Lessons Learned

I know, I know. Lessons Learned? Really?

Allow me to extend a sincere apology for the prosaic title, but despite wracking my brain for an ‘oh, so clever’ title I’m coming up empty-handed.

But looking back at the week and what I’ve accomplished thus far, I’m excited at what the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project has given me – a desire to write even when I feel like I have nothing to say. It’s broken through my preconceived notion of how creativity flows and has allowed me to simply write (NB: although I would still like to acknowledge that sometimes creativity can be an otherworldly force that reveals itself to the writer/artist/musician/etc.).

So here’s to pure, unadulterated writing…

Day 8: Love Learning

Travel and learning go hand in hand. Travel teaches us not only about the world and the people in it, but also more about ourselves and our own ideas and values. What has travel taught you this year?

The beauty of travel is that it’s impact can be felt long after you’ve come home, unpacked your bag and resumed your daily life. Sure you learn things along the way like “Wow, those 7 semesters of college French paid off!” or “So that’s what Napoleon’s horse looks like stuffed.” and most importantly, “No matter how many times I eat a Filet o’ Fish and an ice cream sundae, I will get sick.” But over the years I’ve found it’s what you learn about yourself in the process that imprints the travel experience permanently on your life.

This year has been no exception. Although, I will admit I have [in years past] felt that true lessons and life-changing moments could only occur with international travel. It’s as though getting out of your daily life and immersing yourself in a drastically different culture, language and time zone is more life-altering than hitting the road and traveling to Orange County, California (and I say that as not to offend, I grew up there, so I get a hall pass). However, I am happy to report I was incorrect and that the teachings of travel can strike whenever and wherever they want. As long as you have an open heart and mind.

This past summer as I was conquering fear in the rugged terrain of the White Mountains, staring out over the Great Gulf Wilderness I felt the seismic shift in self-awareness, a sensation previously reserved for international trips. It was a sense of peace and awe over what spread out before me, hundreds of miles of forest, blanketing the canyon like little broccoli florets. It was in that moment I knew what truly made me happy.

Nature.

Yes, I work in New York City and love the energy the city emits. I also love how it attracts individuals from all walks of life. I’ve always felt that there are a million and one different personality types in the city and no matter who you are or what you’re interested in, you can find a compadre. However, I never truly feel at home there. But when I’m in the mountains or bobbing in the surf, everything is as it should be. Only months later, as I was reading “The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World” that I better understood what I was experiencing.

The naturalist E.O. Wilson gave a name to this warm, fuzzy feeling I was experiencing: biophilia. He defined it as “the innately, emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms.”

Over drinks recently, I explained my epiphany to my friend (and fellow NH hiker). He gave me a knowing look and silently nodded in agreement. He knew exactly how I felt. While we had both crossed the ridge at different points, a shared love of nature and those moments of vitality is what we both took away from the mountain.

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