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Dear Travel, I love you.

A year ago, I endured the worst week of my life. My wife and I had to say hello and goodbye to our daughter on her very first day and it broke me. This week, I’m beyond humbled, proud and elated to welcome our baby girl, Olive, to the household (account). And yes, as every parent says “she’s really perfect”.

Oh how much one year can change someones life. When you travel, even more so…

I write to you today with a message of hope and gratitude. Life went from broken, shattered and in search of finding happiness, to one where we simply could not ask for more, all in under one year. If not for the power of travel, I don’t honestly believe that would’ve been possible or even remotely realistic.

Therapy is good, meditation is good, exercise and all the other staples are good, but getting away can be priceless.

In case you couldn’t tell from my chasing trolls away with virtual broomsticks, I’m incredibly passionate about what I do. I just want to share as many travel opportunities as possible, and make them accessible to people who would never believe they have the budget or skills to go somewhere dreamy. When I think of my last year, I’m honestly my own living example of why I care so much.

Grief, pain, sadness, tragedy and depression are things you must face head on, but once you do, sometimes getting away is well deserved and actually quite cathartic and important to really believing in what you’re coming through. We dealt with all the above as best we could, but leaving it all behind felt like the best thing we could do.

I wrote my how to use Google Flights like a wizard article because I want people to find their own mind bending – or just affordable – flight deals.

Our “happy place” has been Australia for a while, and it’s also far away from everything we know. I put in some work for a few days, and finally found a fare I couldn’t say no too. it was more than I planned on paying, but thanks to some points laying around and flexibility on where we’d leave from (a nearby city), I was able to take the sting off and book it.

It was the best money I’ve ever spent.

Australia was step 755 in helping each other to find joy, let loose and get back to the basic pleasures of life, but it was the big one. Before going further, I want to quickly say, I do realise how lucky I am to have had a partner in all this, and I can only offer support and understanding to someone facing hard difficulties on their own. My email is easy to find, and my twitter messages are always open.

Band on the run…

I’m a huge Tom Petty fan, and I recalled earn on, how when his house burned down, he took his family on the road, and in retrospect, 2019 kinda felt like that for me. We went everywhere we could, even if just for a weekend and tried to take friends and family with us whenever possible. It felt like the band getting back together again.

This sounds like immense privilege – all travel is – but it’s why I’m here.

I can’t get enough of that search for discovery, finding the new best breakfast, the prettiest sunset, the cultural saying that makes you chuckle in a different language and everything in between. Even just buying something from a small shop 1,000’s of miles away from where you live feels special, as does bringing it back home to someone whose mind is blown.

I think everyone should have that amazing “oh my goodness, it’s even more magical than I imagined” reveal that only travel can give. I am so grateful to travel for shoving them right in front of my eyes, nose, ears and throat this year.

It’s because of how these travel opportunities I cover helped me heal over the year that I gained extra appreciation for how valuable they might be to others, whether they are going through something or not.

Ultimately, travel didn’t feel like getting away, it felt like being comfortable enough outside of my day to day existence to discover old joys, new joys and expand everything from my palate to my sunburn. Try watching kids play cricket in India and try not to smile.

In many parts of the world, you also cannot help but open your eyes to see how grateful we all should be about things we take for granted.

There are all sorts of cliches about finding yourself in the world, and we probably don’t need another, but sometimes it’s just quite cool to reinvent yourself without anyone you know watching or caring. Sometimes, travel is like shedding a skin and putting on your new best self, or the one you need to be.

While the eye roll worthy cliches pile up rapidly,  is there anything more simplistic and wonderful than searching out (and actually finding) the most beautiful sunsets you’ve ever seen? Thank you for that, Santorini.

The message is this: we’re all going through things and we can never know what is affecting strangers around us. Be kind, help others reach their star power and be open minded. When you struggle, face your struggles, ask others for help, and when you make it to a point where you’re ready to walk again, find a way to reset yourself with a trip.

I feel incredibly fortunate this week and I have the immense power of travel to thank for so much of it. Since you are still here, I want to learn about something that means something to you too. I’m going to donate $1000 to a cause someone leaves in the comments, which they believe does essential work and good either for themselves or others.

It doesn’t have to be travel, or mental health related, but just something that does good in the world. For example, one that’s dear to my heart is Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital who helped us in very hard times last year. Whether you think yours will be selected or not, leave a link so others can learn about the great work they’re doing.

