If you missed the first post in my “wander lost” series, check this post for some back story!
I love exploring new places – this a blog about going places, after all – but I prefer my adventures to have purpose. I’m not talking about necessarily volunteering everywhere I go (voluntourism can actually hurt some areas, but that’s another post). I also don’t want to travel somewhere new just to work, as Travis has often had to do this year. Rather, my purpose in traveling is to gain an experience I wouldn’t have otherwise. But let’s look deeper. Why can’t I have these experiences in my own backyard? And how can I ensure I have them when I travel?
I’ve been on a plane/out of state at least once per month for the last few months. With the exception of our trip to Hawaii, none of the trips were simply to explore a new locale. We did some house-hunting in different states, attended some events, and connected with old friends. What we didn’t do (again, except for Hawaii) was gain a lot of new experiences. Sure, we checked out new restaurants – with the help of Yelp or recommendations from friends. We hiked and biked in new areas – with the help of park and trail websites allowing us to plan our routes ahead of time. But we didn’t hang out with locals, take chances off the beaten path, or try something we’d never tried before. We were simply doing what we enjoy doing with a new backdrop.
There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but it does make me want to ensure we’re discerning when it comes to places we choose to experience. Hopping a plane to an area similar to ours – suburban, established, close to a large city, commercialized, relatively flat – wouldn’t be our first choice for adventures. If we have to go for work, that’s different, but if it’s our choice, I want to see something new: huge mountains, old trees, desert that extends past the horizon, animals I’ve never heard of. I can’t have THOSE experiences in my backyard because they don’t exist. I can seek them out when I travel, but only to an extent. I can’t create adventure, but I won’t end that with “where there is none” – adventure can always be found. Where we live could be perfectly unusual for someone living somewhere very different, and that’s fine! I think it’s awesome to learn about different ways of living. While working as a nanny in college, I met an Austrian au pair who had never eaten peanut butter because the grocery stores there don’t carry it. I couldn’t imagine a life without peanut butter. She couldn’t imagine why I thought it was so great.
I guess the point is, not every single place in this world is going to excite me. Therefore, I don’t need to go to every single place. The double-edged sword of technology driving travel these days allows me to virtually visit any destination prior to buying a ticket. I won’t see everything, but I can often get enough of a sense (especially in the US) if it’s a destination I’ll find interesting. Can I play outside? Is there fresh produce? Can I have an experience I can’t have where I live? But I don’t think it’s worth my time trying to just check locations off a list. True, without technology, I might want to go more places I’d only heard of once or twice and never bothered researching. But will that truly enrich my life, or has technology allowed me to narrow my focus as to what I really like, so I can cut out the noise and pressure to go somewhere I’m not sold on going?
More to come, as always.