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Go Away
Just For The Health Of It
go-away-book-cover.jpg Do you keep putting off getting away because you think you don’t deserve time off? Are you due for a breather and want to just get away from it all? Do you know people who need an excuse to take a vacation?

Go Away Just for the Health of It explains why you need to go away, before they put you away! Along with providing practical tips on packing, photography, staying well during vacations, and avoiding common travel mistakes. Dr. Borins shares his fascinating stories of his family travel experiences around the world that are entertaining, humorous and motivating.

Learn the importance of vacations and leisure time for stress management, health and lifestyle balance, while understanding the benefits to intellectual functioning and family relationships. Discover why travel and vacations are important investments in life.

In this practical book, filled with medical research, wisdom and practical advice, Dr. Borins explains why vacations are necessary in order to stay healthy, and the role they play in transforming individuals and families.

Dr. Borins guarantees that you will be ready to go away once you have read this book! 


The Therapeutic Effects of Vacations
Wholistic Press Toronto Dallas


FOREWORD by Dr. Bernie Siegel  
Chapter ONE. Holidays Are Healthy 18
Chapter TWO. Travel – A Catalyst for Growth 31
Chapter THREE. Dear Diary 42
Chapter FOUR. Time to Work on Relationships 50
Chapter FIVE. Education is a Trip! 59
Chapter SIX. Are you a Tourist or a Traveler? 73
Chapter SEVEN. Practical Tips to Make Holidays Better 79
Chapter EIGHT. Enjoy Your Flight 110
Chapter NINE. Eastern Experiences for a Western Brain 115
Chapter TEN. Off to See the Wizards 119
Chapter ELEVEN. Cook Islands – Arrival At Last 123
Chapter TWELVE. Fiji – Kava Cards and Faith 135
Chapter THIRTEEN . Maoris, Tahungas and A Magical Plant 140
Chapter FOURTEEN. Almost Eaten on Safari 145
Chapter FIFTEEN. Indonesia – Let’s Go Archipelago 149
Chapter SIXTEEN. India – Goa, Kashmir 211
Chapter SEVENTEEN. Afghanistan, I’ll Be Back Again 230
Chapter EIGHTEEN. China – Bejing, Suzhou, Hangzhou 234
Chapter NINETEEN. Made In Taiwan 254
Chapter TWENTY. Oh Canada – Algonquin Park 261
Chapter TWENTY-ONE. Life is Short – Eat Dessert First 270
Chapter TWENTY-TWO. The True Meaning of Giving 273
Chapter TWENTY-THREE. Spectacles in the Airplane Toilet 276
Chapter TWENTY-FOUR. How to Avoid Depression 278
POEM. Travellin’ Man 286



I'd like to infect you with a bug. No scientist can culture it; no doctor can cure it. Indeed, once this bug is in your system, it's there for life. It is the travel bug. 

There is no doubt that holidays are healing. When you are on vacation the mind and the body start to repair themselves from the stress and strain of everyday life. Taking a holiday is very good for what ails you.

I've always joked that I should open a travel service as part of my medical practice. If you came to see me, I would take your full medical history, do a complete physical, order any necessary tests and then, depending on your symptoms, I would prescribe an appropriate vacation. 

I would take into consideration your age, health, income, goals and personal needs. If you were out of shape, for example, a fitness spa or ski vacation might be indicated to build your strength, stimulate your heart and tighten up your muscles. If you were suffering from burnout, stretching out on an isolated island without television or telephones would be a step towards rejuvenation. If you were feeling spiritually drained then spending a few weeks in a yoga ashram, a Tibetan monastery or a religious retreat may help you to revive your spiritual connection and put you back on a new path.

Vacations can change the direction of your life and even help you to recover from a physical or emotional illness. I don't have the cure for the "travel bug"; instead I'd like to spread it far and wide.

Many scientific studies support the idea that vacations are therapeutic. Research shows, for example, the lack of vacations may be contributing directly to heart disease. Nearly 750 women aged 45-64 were interviewed as part of a comprehensive study conducted in Framingham, Massachusetts from 1965 to 1985. During the first two years of the survey the women completed a questionnaire that asked them about everything from money to children, religion to vacations. At this time they were all free of heart disease. Over the next 20 years the level and severity of heart disease was measured. The researchers found that those women -- regardless of race, age or occupation -- who took fewer vacations had significantly more heart attacks. Homemakers, for example, who rarely took a vacation (less than once every six years) had almost twice the risk of developing heart problems or dying from heart disease as homemakers who took a vacation at least twice a year.

