I'm back from our month-long adventure in China and Tibet, and I must say -- if there's anything you can do to give your soul and mind a good shaking and airing out, it's travel. Ditch the self-help books, step classes and yoga. A generous trip shakes you out of your daily rut, gets you physically on track and strips your chaotic mind to bare essentials (food, bed and amusements). Plus, it generates family bonds and memories like nothing else.
But this post isn't about those big lessons learned. Rather, I'm dishing out other odd bits of know-how garnered along the way, as my brain is too jet-lagged to sum up anything important. Here, instead, are the top five oddball nuggets of great travel lessons I picked up en route:
1. Reading is one of the very best ways to engage and still your mind. Books keep you sane and amused,unlike frenetic T.V., which makes you crazy. I brought three huge tomes on my trip, including the fact-laden Collapse by Jared Diamond, about how societies annihilate themselves by abusing their natural environments (One scary read, I might add, and one which made me keep my souvenir purchasing to the minimum. I'll review soon.). I read them all. I feel calmer and, well, whole again. I can talk somewhat knowledgeably about important topics. I don't have annoying jingles running through my mind. Looking forward to Mad Men on Sunday, but other than that, I'll pass on the tube.
2. The results are finally, indubitably in: Carbs make you fat. I'm sorry. It's true. A month limited to small amounts of white rice (of which I quickly tired, and skipped) and without alcohol = a weight loss of seven pounds. Came home and had two glasses of wine and a few bites of bread and, Presto! a pound gained by morning.
3. Whoever invented ripstop nylon is a genius, and items made with it are by far and most wearable and sink-washable travel items available. I wish they made cute dresses out of it, though.
4. Getting up at 5 a.m. and sleeping at 9 p.m., as dictated by gradually lessening jet lag, is actually a great time table for humans. You can make the most of those still, serene wee morning hours -- and natural daylight -- and are able to cut out the late-night frippery of noshing and that dastardly t.v.
5. Kids are malleable little creatures and can adapt to most anything over time. Sure, there will be whining and such, but eventually, realizing that choices are limited, they'll eat what parents say to and sleep when we tell them to. Come to think of it, we adults are malleable, too. There is so little that we are actually tethered to, in terms of habits, preconceptions and accoutriment. We can fly, and be free. Give it a try -- break on through to the other side!
Photo: Happy Tibetan horseman.