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The Power of Play

At Visit California’s recent annual conference, the new state marketing campaign, “The Ultimate Playground” was unveiled.  After the pandemic, we have shifted so much in our thinking and beliefs as to what motivates us to go toward - or get away from - in our lives and travel.

While at first glance this campaign may seem a bit trivial or not so original, sociological and Visit California’s own research has proven that play is a powerful and necessary force for our well-being.  The National Institute for Play, in Carmel Valley, is a non-profit organization devoted to play theory and application to everyday life. Its extensive research has shown that play is innate and can stimulate joy and awe; it connects us with others, and refreshes and relaxes us; we just need to activate it. Conversely, the research has shown that being deprived of play can have long-term and dire consequences. 

We live in a world fraught with daily stress, uncertainty, and constant and accelerated change, creating high levels of societal anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other issues.  Play and by extension travel is part of the solution to help us and heal us.

What better way to play than travel, the ultimate get-away? The Institute of Play notes that travel begins with anticipation and planning, already envisioning ourselves at play in chosen destinations. We then experience play once we arrive and take those good vibes home after the trip, as we relive the memories and as we relate the experiences to others.

With its abundance and breadth of natural and created assets, California is the ultimate playground. We are attractive to solo adventurers, couples, families, and any others seeking to “lose” or “find” oneself while experiencing all that this beautiful state has to offer, whether for a day, a weekend or longer.

The power of play was vividly brought to life during two exercises at the conference.  We were asked to recall childhood memories of play and share with those at our tables.  We recalled not only the acts of play, but importantly, the feelings and emotions of happiness, losing oneself, freedom, dreaming, awakened even by just the memory of play.  The other exercise was to draw two pictures of the person next to us – with our eyes open and then closed. After we exchanged pictures, the room was buzzing.  Chatter and the infectious laughter of 850 people resounded through the conference hall. The engagement and connections, along with the fun exercises, were palpable!  

Such is the power of play!  With the state introducing this campaign, they are leading the way to help all who come here freely and deeply reconnect with themselves and others. Hopefully people feel better when they leave than before they came.  Happy and fun travels!! 


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