We need those things in our lives that are not for anyone else, those things that make no sense whatsoever in terms of practicality, but that please us.
We need them to balance out the endless pursuit of “purpose” and “balance.” We need them because we need something in life that connects us to a sense of wonder and something to be explored.
I don’t often have a lot of time to travel–when it does happen, it happens in short bursts, such as a day trip, or in one big burst such as a summer or a month spent in Italy. I read travel blogs with some longing, because the vagabond lifestyle has always appealed to me.
In reality, however? I’m a homebody at heart. I like to travel while having a home base, some place where I can relax my body into a familiar mattress.
Please note: I have resisted this truth for a really, really long time. The image of the wayward traveler who’s always wandering from place to place, having new experiences and living life fully (more fully than me, my inner critic will say when I’m feeling triggered and prone to comparisons) tugs at me. I have phases each year where I want to sell everything and live out of a backpack.
Then I travel, and I’m reminded of what it really means to live out of a backpack: smelly clothing, cigarette smoke you cannot avoid until your sinuses clog and you get a headache, hours spent waiting in train stations, battered feet, mosquitoes coming into the room but no ability to ask for mosquito repellent in the local language.
All worth it? For some people, every single moment is one of joy, and they would look at me in arrogant distaste for not having a thicker skin for travel. For me? I can handle all of these discomforts in measure, and then some moment comes to me in which I realize that I want the comforts of home.
Finally, I am allowing this to be okay. I’m allowing myself to let go of the internal criticism that this boring, or that life is passing me by and meanwhile I’m not seeing half the world that I want to see. I see it as a practice of the middle way, of not going to extremes (with those extremes being “you are a vagabond” and “your life is utterly boring and without meaning”).
To make up for the the time between my trips and travels, I practice something that I call “staying present to wonder.” It looks something like this: When things have become far too stultifying within the routines of my daily life, I pack an “adventure bag” (Check out this Flickr tutorial on creating your own ) and then head out for the open road: no agenda. 9 times out of 10, my partner in crime, Andy Rado, is with me. The agenda? To have no agenda whatsoever. It is without an agenda that a true “Adventure day” can take shape in its own perfect way.
Last Saturday, our day looked like this: Take public transit into the city of San Francisco. Have a cappuccino and almond biscotti, outdoors, enjoying the early summer weather (75 degrees! sunshine!). Walking around the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, visiting the familiar pieces as if they are old friends, ending as always with “my painting,” Femme Au Chapeau by Matisse, marveling as I always do that he created such a masterpiece. Then–impromptu cable car ride from downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf! A family from Australia was traveling through. Their twin girls kept switching who was standing on the edge of the cable car, keeping things egalitarian. “Don’t lean far off of the cable car into the other lane of traffic,” the operator yelled, “or you’ll get a headache, if you know what I mean.” And then–impromptu hot chocolate at Ghirardelli Square. The whipped cream was heavy, as were the tourists loaded down with bags and chocolate sundaes. We walked down to the wharf and watched the waves come in while we drank hot chocolate and watched people swimming in the Bay. Later, we took another bus back to downtown and eavesdropped on the conversations of those around us as the bus jerked its way up and down hills (the driver was a heavy breaker).
We’ve done all of this before, of course–visited these sights and seen these places. Yet because the day had no agenda, all of it felt ripe, and new.
I know that so many people are just now coming out of the most difficult winter they’ve had in years–the snow has been heavy, the temperatures have been cold. Maybe you don’t live in San Francisco so you believe there’s less to do, and maybe you don’t have a lot of money.
Nonetheless, I invite you to take it on as your duty to cultivate a sense of wonder at the world around you. I invite you to photograph that snow from fifteen different angles as it melts. Download yoga classes online and create a studio in your own living room. Go online and learn a new language for free, and then practice with others. Look up news channels in other languages and just listen to the sounds of a foreign tongue (for instance, you can go to http://www.rai.it to see Italian news programs). Take a dance class for cheap at your local community college. If you always drive, find some way to take public transit. If you always take public transit, borrow someone’s car. Record your experiences.
Stay present to your wonder, experiencing the world as it was meant to be experienced: each moment fresh, new, alive.
Kate Swoboda is a Life Coach, teacher and writer who works with women from around the world who are interested in living lives of courage, integrity, passion, and power. She’s the author of the Courageous Living Guides and creator of the Courageous Play and Create Stillness retreats. She’s excited about learning languages, reading as many books as she can, getting bendy-stretchy on the yoga mat, the quest for the next amazing chai latte, and running.