Foreign travel right in our backyards
I feel the frozen ground break beneath my feet. The leaves, which have fallen off the trees a months ago, are bonded to the earth with a thin layer of ice.
It is cold. There is no snow on the ground. It is absolutely beautiful.
Recently a friend of mine traveled to East Africa for business but he might tell you it was mostly for pleasure. Recently I attended a slide show put on by Tahoe locals who traveled to Pakistan this past summer to climb Trango Tower, but the might tell you climbing wasn’t the only reason they went.
Why do we travel? The skiers, the snow-boarders, and the people depending on the snowfall for their winter income are waiting patiently for the snow to fly. Others may be daydreaming about a distant land, a place to get out of the cold for a while, perhaps Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean.
Receiving emails from Kenya and Tanzania from a person so passionate about their people, their culture, and their politics, I feel the enthusiasm that travel brings through his words; words that make me ache for travel. Photographs of children and familiar faces mingling with locals in Pakistan do the same.
Why can’t I travel? I sit not bound to the vagabond ways of life I have been used to but instead to my computer.
Transitions. Graduating with a degree in adventure education, I suppose I hadn’t put into perspective the last three months of my college career behind this glowing box.
I’m used to constantly moving from one place to another, climbing, backpacking, learning about the natural and cultural history of the Southwest, of Ecuador, the Grand Canyon, the California desert, and sleeping an average of four nights under a roof in five months. Now I sit behind a computer.
The stables are emptied out for winter. Impelling myself to get outside for some exercise, I am brought to awareness. The awareness of my senses, the sounds, the cold wind against my cheeks, the smell of damp, dead grass, and the sight of a stable I drive by everyday, but have never seen from this angle. I usually change it up by running or biking three of the four different trails that leads up into the woods behind my house, but today for some reason I decide to hike the horse trail, a trail I have never been on before.
Perhaps we travel because we want to explore the unknown. And that’s when I realized one doesn’t need to journey thousands of miles to travel. I was not even two miles from my house but I was exploring unknown territory, territory that my feet hadn’t touched.
Treading down a timber lined rocky trail, jumping over frozen streams, I giggle to myself as I reach an open meadow. Youth penetrates my body as I feel the desire to run freely over the exposed terrain. Before I know it, I am off the trail being reminded of what I love, exploration.
Moving up the mountain, pushing branches away from my face, everything looks different from this angle. The alpine valley, the Truckee River corridor, the chairlifts of Squaw Valley in the distance. Granite peaks are slightly dusted with snow flurries that have begun to fall.
I discover what used to be an old ski resort. Other then the obvious clear-cut slopes, cement slabs that once held chairlift towers are all that remain. I know of this hill, can see it from the road, but never bothered to place my own two feet on the soil. I enjoy the landscape so much more this way. I pick out the route I’m going to ski once the ground is covered with snow.
While I imagine my friend experiencing zebras, rhinos, lions, and hyenas in Serengeti, I have my own foreign experience mulling over pine-beetle infested trees, coyote feces, and signs of bears digging in the dirt.
I may not have the pleasure of meeting indigenous Masai, but maybe I will run into an unfamiliar neighbor as I skip up the street back to my house. I can travel.
The only factor urging me to return home, besides the fading light, is the desire to reach for my travel journal and write about my discoveries.
So if you’re waiting for the snow to fall, or you’re thinking of taking a trip, try foreign travel in your own ‘backyard.’ If you’re anything like me you might be surprised how liberating it can be (need I mention how cheap too?)
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