It’s been a year now.
After years and years of miles and miles (pun intended), I’ve spent twelve months pretty much staying put. It wasn’t that bad at all. Because the common thread, at least to me, was curiosity. And curiosity, properly applied, is just as powerful at home as it is halfway across the world.
Like most people, I travelled for business, and for pleasure. Often a little of both. But what I liked when I travelled was being out of the comfort zone. Different food. Different languages. Different traffic laws. Funny accents. Different ideas of personal space. Different views of history and current events. It was the ability to adapt, or utter failure to do so, that I found exciting. How to sit on the floor and eat from a common giant platter in Wadi Rumm- left hand only please! How to explain in Spanglish that exfoliating skin with snail mucus in Peru would eventually require a wheelchair. How to not take your eye out with a boomerang in Brisbane. How to order a Bento box in Kamakura when every item is strictly detailed in the menu- and you want some from this and some from that. How to explain why you have a Saudi chama card, yet you forgot to use it on the way into the country and should not be detained on the way out of Riyadh. How to manage when your travel buddy mentions, rather casually upon ascent of Huayna Picchu, that she may be afraid of heights. How to use sign language in scuba gear to signal the bull shark behind your dive partner wants the hogfish he just shot.
I could go on. Actually, I’m often warned I do go on, so I won’t now. One gets the picture. Travel, to me, should not be a bucket list of ticking countries off the list- Facebook has an annoying app for that. Travel is not enjoyed by the number of breaths you take in a list of countries. Travel is the number of places where the experiences you have there take your breath away, or at the very least make you smile.
Travel is vapid without a certain amount of curiosity. Amazing how the same applies for staying home. 2020 sure took our breath away, but not as we expected.
I remember the March address from the Oval Office as we packed for France… I am hereby suspending travel to and from Europe, but except the UK as is not part of Europe here… And our worlds changed then and there, as Covid forced upon us a discovery in our own little worlds. (It was announced as a month, but I thought at the time it was just marketing language, an easier way for us to swallow the quarantine a little at time). And so the new adventure began, in a smaller world, but with plenty of stories to tell.
Our mental and physical health became an immediate source of curiosity and challenge. First off, for those with pre-existing conditions, it seemed terribly scary to even venture outside of the covers. Literally, a challenge for how to feed and maintain oneself while sheltering in place. For the rest of us, gyms were closed, while pizza and booze were only two taps away with deliveries. That’s a temptation if there ever was one, a lethal combination for a quarantine diet, and the challenge became how to avoid the “quarantine fifteen”. The best answer to counteract that seemed to be Peleton, Mirror, long walks and swimming (alone). But not everyone has those, or enjoys that.
Our homes became curious places of challenge as well. Can you cook and clean for everyone in your bubble three times a day, seven days a week? And if you can, what would you make them and where would you get it? How fast did you learn that the only Prime delivery slots had to be booked at midnight because by 12:05 they were all taken for the day. How great is discovering a karaoke box when dinner is over- and the puzzle you ordered is just to hard to finish. How important was balancing wifi once kids and parents were all trying to work from the same bandwidth. How grateful were country folk for a little yard, or a beach, or a neighborhood to walk in. And how boxed in were city folk who had none of that- plus the constant sirens. How many more coyotes – and less little yappy dogs- were out once the food chain was disrupted by empty restaurant dumpsters. How interesting is the disrupted paper supply- towels and toilet- once we quit spending 50% of our waking hours to, from or at an office. And what interesting things happen to our hair when salons are closed- or only half open.
Our bubbles became tighter, by edict or necessity. Meeting new friends, or being out socializing with old, was virtually eliminated. Family gatherings were curtailed as well, and I realized that a lot of what makes the holidays special is about getting together with family. When a family member is older, the table setting gets smaller, and it’s a hard challenge to engineer around that. The one solution became zoom, for friends, grandparents, and anyone else that couldn’t be there in person for a hug. The lack of options, for healthy eating, a vibrant community, and healthy activities was brutal on mental health, and still is. It was painful to watch as my friends were buffeted, and succumbed, to these winds.
So whether you’re traveling this year, or planning a tight bubble close to home, stay curious. Even in your own backyard. Don’t just measure your adventures by the number of breaths you take, measure the number of times your breath is taken away.