Other studies have also shown a healthy relationship between feeling good and getting away from it all. At the Veteran's Administrative Medical Center in Iowa City patients receiving dialysis were put on a schedule of mini-vacations. Hospital staff noted that patients who had previously appeared isolated or withdrawn perked up and took part in conversations after their vacation. Staff members also noted that patients were more helpful when it came to taking their medication and following their treatment plan. Carroll Roy and Esther Atcherson, two social workers involved in the study said that the mini-vacations appeared to "lift the aura of depression" that often goes hand in hand with a chronic illness. The benefits not only to patients but also to their families and hospital staff members could never be measured in dollars. Being able to take a holiday enhanced their emotional and social lives.

Vacations Unlimited is a travel service run through Community Living Mississauga, a city outside Toronto. For many years it has taken mentally challenged adults on vacations. The program lets participants plan their holidays and make their own decisions. These vacations have made a huge difference in helping to increase the happiness and joy in the lives of these people.

Dr. James Sands from the South Coast Institute for Applied Gerontology, studied 112 women aged 65-92 in Atlanta. He found a strong relationship between more stressful life events and a decline in intellectual functioning. However, there was a positive relationship between taking vacations and increasing intellectual functioning.

Dr. Sharon Hymer, a professor at New York University, wrote an article entitled "An Alternative to the 'Traumatizing' Vacation: the Enriching, Expansive Vacation", which was published in the American Journal of Psychoanalysis. She believes that vacations can bring new insights to both the patient and the therapist involved in psychoanalysis. Dr Hymer maintains that taking time off can enrich the self, as well as our relationship to others. Traveling, it seems, gives us new and novel opportunities to discover aspects of ourselves that do not emerge at home. By "emptying" themselves of everyday concerns and anxieties she thought both the analyst and the patient would benefit.

Readers of Psychology Today completed more than 10,000 questionnaires. The survey found that, "Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said they needed time off to rest, recharge their batteries and get renewed. Eighteen percent said their primary reason for a vacation was to learn. They go away to seek intellectual or spiritual enrichment, to investigate places they have never seen or to discover their roots. Others chose to go away for family togetherness, exotic adventure, self-discovery and escaping routines.”

Finally, Kaiser analyzed the responses of 390 steel workers to an extended paid vacation lasting 13 weeks. He found that the vacations were strongly beneficial to family life.  Workers reported more interactions and shared activities with their spouse and children. After returning to work, a full quarter of the respondents felt they were more efficient and that their jobs were more interesting.

The benefits of getting away from it all, it seems, extend well after we've gotten away from it all.


The word "holiday" comes from the word holy, or god-like. It usually refers to a day of freedom from labour or a day set aside for rest and relaxation. "Vacation, " on the other hand, is derived from vacate and generally means leaving or getting away from the daily routine.

As soon as babies learn to crawl they set off to learn about their surroundings.  They are curious. They want to touch things; they want to put things in their mouths. As adults we still have that innate sense of curiosity, although many of us feel safer when we stay close to home and don't wander very far.

Historically, however, people have always been wanderers in search of a better place to live. Tribes like the Aborigines of Australia still go on "walkabouts" and set off across the desert for a change of scenery. There is a little bit of the nomad in each one of us: we have an inherent desire to discover the world around us.

There are few undiscovered places left and it is difficult to find an isolated and untouched corner of the earth.  But this does not mean that every journey we make isn't unique and exciting. A well-organized, one-week package holiday can have lasting benefits. Sometimes, of course, the trip away from home sparks an inward exploration.


Since the industrial revolution there has been a steady decline in the number of hours we work and a steady increase in the amount of free time available to us. Science, machines and technology do much of the manual labour that at one time ate up so much of our day. Factories are now computerized, and there is less human sweat and toil. The use of computerized robots to do a person's job more efficiently, and more cheaply, is already a reality and probably the way of the future.

This has meant shorter working weeks, more lay-offs, and more unemployment. It also means more time for fun and frolicking. Filling our free time is a billion dollar industry in North America.

But for many of us leisure time can be difficult to handle. The strong work ethic we were raised with makes us feel lazy or guilty when we do not have our noses to the grindstone. This guilt has been reinforced by an educational system that is focused on helping students develop marketable skills so they can find a job. Our educational institutions have not made teaching us what to do with our free time a priority.

