Whether you’re contemplating a big change in your life or you just want some space to dream, going someplace new gives you a chance to explore new possibilities. And you don’t need to retreat to a solitary spot like Walden Pond to reimagine your life. Bold vistas open our minds. Watching the everyday lives of people in new places is energizing. Big insights can come in ordinary moments. One thing holds true: Taking a break to reconnect with yourself can help broaden your perspectives on the everyday things that really matter: work, relationships, health and aspirations. Here are seven places to reimagine your life.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
If you want to relax and dream, I always say, take a walk. The oldest capital city (and the highest) in the U.S. offers ample opportunity for that. Wend your way through the historic district and check out its accessible, come-as-you-are art scene or hike on nearby trails scented by sage and aspen and graced with views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. A short drive will bring you to the Puye cliff dwellings built by the Anasazi, a Native American culture that’s still vibrant. Their art, both ancient and modern, will expose you to interesting new perspectives on the world.
Traverse City, Michigan
The state has endured more than its share of economic woes, but little Traverse City is experiencing a big renaissance. The lively, small-town feel here on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Traverse Bay is rejuvenating, and you’ll be inspired by the way the locals have made the most of what makes their city special. Antique and craft shops abound. And the food — amazing! Bon Appétit picked Traverse City as one of America’s top foodie towns, and famed chef Mario Batali has raved about local restaurants such as the Cooks’ House. With almost 40 wineries around, you’re sure to find something to sip as your imagination runs free.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Breathtaking, majestic Angkor Wat; enchanting markets; fabulous food; an enticing culture: These are reasons enough to go to Cambodia, a country half the size of California. But it’s the people who’ll inspire you with their warmth. They’ve overcome hard times to reclaim their culture, and they welcome you to share it. They know you could have gone to Paris, but you chose Cambodia. So get lost in the crowd. The flight will be the costly part, but once you get there everything is petty-cash cheap, including dining, shopping and luxury accommodations.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Dutch are distinctly modern as they celebrate their venerable culture, and everywhere you look you’ll see old melded with new; if you’re looking for a cutting-edge place in which to reimagine, you can’t do better than Amsterdam. Cycling is a way of life here — and a perfect way to see all the sights. Or hop on one of the many open-air canal boats. Inspiration is everywhere, from the Van Gogh Museum to the Rijksmuseum to the Anne Frank House on the Prinsengracht, the prettiest of the waterways. Amsterdam beckons the way a postcard does: It’s picture perfect and romantic.
Will you find inspiration in the great outdoors? Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Campground has redefined the concept of camping — and everyone’s invited. The retreat offers a few options: campsites for tents or RVs, tent bungalows, single cabins or more luxurious rooms and suites in the lodge. And if you think a massage, a mountain bike adventure, horseback riding or a tide-pool exploration will stretch your mind, they’re all available.
Asheville, North Carolina
Everything here feels more sophisticated and grand than the scale of the town would suggest — like a slice of New York or Paris in the Tar Heel State. Take in live 1930s-era jazz at an open-air wine bar and enjoy local shops and restaurants doing high-end things on a small scale. The Biltmore Estate, built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, welcomes visitors to its gardens, farm, winery and 250-room mansion — and if you want to imagine yourself a guest of the Vanderbilts, stay at the inn on the estate. Take it one step further and reimagine your house or apartment with an exclusive line of home furnishings.
Costa Rica (or Morocco, or Tanzania, or the Ozarks …)
Get a new lease on life by “voluntouring” in the U.S. or abroad. Join others to help renovate a school or home, work in a clinic or teach English. What you pay for your trip will cover your lodging and other expenses, and it will be tax-deductible, apart from your airfare. Global Volunteers and Cross Cultural Solutions are two companies that organize service vacations in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Give it a try: This trip will change your outlook, introduce you to skills you didn’t know you had and bring you new friends.