Travel both far away and close to home, can be healing.

By Rena Galanis

I can't believe I'm about to write this, and by the way, don't tell anyone it was me: Go ahead moms, be selfish and do something for yourself.

Yeah, as a woman and a mom for the last 17 years, this has been practically anathema in terms of my personal ethos.

It doesn't have to be a big, glaring declaration of independence away from your duties and responsibilities. No, I'm talking about baby steps here. Little things that really the whole family will benefit from and will greatly contribute to your own mental health.

For example, one of my biggest regrets is not travelling as much as I would have liked to in my youth. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to use  points to travel with my two kids pretty much anywhere in Europe.

I made the decision by myself. You might think it was  no big deal, but I had long ago decided that I would raise my children in a democratic milieu. Yes, I was not going to be like my parents! No, I was going to do things better, much, much better. (I'm not going to go into why that didn't always work in this post. I'll save that one for a later date.)

I became the family dictator and made the move. You might be thinking, "Surely this wasn't received with any disgruntlement?" Wrong.

The fact is, I was faced with a headstrong 15-year-old and lackadaisical 10-year-old. They both preferred to just stay home rather than visit the City of Lights and olde London town. Yes, that's right, neither of these world-class destinations seemed to hold any interest for them.

"What are we going to do there? Just walk around and visit museums?"

This moan was the most common refrain. I ignored all of it. It didn't feel that bad either. Fact was, it just wasn't up for discussion; I bought the tickets and got on with setting an itinerary - my itinerary. I planned to just walk around a lot and visit museums (ha! they know me too well) and worst of all, some places of worship (Notre Dame CathedralWestminster Abbey.)

And we did all that and it was wonderful (for the most part). We ate crepes and croissants that just melted in your mouth as well as steak and kidney pie that oozed with black liquid. We did all the touristy things and people-watched and just looked and looked at all the beauty that surrounded us in Paris, the south of France and London.

We visited towers and palaces, museums and narrow city streets. Up to Sacre Coeur at Montmartre (where by the way, the hippie vibe replete with Bob Marley sing-alongs is still alive and well) and down to the Marais.

Saw the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory (mobbed like they were rock stars), a lit-up Eiffel Tower, as well as Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the street they used for Diagon Alley, and King's Cross Station (where I believe I yelled out something to the effect of, "Oh my God, we're at Harry Potter's train station!" to more than one eye-roll from native Londoners.)

We had longer train rides (the Eurostar) and shorter ones from gorgeous train stations (Gare de Lyon) and little, unimpressive ones that took us all along the gleaming Cote d'Azur.

And we marvelled - at the beauty. It was magnificent.

But the truth is, it doesn't have to be a far-flung place that gains mythical stature by the very nature of being never-before trodden (at least by me, a travel neophyte).

Beauty, no doubt, lies at your feet as well, in the very town or city in which you were born. Can you appreciate it with fresh eyes? It's a challenge, yes, but let's face it, sometimes a stay-cation is the only thing on the menu.

For a number of summers, the only place I took my young 'uns was a small town not more than two hours from where I live in Toronto, Canada. Collingwood is a nearby skiing destination in the winter, but in the summer it can be just as wonderful to explore. There are nearby beaches (no, not like the Cote d'Azur but clean and nice to dip into) and you're surrounded by leafy green from old, old trees.


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