Here is the thing I love about traveling: It really doesn’t matter where I go. What is important is getting to change my view. As lovely as my own backyard may be, after awhile, I don’t really even see it. I feed the dogs, straighten up the barbecue equipment, maybe relax a few minutes, but I’m so used to how it looks, I usually end up missing it. I definitely don’t appreciate it on a daily basis.
This is what I’m thinking about as we embark on our current adventure. I'm convinced that the best thing we can do for ourselves and for the people in our lives is to really take in what's around us. And sometimes it requires a change to enliven our senses. Every morning when I’m making coffee, I stare out the bay window above my kitchen sink. I glance at the delicate Japanese maple, the sturdy redwood, the tall palm from my neighbor’s yard. My eyes pass the line of colorful roses along the fence and I vaguely notice the way the early morning breeze ripples along the surface of the turquoise pool. I say that I see these things, but I really don’t. My image of them is mostly in my memory. The reality is that I’m looking out the window, but not paying close enough attention to really notice anything. Rather, I’m thinking about what I’m going to do next or later today.
Go outside, take a walk, listen to music, cook a new dish, make conversation with someone you don’t know.
This is why traveling—even if it’s to another part of town—is so important. Changing the scenery wakes us up. It’s as easy as having granola for breakfast when you usually eat yogurt, or taking a different route to work to break the pattern. If you’re like me, it’s easy to get into habits and those habits tend to dull me out. I move through my life a little like a robot, doing this and then that because that’s what I do. Plus, there is comfort and efficiency in routine. We can’t always just do whatever we want whenever we feel like doing it. Tasks need to be completed and we need to keep moving forward.
But once in awhile, we also need to shake things up. We need to look up and catch a glimpse of something new in the distance, or at least something we haven’t seen for a long time. When I do that, it gets my brain moving on a slightly different path. When I see a building constructed hundreds of years ago, a home once occupied by a famous author, a painting completed by an artist I admire, a hill that I want to hike up, it opens my mind. I start considering what that author thought about in that garden, what nature has done to the flora and fauna on that hill. I feel, suddenly, part of the world, and not just a slightly unconscious observer.
But I get lazy in my day-to-day life. I forget to go to the art museum to see a new exhibit, ignore the grandeur of the State Capitol building when I drive by it, miss the way a red tile roof seems to touch the pale blue sky. I fall asleep a little in my life when I stay in the same place and do the same things. My senses become less acute and my deep appreciation for every eye full wanes. It’s why it’s up to us to turn things upside down from time to time. Go outside, take a walk, listen to music, cook a new dish, make conversation with someone you don’t know.
I’ve been lucky in my life because I’ve gotten to travel with some regularity. But even at that, I am just as lazy as the next person. Still, I always vow to change my ways, to let this trip be the one that awakens me in a new, more lasting way. It’s all about appreciation anyway—of that small scene in the window, of the squirrel who has stopped to eat a tiny seed he’s found, of the kids riding their bikes past my house. Changing our view can change everything, even if only for a moment.