How to Travel by The School of Life

“Through travel, you're freeing yourself from your inhibitions. You're growing up — and into yourself. Our journeys can teach us a vital skill: that of not minding so much if we occasionally look a fool. They may be the best conduits for developing into the more confident, less self-conscious people we crave to be.”


It's been almost two years since I stepped on a plane, and I can hardly believe I'm even writing those words. I've gone from traveling at least once a month for my job, to absolutely no air travel for almost twenty-four months. It's definitely been an adjustment, and at first I was furious about cancelling a vacation to San Francisco and a work trip to Austin, but now I don't feel bad at all about it. In fact, I feel pretty good about it.

Not traveling has forced me to see things from a new perspective. It's forced me to explore parts of my own city that I otherwise never would have seen. 

Despite the wonderful surroundings in Vancouver, I have to admit that I'm craving a trip again. Charlie and I have some destinations in mind. We're thinking Ireland, Tokyo, and perhaps Paris. 

I felt compelled to read this little How to Travel book from The School of Life. As the world starts opening up and I begin to think about travel again, it seemed like the perfect book. Before opening it, I was expecting a practical, how-to guide, but I got so much more from this wondrous book. 

How to Travel opens on an essay titled 'How to Choose a Destination.' The book states, "our societies are not shy about presenting us with options, of course, but they are also content to leave us alone with the many complexities beneath the business of choosing."

This essay resonated with me a lot actually, because it led me to question why I, and others, make decisions about where to spend vacations. Depending on who you are, your idea of a vacation might be two weeks at a five-star resort with access to an all-inclusive bar and a private beach. Or, perhaps you'd rather check into an old cottage in the Lake District and spend the week exploring craft stores, attending gin tastings, and eating at little restaurants. The School of Life states in the book, "the destination we find ourselves drawn to reflects an underlying sense of what is currently missing or under-supported in our lives." 

It makes a lot of sense to me. If you're used to experiencing cold temperatures, constant rain and downright miserable weather, you will likely crave a sun soaked vacation. Or if you're from a small town, you might crave a trip to the Big Apple. How to Travel tells us that we should look not so much at the outer world, but at the inner one. At what is missing or presently too weak within us, and then choose a destination based on that. 

The book touches on sunshine, and its benefits, later in the book. 

Another essay I really loved, and took a lot away from was seeing travel as a cure for shyness. To sum it up, this essay talks about how perhaps you're in a foreign country, and you have to purchase something at a store but neither you, nor the shopkeeper can understand one another. 

You might get embarrassed while trying to ask for that item, pointing, using your hands and facial features to convey what it is that you want. This experience might bring you outside your comfort zone, which is a great thing, because like the book states, "such extremity starts to offer you a certain sort of liberation." 

Before you know it, you're back at that same shop, not only picking up that original item, but you're buying more things that you need. Perhaps you greet the shopkeeper, smile at him or her, exchange whatever words are possible. The hope is that you now feel more comfortable in that situation, and in others, while you travel. 

The last essay I wanted to touch on was the pleasure of the airport. The book states, "the problem with the airport is that we tend to go there when we have a plane to catch. As a result, we are panicked, argumentative, stressed and entirely unable to notice that we're passing through one of the most rewarding and interesting zones in the modern world. We should make it a destination in its own right."

I couldn't agree more with this statement. In fact, I was smiling ear to ear when I read it. Maybe people don't like airports, associating them with long lines, the hassle of removing shoes and going through scanners, delayed flights, overpriced foods, cravings for cigarettes. But, we're missing so many of the pleasures of airports. 

Something that bring me great joy at airports is people watching, where I can see humans from all walks of life. I also love watching the planes taking off and wondering where they're headed, and I enjoy the chance to interact with people, learn about their cultures, and become inspired by their fashion and sense of style. The airport is a mecca of inspiration. Sometimes even a trip to the airport to drop someone off can fill me with so much excitement and adrenaline. I see the screens filled with destinations and suddenly my head is just buzzing at the thought of all the places I could go. 

"The screens imply a feeling of infinite and immediate possibility: they suggest the ease with which we might impulsively approach a ticket desk and, within a few hours embark for a country where the call to prayer rings out over shuttered whitewashed houses, where we understand nothing of the language and where no one knows our identities."

This little book clocks in at only 132 pages, but those pages are filled with so much knowledge. I only covered a few of the essays in my review, but there's 30 in total, with room for notes and observations. Others include The Little Restaurant, Drawing Rather than Taking Photographs, and The Advantages of Staying at Home, to name a few. 

I adored this little one, and it fired up the travel bug in me even more. I also found it deeply thought-provoking and I was relaying much of what I read to Charlie as we're starting to talk about our next trip together. We chatted mostly about our newfound appreciations of our home city and the advantages of staying home since COVID-19 hit, but we also talked in depth about choosing a destination, and many of the other things that came up for me in this book.

How to Travel is the perfect size to slip into your backpack for your next trip. It'll look fantastic next to your passport, and boarding pass. This book is also a great gift for those in your life, whether they travel or not, since there's a lot of information about what staying at home can look like, and how that in itself is a form of travel. 

Absolutely loved this one and definitely recommend!

About The School of Life

The School of Life is an organization built to help us find calm, self-understanding, resilience and connection - especially during troubled times. They place an emphasis on the need to understand ourselves better, so that we can secure serenity and make optimally reliable decisions, particularly around love and work. 

How to Travel is available to purchase on The School of Life website, at Indigo, and in e-book format on Kobo or Kindle. Check GoodReads for additional retailers.