Leave links and why you care, and I’ll pick one next weekend and thank you with the donation.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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17 Comments

  1. Wow, thank you for sharing. I’ve found travel has helped me more than I could ever explain. You’ve done a great job. I care deeply about https://wearebrainerd.org/ they are doing exceptional work in Minnesota, USA. A wonderful team of caring individuals.

    Their mission: Advocates for Reproductive Education (WeARE) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, organized in 2015 around a commitment to promote and provide comprehensive reproductive education and healthcare services for youth, young adults, and the marginalized in Brainerd, MN and the surrounding community.
    Our vision is that everyone in the Brainerd Lakes Area have access to accurate and evidence-based reproductive education and healthcare. Through community collaboration, led by compassionate healthcare professionals, the underserved living in the Brainerd Lakes Area are empowered to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.

  2. You don’t say whether it was intentional or not, but it’s not lost on me that Olive is an anagram for “I love.” Thank you for having the courage and perspective to share your story, Gilbert. Best to you and your family.

  3. too damn right. it’s exactly why i like travelling – leaving it all behind to find the small little things that make life interesting again and make those around you to feel the buzz.

    your articles shape my travels in many shapes and forms and i’ve you to thank for it. congratulations on the baby girl Olive and on the mends!

    as for your donation, I’d name Breast Cancer UK. I almost lost my mom 16 years ago. She’s fully recovered now and couldn’t have been better. The charity provided me great mental support back then and continues to do so. in addition, my mom is one of the reasons why i travel – life’s too short. you’ve no idea what’s going to happen to you tomorrow or in a month’s time. so grab your bag and go.

    keep up the good work!

  4. @Jay – I guessed, Melbourne, Australia and I was right! (Used Google street view, helpful to have those store signs in the pic)

  5. I sent my teenage daughter on a humanitarian trip, she chose Paraguay last year and is headed to Zimbabwe this year. It’s a wonderful program that gets work out of the teenagers (who pay their own way) and gives them a couple of sightseeing days. I don’t know if they take non-participant related donations but they have a presence all over the world. It’s really amazing to see the change in a child when they come home, ~16 days in a place gives them such an understanding of the world around them, and to work and serve people who are incredibly appreciative is really something to see. http://www.hefy.org

  6. Thank you for sharing your story!

    The charity I am passionate about is the Australian based Fred Hollows Foundation. The non-profit Foundation focuses on treating and preventing blindness and other vision problems.

    Fred was an ophthalmologist and incredible humanitarian who believed that affordable and curable eye health care should be available to all. He was named Australian if the Year in 1990 for his work.

    http://www.hollows.org

  7. Previous Wings is a small charity based in Queensland. It provides hospitals with memory boxes to give to families whose babies or children pass away from any cause from 16 weeks gestation up to 18 years of age,

    It also has monthly support group for parents, arranges counselling and enables bereaved parents to create their own boxes in memory of their own child to supply their local hospitals.

    They really helped our family after our niece Matilda passed away at 18 months old last April.

    https://www.preciouswings.org/

  8. Lovely meaningful piece – thank you for being so open and honest.
    I would like to take this opportunity promote ‘Little Hearts Matter’ which is a charity that helps families of children born with only ‘half a heart’. Not so long ago, any baby born with such a defect would have died almost as soon as they were born, but due to advances in surgery, many children are now surviving through to their teens and beyond. The charity offers support and advice to families facing the enormous challenges of multiple open-heart surgeries on their young child – plus all the unknowns around the condition as they grow up, as children with these heart defetcs haven’t lived this long before – it’s a somewhat scary voyage of discovery. They are an amazing charity and I am very grateful to them for the support they provided to me and my family when my daughter, Aimee – now 22 and doing very well – was born with only ‘half a heart’. They also promote organ donation, as all single-ventricle children are likely to need a heart transplant at some stage if they live long enough. It is a fantastic small charity doing much-needed work in an area where not much is yet known so their support for the families impacted is invaluable. Thank you again for the opportunity to promote ‘Little Hearts Matter’.

