Scratching the surface of adventure

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  And you don’t care.  Because the best places to visit rarely fall on that path.

Road trips can be awesome.  You stare at a map and dream; and while you may need, or desire, to get to a specific destination, the route you take can be as circuitous as time and money allow. 

The western United States contain a plethora of exciting locations:  National Parks, Monuments, cultural sites, historic sites, forests, wilderness areas, mountains, rivers, deserts, beaches – and that’s just the Federal lands; throw in state and local areas and there’s a lot to choose from!  Plus, if you’re blessed with family and friends, the opportunities can be almost overwhelming.

The past couple weeks have been awesome.  Sharing with family and friends, attending a rally, hiking new trails, playing the tourist, listening to great music, viewing beautiful art, deepening my knowledge of native cultures, meeting new people.  And this trip isn’t close to being over.

Yet with all I’ve done in a relatively short time, there is a nagging frustration; a feeling that I’ve just scratched the surface of the opportunities available to me.  In almost every place I’ve been, I’ve wanted to stay longer and explore more before moving on.

There is a temptation to constantly hurry, to tick off items on a list since I don’t know when I might be back this way again.  Perhaps instead of trying to do everything, the best thing might be to do less and savior that which I do more.  Which would make perfect sense if I didn’t keep hearing the voice of Robert Service in my head.

  To scorn all strife, and to view all life
    With the curious eyes of a child; 
  From the plangent sea to the prairie, 
    From the slum to the heart of the Wild.
  From the red-rimmed star to the speck of sand,
    From the vast to the greatly small;
  For I know that the whole for good is planned,
    And I want to see it all.

       (From ‘A Rolling Stone‘ by Robert Service)

Cartoonist Nick Seluk of ‘The Awkward Yeti‘ and ‘Heart and Brain‘ has an insightful cartoon dealing with this dilemna.  There will always be more to do and see than one can do, and that’s a good thing.  It means boredom is a state of mind, a result of our own narrow focus and limitations.  As a person matures as a traveler or an explorer there is a realization that visiting someplace once may not be enough.  My wife and I try to attend the opera in Santa Fe each year.  People ask why not go someplace else instead?  My response is: “have you ever been to Santa Fe?”  There is always new music, new art and exhibits, new restaurants, hikes we haven’t done, and that doesn’t include seeing something for a second or third time and discovering something we hadn’t noticed before. We never tire of the place and always want to stay longer.

A simple analogy can be found in wine tasting.  Why taste a 2017 vintage if you have already tasted the 2016?  The answer is obvious to any wine connoisseur: each vintage is different.  The same can be said for visiting a place in different seasons.  It’s enlightening to hike a trail in each season.  For those who have done this, you know you are hiking a ‘different’ trail; familiar, but not the same.  (And am I the only one who sees more on a trail the second time I hike it?)

Back to my road trip.  I try to assuage some of the frustrations I’m feeling by ‘wanting to see it all’ by telling myself this is just a ‘sampler’ trip.  I can take the knowledge gained on this adventure and plan more focused trips for the future.  Sure I’m rationalizing, but it helps me cope.  For while my heart wants to see it all, my brain also reminds me of another poem by Robert Service: “The Land of Beyond”.

  Have you ever heard of the Land of Beyond,
    That dream at the gates of the day?
  Alluring it lies at the skirts of the skies,
    And ever so far away;
  Alluring it calls: O ye yoke of galls,
    And ye of the trails overfond,
  With saddle and pack, by paddle and track,
    Let’s go to the Land of Beyond!

  Have ever you stood where the silences brood,
    And vast the horizons begin,
  At the dawn of the day to behold far away
    The goal you would strive for and win?
  Yet ah! in the night when you gain to the height,
    With the vast pool of heaven star-spawned,
  Afar and agleam, like a valley of dream,
    Still mocks you the Land of Beyond.

  Thank God! there is always the Land of Beyond
    For us who are true to the trail;
  A vision to seek, a beckoning peak,
    A fairness that never will fail;
  A proud in our soul that mocks at a goal,
    A manhood that irks at a bond,
  And try how we will, unattainable still,
    Behold it, our Land of Beyond!

One thought on “Scratching the surface of adventure

  1. Nicely written, thanks for sharing.
    I yearn to explore the world close to me, with barely an interest in anything requiring a car or plane to get to. This has enabled me to really see Oregon, every little part of it!


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