You’ll see several common themes in my books, one of them being travel. It’s hard not to include travel in my books when it’s become such a big part of my life.

I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. My parents were from Iowa, so all of my vacations were spent driving between the two. I never saw an ocean until I was twenty-two.

But all that changed when I married a man whose parents both worked for the airlines, and he traveled every chance he got. Add in the fact I took a job after college where travel was an every week occurrence; I quickly fell in love with it myself.

We built our photography business as a destination wedding studio, with an online portfolio as our only means of marketing. That ensured our clients were from all over the world, with only a handful of them close by. The client furthest away? Germany. Some of our most memorable weddings? Calloway Gardens, Georgia. San Francisco, California. Of course our Aspen, Colorado weddings always ranked high.

If you want to change as a person, become more passionate about what you do, find a new direction for your life, I highly recommend booking a trip far, far away. Why?

Helps you plan for things you’ve never expected

The more you stay in one place, the more you plan out ever minute of the day. I know; I’m a recovering planner. But the thing is when you go to a place you’ve never been before, wild and unexpected things happen. You just have to deal with them. Like the day I had planned an outing for Cinque Terre, Italy. My itinerary was based on arriving at a certain time. We jumped on a train convinced we were on the right track. An hour later, clearly at the wrong train station, we discovered our error and had to wait another hour for the right one to appear. But while we were waiting, we found one of the most memorable views of our trip. The hour-long wait was sooo worth it; in fact, we stayed even longer. Sometimes the best things in life come with not planning; just a little bit of wandering instead.

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Helps you adjust to life’s worst experiences

If you move into unfamiliar territory, you’re going to have to take the best days with the worst. On our first trip to Spain, we landed in Madrid. With backpacks and computer bags wrapped around us, we screamed tourist. As we jumped on the Metro to head to our flat – literally five minutes out of the airport – I witnessed a pickpocketer stuffing his hand into my husband’s pockets. Luckily, we’d done our homework, and his pocket was empty. But I didn’t leave the act unnoticed; I grabbed this young man’s hand and told him no. He followed me on the Metro and sat next to me for several stops. With my husband across the aisle, I had no way to alert him to the potential danger. So I sat and waited, watched, worried. Eventually, he got off the train; but it scared me. It increased our awareness, allowed us to establish code words to alert each other when we were nervous. Though we never experienced anything like that again, it was one of the best learning tools we’ve had for staying safe on the road.

Gives you a sense of how others live

Guided tours are great. Following the advice of well-traveled guidebooks can help you navigate new ground easily. But it can also create a busy schedule that doesn’t allow you to roam at your own pace. When we spent three weeks in Lucca, Italy, we scheduled some days and left others wide open. And those days were the best. We’d wander into grocery stores, take a bike ride through the countryside, get lost in a back alley. Some of our most memorable experiences came from the little things – like the olive bar at the grocery store. Or the little, family-run gelato shop we found a few doors down from our flat. Or the book store we spent hours in.

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Helps you take things in stride

You’ll have good days and bad. Sometimes you’ll miss the train and arrive an hour or two past your desired timeframe. Or you’ll take a wrong turn and never find your destination at all. By looking at every day as an adventure, you can avoid the feeling of disaster when things don’t go your way.

Live in the moment

One of my favorite quotes is “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You can’t plan for something you don’t know exists. And while you become very familiar with your surroundings when you live someplace, it’s impossible when you travel. You won’t know if the train depot is under construction, or if it’s worth it to upgrade your tickets. You won’t know the best place to shop. Or how to find the restaurant that only locals find delicious. That all takes investigation and can only be found after you arrive. It involves becoming intimate with everything around you. And it opens up your senses in an entirely new way.

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Pushes you way out of your comfort zone

When you travel, learn all you can about integrating into your new environment. Learn a few basic words to help you communicate – hello, please, thank you – can go a long ways in making a new friend. You’ll discover you can wind up in a situation where you’re completely lost and have no idea of what to do next. But the funny thing is you always manage. You find a way. Sure, there might be moments of tenseness, stress, even anger or stupidity. But it pushes you to your limits. If shows you what you’re really made of. And once you get back to where you were going, it always leaves you with a sense of wonderment at being able to accomplish more than you ever knew.

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