As the holidays grow closer, I find myself thinking more and more about getting away. Getting away from work, getting out of town, leaving behind the stress and strain and mundane details of my everyday life. I want to turn off the television and shut out the bad news. I want to channel my energy into discovering someplace new, instead of pondering unimaginable heartache.
This urge to escape, to get away, is a powerful, ever-present one for me, but recent events have made me really stop and think about this impulse. We (I’m including myself in this) sometimes have this romantic idea about travel. That if we were really the free-spirited wanderer we claim to be, we’d pick up and leave everything behind and set off for the open road, with only a bag and a map. I do fantasize about doing that, but sometimes I feel like that would be the easy way out, at least for me. Leaving behind responsibilities and problems isn’t the same as solving them, or even just facing them whether they get resolved or not.
The horrific tragedy in Connecticut last week made me want to reach for my bag and book a trip to anywhere. I didn’t know anyone personally affected but, I thought, if I were away traveling in some distant land, would I even have heard about this? The idea that my usually optimistic bubble could’ve been maintained even a bit longer is definitely an appealing one. But it’s not realistic. Travel should be about joyful discovery and new experiences and uncovering parts of your personality you never knew were there. It should be learning about new cultures and finding an appreciation for your own. For me, travel should always be about seeing a new corner of the world and connecting with the people there. So, if it’s all about connecting with people, it shouldn’t also mean running away from humanity and its problems.
I don’t have any immediate travel plans on the horizon. I’m not going home for the holidays; I’ll be with friends and some family in my current city. But I’ll hug them all a little tighter and concentrate on being present with them. Because sometimes all those best things about travel (appreciation, discovery, connection) can be found right in your own backyard. You don’t need to fly off to some distant land, where you don’t know anyone, in order to find a new perspective. Sometimes the best discovery is realizing how much you have to be thankful for (and to explore) right where you are. Sometimes the most life-changing journeys are the ones where you never leave home.
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