Thursday, May 30, 2013

Journal Entry: On the Need to Travel

"This didn't cost $1500 to enjoy." ~ myself, referring to a 7-foot waterfall we'd just crossed downstream of.

For me, adventure can be found simply by going off the beaten path--or even on a beaten path, just as long as it's not a highway of foot-traffic. People follow natural lines of drift (credit goes to JWR for getting that phrase stuck in my head). If, as you're walking along a sidewalk with a crowd of hundreds, and you veer off to one direction and stop, perhaps to observe the crowd from the outside rather than being a part of it, congratulations, you're an eccentric. Doing something that not everybody else is doing is fundamentally weird to them. But the joy you get from being someone who thinks and makes decisions for himself is exhilarating. Ergo, I naturally choose unorthodox ways to get from one location to another, particularly if I have spare time. Maybe I'll walk down the side street instead of the main one? Maybe I'll drive through some back roads instead of following the interstate? Maybe I'll go through the forest, or up the hill, rather than following the trail around.

By making simple little decisions to rebuff the usual routine, or the expected route, in favor of charting new courses to keep things interesting, you give yourself the opportunity to discover things that the vast majority of other people miss out on. I don't much enjoy the idea of missing out on the 'special little things' in life. But many others are content with it. There is an excellent poem that expresses what I'm trying to say, with more finesse:

The Few
The easy roads are crowded
    And the level roads are jammed;
The pleasant little rivers
    With the drifting folks are crammed.
But off yonder where it's rocky,
    Where you get a better view,
You will find the ranks are thinning
    And the travelers are few.

Where the going's smooth and pleasant
    You will always find the throng,
For the many, more's the pity,
    Seem to like to drift along.
But the steeps that call for courage,
    And the task that's hard to do
In the end result in glory
    For the never-wavering few.

~ Edgar A. Guest

I'm one of those few, and I love it! Where I've been living this year, there's mostly houses and streets, but if you take the time to leave the pavement and climb a hill on the side of the road, you can find all sorts of exciting things. And the view can be spectacular.

A friend of mine and I decided to "walk-and-talk" earlier this week, and so we absconded to a nearby State Park and walked the foot-trails there. The first leg of our journey was paved with asphalt. Nevertheless, there were trees all around to shade us, and a river off to our right, and though there were other people enjoying the park, it was nice to get away from the city despite being just a few miles away. That's the part that continually fascinates me--that there are places of "contained wilderness" within well-developed areas that you can stumble upon suddenly, and it's like finding a buried treasure every time. 

I had an interesting thought, in the course of our conversation. My friend hasn't been out of this country (though they've traveled farther west than I have), and wants to take the opportunity to do so in the coming year or a few. I, on the other hand, don't have a particularly strong desire to 'see the world' before I 'settle down,' and I think it could be due in part to the fact that I've already traveled some in my day. I've been to Sweden and Crete, and road-tripped up to New York City and down to Cape Hatteras. Last year I also got to go on an airboat tour of a portion of the Everglades. These were all things I enjoyed but feel no particular need to do again. I'm also quite content to take road-trips in the States rather than pay exorbitant prices to fly to Europe. I'm a visual person, so the various travel documentaries on PBS, or for that matter nature documentaries, are enough to satisfy me when it comes to seeing the world. No, having traveled already, I know my heart is here, in the Mid-Atlantic. I can see the world from the comfort of my own home, without needing to feel the world by actually being there. 

But make no mistake, I have my sights set on a few places in America that I'd still like to go to. But not to visit. I want to live there. Maybe that's why I don't get too attached to places I've traveled, or could travel to. If I were to dwell too much on being somewhere I couldn't stay, that would make me sad. And having seen a lot of the world, in person or in vitro (in vitro means 'in glass,' i.e. through a lens), I think America's pretty great itself, in all honesty. Don't sell this country short, if you've lived here all your life. Maybe you just need to travel, so that 'absence from home will make the heart grow fonder.' :)

My friend needs to travel far. I don't. But we both share a love for exploration and adventure. I'm just content, for the time being, to find it where I may. I have more opportunity to have adventures close to home than far away. But in a sense, I think my friend is probably doing the same thing. They're reaching out to take the opportunities they have to travel to a few places in Europe. And if you have the opportunity to go somewhere you haven't been before, why not take it? That is, after all, the spirit of adventure. Whether you go somewhere near to home, or far.

~ Rak Chazak

PS I figured I would attach a song which lyrics fit in very nicely with what I was expressing about my own desire for adventure and how it's not so much about necessarily going to a certain place, but about having an adventure wherever you happen to be. 

World Traveler, by Andrew Peterson

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