And we do have lots of free time. Indeed, it's now part of our lifestyle -- and our work. Many corporations offer employees a paid sabbatical. Unpaid leaves of absence are already part of many union contracts enabling employees to take time off to pursue educational or personal interests knowing their jobs will be waiting for them when they return. Even young professionals are preparing their partnership agreements to include longer vacation times and regular sabbaticals. The right to annual vacations of a minimum duration is prescribed by law in 78 countries and some are so convinced of the necessity that there are penalties for deferring the vacation.

Therefore, it becomes exceedingly important to use your time away from work wisely: to recharge your batteries, to re-think your career options, to re-evaluate your goals in life, and to devote time and attention to your loved ones.


Many people argue that if they go away they will miss out on an opportunity at work. Some people fear that if they go away their job will be gone when they return. Others claim traveling is too expensive. In many ways, however, these fears are excuses. You don't have to be at work every day to be a valuable employee. Indeed, a refreshed employee is actually a more valuable -- and productive -- employee.

You also don't have to blow your life savings to enjoy a holiday. If you are low on cash, then you can travel cheaply. Take a bus and stay with relatives or friends. Or get creative. What places could you visit that don't require a lot of money? Government-run campgrounds, for example, offer you the whole outdoors for rock-bottom prices.

There are some people who wouldn't think twice about buying an expensive suit or dress for hundreds of dollars but wouldn't consider using that money for a vacation. Some people have thousands of dollars in the bank but won't take a few weeks off, unless it's for business. On the other hand, there are those individuals who scrimp and save so they can take their next holiday. They would rather travel than buy one more pair of designer jeans, gamble at the racetrack, or splurge on nouveau cuisine or expensive bottles of wine. What these people intuitively know is that getting away actually saves them money in the long run; it's a more cost-effective way to enhance your marriage, prevent job burn-out, than taking pills or going for psychotherapy.

It is true that people on social assistance, the uneducated, those with very low income, and the disabled are less likely to be in a position to take a vacation. There is a serious inequality in vacationing. Someday there will be public policy in place based on Article 24 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights that affirms “everyone has the right top rest and leisure.”

I'm sure you've heard the expression "where there's a will there's a way". Even if you are presently not in a position to travel or take a vacation, do not be bitter or think negatively about your future chances. I have known a young couple that couldn't afford to travel, but won a free trip to Colombia. I have friends who were given cottages by relatives and friends for a few weeks when they were not being used. I've had patients who were given holidays as gifts by their parents and even their bosses. One of my patients who had been on social assistance for years because of a disability, inherited money and was able to take his first vacation. Another patient, also on social assistance, was treated to a free trip by her boyfriend. It helps to think positively and keep dreaming.

When you do want to go away on a holiday, what do you do? Call up your trusted travel agent? Or do you get together with friends or acquaintances that have been away and get their advice? Before my wife Bonnie and I go away on vacation, we make it our business to speak to everyone who has been to the place we are going. We take detailed notes and carry the recommendations with us on our travels. Since we have traveled so frequently we have become "experts" ourselves, so we sometimes sit down with future travelers to chat with them about sites to visit, what to pack, what to buy, where to stay and what delicacies to enjoy.

We began writing things down for our friends and got excellent feedback from people about how our travel tips had helped them save time and money. There is camaraderie among travelers. Getting together before trips with people who have been away is a lot of fun and makes fears and concerns melt away. Coming home and showing your sensational purchases, trinkets, and photographs keeps the spirit of traveling alive and provides endless evenings of good cheer.

As I began to exchange stories with people I collected amazing tales of how their trips had affected their lives. This mirrored my own experience and I found myself becoming more and more interested in travel therapy. That interest has culminated in the writing of this book.

Unfortunately, I cannot sit down with each of you personally and help you plan your vacation, but I've put together my thoughts, feelings and expert advice on what you need to think about to get the most out of your holiday.

The first half of this book looks at how traveling and vacations can help you both mentally and physically, and how being away from the daily routine can change the course or direction of your life or reaffirm your life's choices. In these pages we will look at why people travel, what motivates us to leave home and set out on a journey. I also hope you will pick up pointers about how to make your trip more rewarding and memorable.

The second half of this book is a collection of travel articles that I wrote as a way to record my own experiences. People tell me these stories make the far away places more real and motivate them to visit their favorite places. I believe it is this sharing of stories that encourages many of us to set off on our own journeys.

