LIKE MANY OTHER NEW NOMADS (newmads?) I started out with a bucket list of destinations. Well known places. Places on all the Must See Before You Die lists.
I took off from North Carolina, heading north and west, across the Appalachian Mountains, said Hi to a friend in Kentucky, continued onward into the Midwest, across the Mississippi, onto the Great Plains, to South Dakota where I would set up residency.
I took care of business in Rapid City, then, zoom, off I went to the Badlands, Wounded Knee, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Devil’s Tower, Little Big Horn, the Rockies, Glacier, Yellowstone, Tetons… Zoom zoom zoom, checking them off my mental list as if I were trying to pack it all into a two-week vacation.
Even a few years later, after the urgency faded, after I slowed down, my agenda was still based on connecting the dots between destinations. “Where do I want to be next?”
I had heard all about Slow Traveling. “Take your time, dude. See what’s along the way. Sit a spell. Stay a while.” But once in the driver’s seat… Um… It was like my hands on the wheel were conspiring with my feet on the gas and brake. “Don’t slow down, don’t turn off the route! Forward inertia must be maintained! Objects in motion stay in motion! Issac Newton said so!”
I must have inherited this sickness from my father. Our family trips were strictly destination oriented. Hurry, get to the relatives’ house, bypassing anything interesting — even if it was right by the highway.
I worked through all of the A-List and most of the B-List. I started repeating some of the better ones, the familiar ones, the ones where I knew what to expect. (I just got back from my fifth visit to Grand Canyon in nine years.)
“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.” —Kurt Vonnegut
Then, the other day, I watched a series of videos by a friend. He was exploring interesting, beautiful little places I had blown right past because I didn’t know they existed, or because their names made them seem insignificant. A county park… a nature trail… an overlook… the kind of places one discovers by slowing down, staying a while, asking around, or just plain old bothering to check things out.
Sublime places. Places of wonder and peace. A nook in the rocks. A tunnel of trees. Ripples in the sand. The flutter of golden leaves. The aroma of decaying vegetation. A swarm of butterflies. A stream so clear the fish seem to be drifting in air. Places that absorb you and take you away from ordinary life — even if your ordinary life is pretty good.
Oh, and some delightfully weird and amusing places, too.
The rest of life is like that, isn’t it? So often it’s the little moments between the big moments that we remember most fondly.