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All that remained was a packaged hazelnut cookie. From another trip it was five cans of sardines, smelly and tasty. There was a small hand-painted bowl from the Chateau region of France and a ceramic mini-platter from Tuscany. A bottle of Spanish olive oil safely packed in our luggage and savored for months once home. The only physical memory of Berlin was an airline snack.
As a solo traveler, this journey was for work and pleasure.  There wasn’t time nor interest in shopping. Five days were spent with a dynamic community in a classroom. Lively dinners around the table with dear friends occupied a couple evenings. A bike tour visiting well-known sites and exposing a new Berlin oriented me to the city. Some evenings were also spent preparing for the next day and simply taking care of myself. Then, sadly, it was time to go home.  Time felt fleeting. Since this trip was mine alone, how would it be remembered and “digested”?
Although we might travel together, our stories about a trip will most likely be different. The collective memory adds richness to the whole experience. So how do we recollect travel when on our own? It can be a difficult task to bring others into the “how was it” experience.
Business travel is so much different than journeying on vacation with loved ones and friends. There’s no one with whom to re-live and or recount the experience. It’s as if you went away and then didn’t actually go away. Life quickly returns to “normal” without time to reflect even if memories are mainly about a meeting space. Yet, like any ending to a project, “debriefing” adds new information and depth to an experience, benefiting our lives.
Here are some ways to “debrief” about any trip, especially when on your own:
  • Memories and Take Aways Schedule 15-30 minutes (it can even be on the plane before touching down on the tarmac) to answer the question, “What do I want to remember from this trip?” Yes, it can be hard to garner the energy on the back-end, when all you really want to do is sleep and zone out with the movie selections. Still, take a moment, open up your device and write an answer. What are your top three “Take Aways”? Recent “Top Three” from Berlin included: re-connecting with my German friends was joyful; the Search Inside Yourself Leadership curriculum impacts everyone’s life; Berlin makes us confront the past amidst an avant-garde art scene.
  • Time for the “What Happened” Upon arriving back home, schedule time with loved ones as soon as possible to share the “What happened”. Thoughtful tidbits suffice. Unwind and relax a bit anyway. Of course learn about “what happened” at home while you were away, too. Prioritize this task, even setting a time before you leave.
  • Start with photos Take a look at photos (did you take any photos? If not, take some next time…anything to prompt some recollections ). It’s not possible to recount all details but simply going through photos is a good start. Remind yourself of that first day’s extra hearty meal, a walk in a park designed for a king and visit to a palace etc…
The “Debrief” is important for all of us. We “travel” in our work and home life all the time, engaged in strenuous projects that move goals forward. Examining the process, aka journey and outcomes, aka memories, good or bad, inspiring or dismal, is a worthwhile endeavor. An informal “Look” informs us of what we want more of in our lives.
Sometimes the “what went well” conversation happens in a group environment.  Other times as a leader or solo practitioner, we identify the “Top Three”  for ourselves (and perhaps share with another). All lives are richer from the observations.
Noticing, reveling, feeling gratitude, debriefing and staying open to what the universe has presented us is the benefit of living as a traveler.

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