  9. Gilbert congratulations may you know much happiness and joy with your child , nothing better than children.
    It would mean a lot if your donation goes to Keren hayesod an amazing organization in Israel celebrating its 100 years.
    This organization was instrumental in creating the state of Israel including funding its first Airline later to become El al.
    Nowadays the organization funds elderly people, underprivileged children, people with disabilities, immigrants, hospitals and many more projects.
    I’m so privileged to work in the communication department of such an wonderful organization.
    All the best

  10. What an incredibly touching piece. My wife and I went through pretty much the same experience as you only a year earlier with us losing our first child before we even got to say hello. The most amazing thing to happen to you is taken away. My wife I also love travelling and we took the time to go to New York for the first time. We booked our very first BIZ flight (using points) and took the time to reset. 9 months later we welcomed our first child. We are now enjoying trips all over Europe with him. People tell us we are brave but I just think it’s sad that people feel they have to miss out because they have children. With a bit of planning it can be the best thing in the world.

  11. The Carter Center is my favorite charity. The solutions they have found are simple, low-tech ones to things that can literally ruin the lives of sufferers. Through their efforts, for example, Guinea Worm has been almost totally eradicated. They are also working on trachoma, river blindness and other “low profile” diseases, all while being respectful of the cultural practices of the populations they are working with.

  12. So happy for you and your family on Olive’s birth!! Conquer Cancer is US and International in the pursuit of cancer Research and Treatment . They fund young investigators to Conquer Cancer.
    Link is http://Www.conquer.org

  13. Hi Gilbert,
    I’m happy you and your wife are now experiencing the good side of life after such a hard experience with your first child. Love has no boundries, as trite as it may sound, and you’ll be able to express love for your first daughter in different ways and dedicate to her all the beautiful things you see and do.
    Also, many thanks for your blog and webisite, it’s very inspiring and a true benchmark!
    I’d like to propose OPEN ARMS as the cause for your donation. Us that are lucky enough to travel at will and for pure pleasure, must not forget there are millions of people (including families with small children and babies) on this planet that by circumstances are forced to travel under terrible conditions. For us, travel means pleasure, but for many it means danger and threat. OPEN ARMS makes a remarkable task of helping humans adrift in the Mediterranean. Please consider: https://www.openarms.es/en

  14. Gilbert,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s so true that travel can be healing. My father passed away 2 years ago. I was having a difficult time coping with his loss. I decided to take a trip to a place that had a significant impact in his life. He had been sent to Vietnam during 1968-1969, stationed in Danang. I decided that was where I needed to go. One of my former ESL students who is from Saigon helped me plan the of my travel logistics in Vietnam. I spent two weeks there on a solo trip. I really felt connected to Dad when I was in Danang. I know he spent a lot of time when he could on the beach there. I brought home a baggie of sand from what was then called “China Beach” in memory of my Dad. While he was stationed in Danang, he volunteered at an orphanage there. Children were always important to Dad.

    It is for this reason, I’d like to suggest as a deserving charity the Agape Center. Following are links to their organization and information about the amazing work they do, their impact on young lives and their success in making a difference.

    About the Agape Center – https://agapeatlanta.org/about-us/

    About the Agape Center’s programs – https://agapeatlanta.org/programs/

    Current Programs
    In-School and After-school for Elementary and Middle School Students
    ESOL for Spanish Speaking Students
    The Ginger Kaney Mentoring Institute for High School Students
    Ragtime, A Day Program for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities
    Emergency Assistance for Families
    GOGIRLGO! and F.I.T. Camp for Boys, Athletic, Health, and Wellness based Summer Camp
    Reading Readiness – a summer early reading / STEM program for rising kindergarten, first and second graders
    The Great Backpack Giveaway serving 2,000+ children annually
    Extreme Bedroom Makeover – new bedrooms for 170 children and counting!
    Holiday Gift Programs serving 500+ children each year

  15. I really enjoyed your message today! Travel or even the thought of an upcoming trip gets me through the day to day challenges we all have. If you picked me, I would love a donation to the Mary Kay Foundation. It helps with the huge battle to end domestic violence. It also earmarks funds to support research on cancers that affect women. The domestic violence part is my passion. It’s so easy to dismiss this in our community and even with our own family and friends, that the funds going to help awareness and assist anyone in need would be amazing!!!

  16. Gilbert, your message was very uplifting and so happy for you and your family. We are so fortunate to have such great organizations to help others in need. The organization I would like to suggest is The Shriners Hospitals for Children. https://www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/shc
    These men tirelessly work to provide funds for the hospitals so no child is every turned away. Transportation and lodging for all family members is paid for as well. The Shriners have many units that participate in local parades and are always the highlight! They are all volunteers and provide endless hours of their time. Their motto: No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child”. More history can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shriners_Hospitals_for_Children. No matter what organization you choose, thank you for your generous donation!

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