    And yes it would be good to bump into you sometime soon in India … in Pondy or Rishikesh 🙂
    good day!

  10. Mariellen October 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    Hello J! I would be very interested in your “reverse phenomenon” post. And also in meeting in Pondy or Rishikesh, love both places!!

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