Champagne to Mezcal: Life Lessons from International Travel

Y’all, it’s been awhile….

And I’ll confess…I took zero notes when I went wine tasting in Mexico, and I did not even realize it until I got home. I think I had too much fun just drinking (from what I remember) than recording the experience. (How could that happen? That doesn’t sound like me at all!)

As I began reflecting on our week in San Miguel de Allende, I thought about my first experience with international travel, and I realized that I’ve learned just as much about drinking from other countries as I have here in the USA.

My first memory of champagne is in France on Easter Sunday 2005. My first memory of alcoholic cider is from England in January 2009 — gin, too. I threw back my first (successful) shots at an English pub — thank you, sambuca. My first full bottle of cheap wine was in Venice. Now I’ve had my first taste of some smoky mezcal in Mexico (accompanied by some crunchy crickets!)

I think my love for trying new wines might come from my love for travel. Wine always comes with a story–a history of a place, a season, a family, a culture–and travel does, too. Travel is about changing perspective and making memories, and drinking liquor is often part of ritual celebration for a journey.

Now, as we return to “regular” life (as if there is such a thing), I am ready. I have put a lot of space between me and the chapters of our lives before relocating. I think it’s important to put space between the stages of life in order to appreciate the next stage, whatever that may be. If we rush from one chapter to the next, it all blurs together (and life does that on its own so there’s no need to help it along).

Travel is a wonderful way to create that space between the chapters in our lives, and it is a common ritual in cultures throughout time. Many cultures hold the tradition that we must  return from a journey before we move on to the next life stage — whether it’s the old Grand Tour of Europe or a walkabout.

This rings true for me because, though ceremony is important to marking days of significance, for me, I do not always feel “changed.” If, one day, I’m a student and the next day I’m a graduate after completing the ceremony, not a lot within me has truly changed. Often, I still have the same worries, fears, and confusion as beforehand. With travel, however, I always feel like my perspective completely shifts for that time, and I’m reminded of what I truly value in order to reorient toward my own vision of my life.

Travel is an experience of change: a change of place, scenery, weather, perspective, routine, food and drink, culture, and sometimes language. Whenever I find myself feeling stuck, it’s usually been a long time since I’ve traveled. When I felt most limited and “trapped” in my life, it was because we lived so far away that we were limited to only traveling twice a year, and we used that to see family back home. We certainly did a lot of traveling (15 hours of driving each way), but the places, scenery, weather, perspectives, routines, etc., were the ones we were most familiar with. Despite working hard and seeing family, I felt like I was on a treadmill, running in place.

Running in place isn’t worthless. I needed the exercise, but it’s just not my kind of a workout (both literally and figuratively). This summer, I feel like I’ve run miles down the road, and now, it’s time to stop and look around.

We won’t be traveling much while we get rooted and back on our feet, but we’ve made enough memories to hold us for awhile. And sometimes…a little glass of champagne on Easter or a shot of mezcal on an August night can remind us how far we’ve traveled, and how lucky we are to be home.

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