As is so often the case, some of my most life-altering travel experiences seem to sneak up on me almost out of nowhere. So when I agreed to join some Turkish friends on a boat off the Mediterranean coast for a few days in June, I hardly expected that I would have the opportunity to disprove a number of my long-held travel convictions. These included: 1. Classic wooden sailboats are nice for other people but not for me. 2. Physical activity is the key to a happy vacation (no gym, mountain, or biking trails—I'm not going there). 3. Having too many meals in the same place is boring, even if the ingredients have been freshly fished, dug up, or picked.
I was wrong. Admittedly, the stars were stunningly aligned from the start, beginning with the decision made by my somewhat elusive 23-year-old daughter to join me. My affection for our Turkish hosts and their two charming and intelligent children also helped, and it was significant that I loved—and finished—the epic-size book I was reading (actually, the bound galleys of T+L contributing editor Daniel Mendelsohn's forthcoming family Holocaust memoir, The Lost). And then there was the shopping for handwoven carpets and suzani tapestries in Göcek, our port of embarkation, and lunch below the ancient cliffside tombs at Caunos.
From the moment we set sail on the clear, mountain-rimmed waters hugging Turkey's southern coast, I entered another time zone, or timeless zone. Even shipboard connectivity, which brought a barrage of e-mailed articles for this issue, didn't break the blissful contentment I felt lounging under the canopy (with plenty of high-count UV protection) and reading on the deck. The journey was brief, uncomplicated, and basically uneventful. Swimming, paddling a sea kayak a short distance to a tiny goat-inhabited island, and climbing up to the ancient amphitheater at Caunos were as much exercise as I got.
In this special 35th-anniversary issue of Travel + Leisure, you'll find "35+ Trips That Will Change Your Life," a celebration of some of the recent life-altering travel experiences of our writers and photographers. Ranging from prodigiously organized campaigns to modest but satisfying vacations, these journeys are intended as a useful resource and a starting point for your own life-changing travel experiences.
Beyond the treasured images I caught on my digital camera, the rewards of this break from the everyday remain. Along with the satisfying human connections, as simple as spending time with my daughter and celebrating the ninth birthday of our friends' daughter, there are important benefits that accrued from unseating my closely held convictions. All proof of what I already knew—that travel is an opportunity to open the eyes, the mind, and the heart.
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