For many years, at great cost, I traveled through many countries, saw the high mountains, the oceans. The only things I did not see were the sparkling dewdrops in the grass just outside my door. – Rabindranth Tagore
My husband and I have traveled together almost since we met in college. Our first trip was a spring break ski trip to Colorado, a place neither of us had been before. To be honest, we didn’t see much of the state, but we sure explored every inch of the ski resort!
Our second trip together sealed the deal for us as travelers. We, with three other friends, piled tents and sleeping bags into two cars and drove the perimeter of the country seeing as much as we could see along the way. We saw the Milky Way for the first time in Minnesota, were stunned by the beauty of South Dakota, slept with the scent and sound (soft rustling) of eucalyptus in California and truly grasped the meaning of hot in a tent in Nevada.
We were hooked! Our unofficial motto (that we made sure to share with our three children) became “It’s a great big, beautiful world and we’d like to see as much of it as possible.”
“Travel” at home
You might think staying home during a pandemic would leave us feeling “stuck,” but it turns out there is a lot of truth in the old maxim “Travel is a state of mind.”
Rather than hopping on a plane or packing up the car, our main mode of travel these days is our sneakers. We tweaked our motto – “Just because we can’t go anywhere right now doesn’t mean we can’t see something new.” – but have maintained our passion for seeing as much of this world of ours as we can.
We’ve been exploring different neighborhoods in our town on long walks with the dogs, looking at architectural details and landscaping choices. We play intersection roulette – “Do you want to go left, right or straight?” – letting impulse plan our routes and our energy determine the length of our trips.
Just this past week, we dusted off our “Hiking in PA” book and realized that neither of us had ever done more than drive through Valley Forge National Park, just minutes from our house. Again, it felt fabulous to not know where we were heading or what we would see. Even doubling back along a path yielded an entirely new view of the creek and its trout, for my fly-fishing-husband.
Look around you and choose to really see
Perspective, we’ve learned again and again, is everything. By deciding to approach these little outings as “travel” or “exploration,” that is what they have become. When you get right down to it, what we’re really doing on these excursions is allowing ourselves to “see.”
I remember driving through a village in Kenya and seeing a group of people waiting for the bus. It made me smile to think that these same people would be marveling at our “normal” as they drove through my town looking for a place to get a snack. When you’re traveling, you’re seeing to see everything – all the little details that give a place its feeling and its flavor.
Practice seeing the new in the familiar
You can choose to see this way wherever you are – close to home or far afield. In fact, you can do it without leaving home at all. Each time we unroll a yoga mat, we practice seeing the new in the very familiar. The fact that I’m still learning about the posture and about myself after eighteen years of downward facing dogs is proof.
The key, I think, is curiosity. According to Google, the definition of curiosity is “a strong desire to know or learn something.” I’d add that it’s also a willingness to be surprised. When we engage with the world around us with curiosity, we are essentially becoming travelers. We want to see the sights, absolutely, but we also want to get a sense of a place. We want to soak up the details.
Keep your eyes open and be willing to be surprised
If you, like us, will be staying closer to home this summer, remember that this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your travels. It’s a great big, beautiful world out there – even in your own backyard. Stay curious and keep your eyes open. See as much of it as you can. I promise you won’t be disappointed.