Traveling is good for the mind and soul. It affects you long after you get home. I believe my travels have fundamentally changed the way I experience life, even when I am not traveling. It’s as though I am always on a trip now, even when I am home. I had an experience that brought that home to me vividly a few weeks ago.
It had been a bad day. I had a list of things to get done and couldn’t seem to accomplish anything. I was spinning my wheels.
By mid-afternoon the day was slipping away and I had nothing to show for it. Then as I was putting a log into the wood stove I accidentally touched my sleeve to the hot iron, decimating a stretch of the nylon and spewing white goose down around the room. That did it. I had to get out. I could not possibly accomplish the tasks on my To Do list that day. I decided to take a break and drive to the grocery store.
I headed out into the cold rain to a farm market 10 miles away through the Green Mountains of Vermont, where I have maintained my office for a dozen years. I drove out onto the familiar roads with no thought of seeing anything I hadn’t already seen a hundred times.
Still fuming and frustrated, not paying attention to anything but my own bad mood, I was following the twists and turns of small, two-lane mountain roads, when suddenly the world around me broke through to my awareness and shattered my bad mood.
In a flash I awoke to what was around me, and my problems, now seeming petty and self-centered, were struck down, scattered in the presence of the magnificent mountain environment.
It hit me: This place is so unbelievably beautiful! Every day it’s different. Now it is late autumn, almost winter though there is no snow. It’s raining and there is fog in the mountains, clusters of water vapor hugging the mountain tops and seated in between the tops of the evergreens.
The deciduous trees have turned brown and their leaves are mostly gone. There are swatches of yellow and brown leaves still on the branches in some places. The broad fields along the sides of the roads are gloriously yellow, shining bright even in the gray light of a rainy day. Brilliant, striking yellow, as in an Andrew Wyeth painting.
A few months before the same fields were bright green, glowing in the bath of sunshine of the long summer Vermont days. The extreme changes of the seasons in the northern latitudes, as well as the daily changes of weather, make it a sure thing that every day is different. It is constant, dramatic change, the ongoing pageantry of nature.
The changes of season in Vermont are steep, from the depth of winter to the height of summer, from cold, interminably long nights, to the nearly endless days around the summer solstice.
At the end of winter the icy rivers and frozen waterfalls thaw. The melting snow turns to liquid that pours across the landscape toward the rivers, preparing the ground for the prodigious growth of vegetation that comes roaring back in the spring.
It’s a never-ending spectacle. I see how it is possible for people who live close to the earth to stay in one place all their lives and never have to go anywhere because so many changes are taking place constantly before their eyes. The changes are right there in front of us, if we look, that is.
I find that traveling helps me to see the beauty of my own familiar territory. When I go on a trip I get into the mode of looking at things with the idea that everything is new and I will only be able to see it for a short time. It is a special time set aside to experience as much of a new place as I can in the time I am there.
When I go home again I often find that I have forgotten to adjust my habits of thinking back to the belief that it’s all the same old stuff, and why bother looking because there is nothing new. Without being conscious of it I am still looking at things as if everything was new. And because I am looking at things as if they were new to me, I see them as new. I see new things and new aspects of familiar things I never noticed before.
Sometimes when I am fresh from a trip I can briefly experience the realization that the world really is different every day. Every day is a new world. The idea that things are the same every day, that each day just starts over again in the morning, is just an idea. And it’s not true. When that idea has been suspended by the experience of travel, then you realize that things really are new every day. There are endless aspects of things to observe even in your own familiar environment.
I find that when I travel to an exotic place where the wildlife is spectacular, like Costa Rica, or where the natural environment is mindbending, like Iguazu Falls, it heightens my appreciation of my own home, of the familiar places where I walk and drive every day, humble places that are not tourist attractions, do not appear in tourist brochures and often don’t even have names.
I feel extraordinarily grateful for having been able to travel to so many places, many more than I could have ever expected to. I believe that traveling has so often put me in that mood of receptivity to the new that the attitude has soaked deeply into me and permeated my behaviors. When I am home I find myself still observing the world as if I am a visitor, just passing through for a short time.
And isn’t that what we all are really, visitors just passing through for a short time? Whether you live 25 years or 100, it’s just a flash in the perspective of history. It goes by quickly, far too quickly. We are all just visitors, travelers on this earth. We are only here for a while.
So the traveler’s point of view is really appropriate throughout life, not just when one is officially taking a trip.
And so on that note I wish you happy travels, And until we meet again,
Your Humble Reporter,
A. Colin Treadwell