Pick of the Week

Life-Changing Travel

While vacationing in Kenya five years ago, local author Jillian Robinson was on a walking safari with a group of travelers. She was having a serene experience taking pictures of her companions and the surroundings. But as the group approached a pod of hippos relaxing in the water, her experience quickly became terrifying.

"I was taking a picture of the pod, and a hippo stood up and started to charge (toward me). As this huge beast came at me, I did something that surprised me: I wanted the photo. I stayed that extra moment--and took two pictures," recalls Robinson.

That extra bit of courage was an eye opener for her. "I discovered a whole new idea of what kind of risk-taker I was."

Four years later, Robinson took another risk and left her job at PBS--where she'd worked as a producer for 11 years--to start her own company and to write. Her TV productions have earned her awards and recognition from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and The Associated Press.

Now Robinson produces television programs, seminars, lectures and other educational material, all along the same theme--how travel can change and enrich our lives.

Robinson is the author of Change Your Life Through Travel: Inspiring Tales and Tips for Richer, Fuller, More Adventurous Living. She will discuss her book at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Borders, 4235 N. Oracle Road. She will also appear at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave., at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 15. For more information, visit footstepsadventures.com.

Just as Robinson's Kenya experience had a pivotal effect on her life, she believes travel can transform other people's lives as well. But you don't need to travel around the globe for this to happen.

"If you want to change your life, travel. That experience can be in the jungles of Africa or to the new café in town. Go into that experience willing to have it inspire your life."

So how can travel inspire your life? In her book, Robinson explores eight central themes, including discovering greater self-esteem, stepping into our courage and living in the moment. One theme is discussed per chapter, and the book includes stories from travelers. Tips are also included on how to bring these themes into your travel.

But the first step to life-changing travel is to be clear on your intention. "Ask yourself, 'What is the one quality I want more in my life for me to live more fully?' Whatever it is, go and decide what that quality is. Then plan one activity on your trip to feed that quality. ... Then come home and look at what you learned and liked about yourself. ... The key is to live your memories."

Living your memories means incorporating what you experienced in your travels back into your life. Robinson recalls an example of this from her book.

"There is a memorable story of a man named Michael and (his trip) to Jamaica. He was at a bar with his girlfriend. They were watching the Jamaican cliff divers. He said he could do that. He was encouraged by other travelers, saying, 'Go, go, go.' He thought to himself, 'If I don't time this carefully, I can kill myself.' He did make the dive--two times, to show that he could. It gave him the feeling, 'I can do this.' He came home and told the story and spent time integrating and recalling it. It became a part of him. Now when he makes a big business presentation, he thinks, 'I've been here before. I know how to do this.'"

Michael's experience in Jamaica gave him courage to face other daunting situations. Adds Robinson, "Travel can provide lessons for life if we do it right."

Another story illustrates how a woman gained greater self-esteem through her travels. "One of my favorite stories is about a woman who was in a midlife crisis," says Robinson. "Her husband committed suicide. She was in a car accident. And her new lover dumped her. She decided to work on an organic farm in New Zealand. She would pick plum fruits in the field, clean up the chicken coops and collect eggs. Life became fun again. She broke through the wall of depression and discovered what living fully felt like. (She came home) and continued to see the sense of confidence in herself."

To write her book, Robinson collected stories from 70 people. She also recounted some of her experiences during a six-year span of travel during her vacations from PBS. Robinson followed the footsteps of some of her favorite authors: Edward Abbey in the Southwest, Ernest Hemingway in Cuba and Henry Miller in Greece. She also trekked in the Andes, swam with dolphins in the Bahamas and drove cattle in Wyoming.

For those who have limited time or funds, Robinson reminds us good travel can be found close to home. She suggests scheduling weekly travel dates to explore something different.

"You don't have to travel to Galapagos to have life-changing experiences. ... A travel date can be an hour before work, a late lunch break or an overnight trip. It can be any of these. The key is to go--go regularly. ... Get out of your routine. Try something new. That's where magic moments are found."

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