So, it’s spring, the weather is beautiful, and I’m out of work, or more likely on vacation until recalled. Meanwhile, of course, I’m free as the air, and the world is full of possibility. Could there be any better time for a road trip?
I don’t plan on an extended road trip (though I’d love one), as I have to be more or less in the area for interviews, but there’s lots to see within a 200-mile radius of San Francisco. In fact, there’s lots to see almost anywhere, if you’re just willing to look; but that’s another matter.
The rules for exploring, as opposed to touring, are pretty simple: you choose a byway, you get in the car, and you start exploring. Along the way, you may discover little cabins by the wayside, make a detour to Great America, or whatever else you may find…but you may not intend to go somewhere, as in “I’ll drive down to Santa Cruz, have lunch in the Crow’s Nest, hang out on the Boardwalk, go walking at Natural Bridges, and then go down to the Monterey Aquarium.” That’s not exploring, that’s touring.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with touring, but I’ve always felt it was uncomfortably close to working–fit in these elements one after another, boom boom boom boom boom. The wonder of exploring is the spontaneity–getting lost, finding something interesting and spending hours or days engaged with it without looking at the clock. It’s not that different from creative craftwork–going down a byway and exploring what happens if. Eventually, of course, you wind up somewhere, and if you’re lucky it’s an interesting somewhere–but exploration has always struck me as much more fun than touring. This is one of the reasons I don’t believe in following patterns. To me, following patterns gets you to your destination, but you miss the many fascinating possibilities along the way.
An excerpt from The Phantom Tollbooth, as Milo and Alec enter the (invisible) city of Reality:
“It’s really a very pleasant city,” said Alec as he strolled down the street, pointing out several of the sights, which didn’t seem to be there, and tipping his cap to the passers-by. There were great crowds of people rushing along with their heads down, and they all appeared to know exactly where they were going as they darted down and around the nonexistent streets and in and out of the missing buildings.
“I don’t see any city,” said Milo very softly.
“Neither do they,” Alec remarked sadly, “but it hardly matters, for they don’t miss it at all.”
…Everyone knew that the most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that. Then one day someone discovered that if you walked as fast as possible and looked at nothing but your shoes you would arrive at your destination much more quickly. Soon everyone was doing it. They all rushed down the avenues and hurried along the boulevards seeing nothing of the wonders and beauties of their city as they went.
No one paid any attention to how things looked, and as they moved faster and faster everything grew uglier and dirtier, and as everything grew uglier and dirtier they moved faster and faster, and at last a very strange thing began to happen. Because nobody cared, the city slowly began to disappear. Day by day the buildings grew fainter and fainter, and the streets faded away, until at last it was entirely invisible. There was nothing to see at all.
So, and so: there’s something to be said for being purposeful–as they say, if you walk as fast as you can and look only at your shoes, you get there faster–but you miss a lot along the way.
I’m of mixed opinion about travel. My housemate is going off for a week in Thailand sometime in the next few months, and asked me what she should see. Well, with only a week in Thailand, she doesn’t really have time to explore…so she’s spending a day in Bangkok, flying to Chiang Mai for two days, flying to Angkor Wat (in Cambodia) for a day touring the ruins, and then hitting one or two more sites before flying back. A perfectly logical itinerary for someone who’s only got a week to see everything, but…
…something in me just cries out against that kind of one-two-three travel. I’d rather take two weeks and explore a little bit of Costa Rica–going out, wandering to towns, taking the bus, and enjoying the slow time of Third World travel–and see less, than spend two weeks hopping on planes and “seeing” the “best” spots, one after another. I think I’d see less and experience more.
But, that’s me. And I have to admit, if I had only a week to see Southeast Asia, I’d be hard-pressed not to do the same thing. But I think it’s missing something.
Along those lines, I’m going to see a career coach on Monday…and going in for career counseling, since Openwave’s paying for it. I feel like I’m stagnating–my occupation (project management) really isn’t challenging me anymore, and I see very little point focusing on my destination, the top of the ladder, when I really don’t care what’s there. so I’m talking to a career coach to see if we can find a direction that’s better for me–where I can enjoy the journey rather than constantly looking at the destination. I think there are some obvious directions for us to go, but, well…we’ll see on Monday.
I’m going to put together a c.v. for him this weekend, just to give him the idea of the twists and turns of my life so far. I imagine it should be quite interesting (she said wickedly).
Tomorrow I am also going off (perhaps to explore the city?) with my Tibetan friend, who was the one who guided me around Dharamsala. She got to the U.S. about a year ago, and is working as a live-in assistant to an elderly mother-daughter couple. It’s been pretty interesting listening to her perspective on the U.S.–it’s funny, because it’s almost exactly like listening to all the stuff I thought was weird about India.