Is Travel The Best Kind of Therapy?

Liz Gilbert

There was a point in my life, when I thought I had found my vocation. Or should I say my second vocation. The first being Acting – but as we all know, if you never take a step towards something, it doesn’t become a reality and alas I never put heart and soul into this line of work and so never achieved anything from it. (Although did have some fun, the first time I stepped out to audition!)

So, quickly back to my second vocation –  Humanistic Counselling.

This came to mind one sunny morning, after I had dropped my children off at Junior school and I encountered one of their friends walking forlornly, with shoulders drooped, head down, in the school gates. I’ll never forget that day.

Sitting down on the school steps with him, I asked, “What’s wrong?”

Out tumbled from his 8 year old mouth, all the difficulties that living with his mother and her boyfriend as their relationship broke down, brought.

“He was screaming at her and put a chair through the window. I was scared.” He looked directly into my eyes.

I couldn’t sort out his problem, or make it go away. I could only be there for him, in that moment.

As I sat and listened, I felt for this little lad, who had previously made me laugh, when invited for dinner round our house. As he lent back in the chair and placed his feet on the table, whilst I was dishing up.

“We don’t put our feet on the table at mealtimes, in this house.” I informed him.

“OK,” Was his response and he took them straight off again. I smiled quietly to myself, laughing internally at the differences between us.

By the time, he had stood up, looked at me and with a heavy sigh saying, “I’ve got to go in or I’ll be late for class.” My respect for this young man and his difficulties had grown immensely and by the time I had walked back home, I had decided to become a Counsellor. Although ironically it was the Life Coaching side of working with people (wanting to assist others in achieving their dreams) that I was drawn to – yet counselling seemingly had found me.


Spending 4 and a half years of training, to enter a Profession that I still have immense respect for, because of the good it can do. Understanding the connections that can be made between Client and Counsellor may be built from wisdom, insight, training and checking out (filling in the unspoken gaps) to clarify the content, are insights that I value deeply.  On a daily basis I question whether or not I should still be participating within it – as I am aware of what It has given me but also know the emotional sadness it can tap into and still wonder whether or not I want to experience a level of sadness on a regular basis, when truly connecting with another.

Even though you don’t take it on as your own, when you sit with another human being suffering and have full understanding of what you are engaging in and bearing witness too. Could you truly not feel this as a Person. Such is the life of a Counsellor.

Sitting with another’s pain can be tiring and so I’ve questioned if I have wanted to live a life of hedonism. Preferably ethical hedonism.

This is Wikipedia’s understanding of it:

Ethical hedonism is the idea that all people have the right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them. It is also the idea that every person’s pleasure should far surpass their amount of pain. Ethical hedonism is said to have been started by a student of SocratesAristippus of Cyrene. He held the idea that pleasure is the highest good.[2]

I am 47 and I think the amount of pain I have experienced in one lifetime, has in its moments surpassed the amount of pleasure felt and I wonder have others experienced this to, as their awareness has grown and they have developed as an individual and in relationship with others.

This was why I was so pleased at what I discovered during our long term travel as a family that maybe there can be a balance in life between pleasure and pain.

Life’s fulcrum.


By the time I returned back from travelling, to the UK, I was aware of the good travel can do for a soul. Providing a constant momentum, stopping only when you want – not when society or work dictates. This amount of continuous freedom gives you something more – that only maybe another who has travelled long term, can understand. Tell me please if I’m wrong!


So I think emotional counselling has its place in life – as you grow in understanding as to why, you felt and thought in a certain way, in certain situations – engaging with the psyche on a deeper level. I think is something all should try and yet the value I place on stepping out into the world and doing what I want for a while – pleasing myself, is a completely different kind of therapy altogether and one I wouldn’t change the experience of, at all.

I question the changing contours and landscapes of my life, wondering what exactly it is, I should follow. Knowing when I have felt at my best and when life has led me to the worst. Therapy, in its many different guises, be it spending time with those people I love, a friends listening ear, a professional counsellor, my conversations with God, a new country to visit or a skill to learn, has breathed into existence a fresh point of view.

What do you think has been the best kind of therapy for you?


3 thoughts on “Is Travel The Best Kind of Therapy?

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