Travel—the Best Way We Grown-ups Play
By Nancy Zwiers
My partner Jim and I just returned from a 3-week trip to Central Europe—and I’m reminded once again that travel is the ideal way we adults engage in the three most fundamental play patterns:
Exploration & Discovery
We had the privilege of exploring five cities in four countries—Warsaw, Krakow (including Auschwitz), Prague, Budapest (including the village Szentendre), and Vienna. Each city had its own unique beauty, culture, history and “Wow-I’ve never seen that before!” experiences. Once we leave the airport (or train station or exit ramp), our excitement about exploring and discovering sets in and doesn’t let up until we depart.
We explored places like the historical city centers.
We explored unique sights like the Wieliczka Salt Mine outside of Krakow, in operation for over 1,000 years, with its amazing St. Kinga Chapel carved completely from salt over 67 years by miner/artists in their off hours—truly a labor of love. And, amazing places of worship are a centerpiece of European travel, for sure!
We explored tastes like goulash, wiener schnitzel, gchimney cakes, crème cakes, and more! And how about that Polish Zubrowaa “bison” vodka, Hungarian red wine, and Austrian white wine, Pilsner Urquell Czech beer, and Polish Hungarian and Austrian beers too!
We explored history that spanned 2,000 years, with kings & queens, invasions, occupations, wars, alliances and periods of economic development and ruin.
We explored human experiences with deep empathy. We learned so much about the horror of WWII, especially the Jewish experience, in all of these countries, including sobering and saddening visits to the site of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw that was completely razed, the Jewish Quarter and the Jewish Ghetto in Krakow (including a visit to the Oscar Schindler factory, now a museum), Auschwitz-Birkaneau, the Jewish Quarter in Prague with our Jewish guide, seeing children’s artwork from Terezin that led me to uncontrollable sobbing, the many heart-wrenching memorials and statues for so many lives lost.
Challenge & Mastery
We met the challenge of maps and mass transportation…planes, trains, automobiles, not to mention the tram, bus and subway.
We met the challenge of “doing the math” with currencies like Polish Zloty (=.20 USD), Czech Koruna (=.04 USD), and Hungarian Forint (=.0023 USD). Austria was easy—the Euro is about equal to the USD.
We met the challenge of saying thank you in new languages—Polish, Czech, and Hungarian (we already knew German danke)…don’t ask me to spell the words as I learned them phonetically, like a child would.
Imitation Role Play
As they say: When in Rome…
Besides learning the magical words “thank you” as part of embracing the culture, we sought to embrace the culture first hand through food & drink, transportation, etc., as well as finding those cool local places beyond the beaten path, like Kraken in Warsaw where our full meal with multiple adult beverages tallied $35 and we shared shots of Vodka with employees of the Polish National futbol team.
In retirement, travel is my favorite way to play. Make time for it as much as you can—it keeps your brain active and youthful and feeling fully alive!
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