That is why we need to travel, a wise person once observed. If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon; our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days. Don’t let yourself become one of those people. The fear of the unknown and the lure of the comfortable will conspire to keep you from taking chances the traveler always has to take.
Although my first love is for international exploration, I am always aware of a tension that begs me to not miss out on the wonder of the world immediately around me. I suspect this is a lifelong quandary felt by all travelers and future-thinkers: how do we feed the thrill of discovery without settling into malaise or disatisfaction in the everyday? How do we reach out, learning and exploring and becoming our fullest, truest selves while resisting the dangerous urge to constantly move on to the next thing, the next place or the next story at such a rapid pace that we wake up one day and find ourselves completely unmoored?
One of the ways I practice groundedness is by digging my fingers and toes into the Nows of life. I want to be intentional about remembering that even the most beautiful things can lose their allure if taken for granted or used as an escape route to avoid life’s pains, sacrifices and hurts… because, if I am being honest with myself, isn’t it always easier to enter into a new, unknown place where little is required of me other than to be an observer, a recorder and a celebrator? Isn’t real adventure often paired with the conscious, hard-won decision to remain taking ownership of and investing in a familiar, multi-faceted dimension where “good” and “bad” are so closely intertwined that it’s hard to pick them apart?
And so — I travel. I have a goal to spend at least one night in each of the 50 states in my home country and I also have a bucket list of other locations I’d like to experience: hiking up the coastal lines of New Zealand, walking through the sunflower fields in southern France, sitting under a dripping banana leaf in Peru, drinking coffee in a market square in Argentina, returning to visit friends in India… and yet — I stay. I allow myself to feel connected to my neighbor, I ask questions of the stranger around the corner, I go for walks without a particular destination in mind, I carry loss and grief as closely as I do enthusiasm and laughter, I remind myself to be present, I choose to participate in the act of creating belonging here.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m learning to cultivate a great love for all of the unknown waiting to be discovered here, in the landscapes of my own country, my own neighborhood and even my own thought life. It’s entirely too easy for the great promise within familiar to become masked by the ugly illusion of commonplace — so I commit myself to peeling back what may seem “ordinary” at first glance in order to be saturated by a greater understanding and a surprising beauty found, well, everywhere. Within me, withstanding me, without me. The world expands and wonder multiples.
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States in Bold = Those Yet to be Explored as of 2013