Have you ever been told that you need a rest? Do you keep putting off getting away because you think you don't deserve time off? Or are you just afraid to leave your present rut for fear that it would all collapse if you left? Some of us take ourselves so seriously we believe we are indispensable. Indeed, the most important thing is the wish to get away. You must dream your vacation in order for it to happen. It is important to plan ahead and put a date on your next vacation, even if it is years into the future. This gives your dream substance.

I am appealing to you nomads and explorers who still have that restless wish to look around and see how the world looks. Not only will I share some of my own personal revelations, realizations, and new beginnings, but also I will relate other stories from my own patients and friends that will exemplify how travel is HELPFUL and HEALTHFUL.


At first glance “Go Away” may seem to be light reading. But as one reads the stories more carefully, the wisdom that is woven into each one of them becomes more apparent. In some cases the insights are simple and practical in nature, while in others the knowledge is more philosophical. Whatever the case, the anecdotes help to enlighten, stimulate and inspire the reader.

On a personal level the book helped me question some important issues we all must deal with. How do we spend our life time and why do we need to “get away” from our lives? What is a vacation? Do we need to travel in order to get away or vacation?

Maybe all we need to do is stop answering the telephone. Dr. Borins’ book has also helped me clarify many issues related to my life and life time. By reading this book I was able to discover what feels right for me to do that actually creates a vacation for me.

I personally do not want to sit in airports or on airplanes for endless hours going to some distant land. If they could beam me up, then I would be glad to go. I have realized that what seems appropriate for me may not be what feels true for someone else. I think Mel shares this in his life and journeys with his wife and family.

I encourage you to read and learn where to go with your life before your time runs out. When you accept your mortality you are more likely to “get away” from the things and people that you do not love. You are more apt to spend time with the people and things that do matter. This becomes a true vacation in every sense of the word. I think Mel and I as physicians understand this from our experience.

I admire Mel for his courage to step away from his office and live his authentic life’s journey with his family’s support. He is not living a role but a life. Most of us need to “get away” from the roles we play, in order to truly live.

Read on and learn how to begin your vacation and life.

Bernie Siegel M.D.

Author of  “Love, Medicine and Miracles” and “Prescriptions For Living”

Chapter Twenty-Three

Spectacles in the Airplane Toilet

At the beginning of our sabbatical in 1989, we were traveling on a flight from L.A. to Tahiti. As I was bending over changing my son's dirty diaper in the washroom on board the plane my eyeglasses fell out of my shirt pocket into the toilet and down into the holding tank to join all the excrements of the passengers on board.

I sheepishly went to the flight attendant and told her of my plight. Apparently I wasn't the first person to have committed this faux pas. She laughed and took me to where the rubber gloves were kept. She explained that I had to put on the gloves and stick my hand into the toilet, down the bowl, into the holding tank and search for my eyeglasses myself.

We were going on a four-month voyage and my glasses were extremely important to me. So with much hesitation I put on the glove, reached into the guck and felt around. After a few minutes, I still had not discovered anything but liquid and toilet paper. I found dipping my hand in excrement was not very enjoyable. I kept thinking of AIDS, hepatitis, and other communicable diseases. I was feeling kind of queasy, so I decided that this was a lost cause. I gave up and returned to my seat with a sense of hopelessness and defeat.

It took me a few minutes to think about the consequences of not having my glasses on this four and a half month holiday and I decided to return to the stewardess. She was more supportive this time and with a great deal of encouragement I put on a new pair of gloves, swallowed my pride and imagined how many other people had been in this predicament before me.

This time I took a different approach. I surrendered to the fear and let the universe look after the danger. After groping around more intensely this time, much to my amazement I found my glasses. I looked at them for a long time before deciding whether I was going to keep them. I started the long process of cleaning all the faeces off the frames.

The take home lesson is whenever you go to a washroom on an airplane put your eyeglasses in your pants pocket and if you are up to your wrist in faeces, don't stop searching.

“Most of us need to ‘get away’ from the roles we play, in order to truly live. Read on and learn how to begin your vacation and life.”
Bernie Siegel M.D., Author,
“Love, Medicine and Miracles” and
“Prescriptions For Living”

"No matter where you decide to go, here is one book every traveller should read: Go Away, Just for the Health of It, by Mel Borins, MD. Then plan your next vacation. Doctor's orders!"
Donna Vieira, Editor
Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle Magazine