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Being Out in the World

We didn’t travel when I was a kid. My parents were older, my dad always worked several jobs, and we were frequently short on funds. I was 14 when a friend and her mom invited me to Hawaii, and 19 when I made it to Europe for the first time. Both trips were transformational. In part, of course, the scenery was spectacular, but the biggest takeaway from both journeys was the power of just being out in the world. And what I’ve known since then is that none of us does it often enough.

I am the luckiest human on earth because I have gotten to travel almost as much as I’ve wanted to. If I were independently wealthy, I fantasize that I would buy a house in Hawaii and an apartment in Paris and a farmhouse in Umbria and get to travel whenever I happened to feel like it, but clearly this is not the case. Given that I’m just a normal person—but a very blessed one—getting to regularly see a few different parts of the world has been the greatest source of growth that I can imagine. Still, it doesn’t have to be Europe or the South Pacific. A road trip in Northern California can send a person to her knees in awe of a simple glimpse of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains.

This is the time in my life when “Yes” seems so much more interesting than “No.”

I think the point isn’t where you go, but that you go. On every level imaginable, the benefits are endless. Just changing our actual view of things can wake us up. Being in a new place can shake up our complacency and remind us of what we have inside of us. It helps us to pay attention, be where we are, question the status quo, and reach for more. My belief is that we become stronger and richer when we are more present, and there is nothing that can make us as mindful as being in a place we’ve never been.

I remember the first time I consciously looked at a world globe. When I was able to identify the infinitesimal dot that represented Sacramento, I couldn’t believe how many other places there were in the world. I had never been able to visualize it like that. It made me feel small, too, but it also made me feel like a citizen of a much larger world. Every time I’ve been lucky enough to travel, one of my favorite parts is meeting other people who come from their own tiny dots of towns. On a late-December trip to Panama City a few years ago, a highlight was a series of very fun conversations with Uber drivers about American politics. Jodi and I learned more from those rides out into the countryside than we ever did from a social science textbook and our perspectives were not as small as they'd been before the trip.

As I get older, I find I have much less tolerance for that sense of smallness. With the time ahead of me diminishing, I want to expand as much as I can to fill every moment with authentic experiences. They don’t need to be big, scary adventures, but I want to feel as if I didn’t take a pass on very many opportunities. Clearly there is an obvious fighting-against-time quality here, but I don’t care. What I do know is that I’m smarter about myself than I’ve ever been. And, I have a deeper appreciation for the chance to be fully alive. I know, too, that we’re always unfolding as humans, one tiny experience at a time.

This is the time in my life when “Yes” seems so much more interesting than “No.” Fear of chaos has been the watcher at my gates for too long, and traveling is a real, possible way to change that. I take nothing for granted these days. Being out in the world reminds me that simple attention to what’s in front of me at that moment is worth more than practically anything I can imagine. So here’s to going outside, opening our eyes, and taking it all in. Happy summer.

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