By Charlie Ketchum
As a full-time traveler, it’s been a challenge to define what our purpose is. Are we just wandering? Do we want to see all 50 states? All the beaches? All the national parks? Museums? Are we living to write a blog or writing the blog about what we’re living? Is a few days too short of a stay? Is a few months too long? If we stop for six months does that mean we aren’t travelers anymore? If we only stay a night, does that mean we’re missing seeing something important?
In the two years we’ve been traveling, we have tried it all. And we’ve enjoyed it all. Until we didn’t. The problem with living on vacation is that it’s EXHAUSTING. If you vacation like we did, the point was to see as much as you can in as short of a time as you can. Because in 2 weeks, you are back at your desk for the next six months or more. What happens when you don’t have to go home?
If you still try to see it all wherever you go, and stay everywhere you go for only a couple of weeks, it’s like the vacation that never ends. I can’t be the only one who has been glad to go home to take a break from vacation. (Many years ago, I read a book where people were tortured by a machine that gave them continual orgasms. While orgasms are great, without a break between them, they become torture….vacations are much the same).
In our two years of traveling we’ve done: museums, national landmarks, national parks, beaches, disc golf courses, tours, zoos, athletic events, casinos, wineries, breweries, distilleries, meaderies, restaurants, local bars, local festivals, roadside attractions, hiking and walking trails, and wildlife sanctuaries.
Here is my confession:
I have no regrets having skipped Yosemite in favor of touring the local wineries.
I would have been happy to skip seeing “nature” in Yellowstone with 50,000 other people if I could have spent the day reading a book and watching the river go by.
Museums can be really repetitive once you’ve seen a few. I have seen what an old box of saltines looked like. I have seen a wagon wheel, old cars, old signs and old clothes. Unless there’s something specific to the area, it’s not worth the time or money.
Why is nearly every historic site dedicated to where somebody killed somebody else? I have seen enough to know I no longer feel the need to see monuments of man’s inhumanity to man.
I don’t know Paleolithic from Jurassic. I’m okay with that.
I can spend all day watching animals and not get bored. Some of my most memorable moments were whale watching, dolphin watching, seeing whooping cranes, finding prairie dog colonies, riding in the car in the middle of a herd of bison, seeing deer walking through the park, and having wild horses in my campsite. Also, I was delighted by the roadrunners, hawks, hummingbirds, and finches who accompanied me on my walks in Tucson. (I have to admit, the spider museum in Santa Fe may have been a little more than I needed to see.)
I’m also fascinated by plant life. I enjoyed learning the types of cacti in the desert and the types of flowers and trees around us.
If it’s weird, off-the-wall or funky — count me in! It’s worth the effort to have experiences that challenge your perceptions.
For me, the point of traveling is to experience what there is to experience in the daily life of the community. While I won’t skip a truly funky roadside attraction, I learn more about the life in the area by walking down the sidewalk, checking out the local restaurants (the ones the locals go to), dropping in for a beer at a local bar or taproom, or attending a local festival or gathering.
Here is my resolution:
Plain and simple: Skip the “shoulds” and do what matters to me.
I can’t live on vacation, nor does that thought appeal to me. I want to live an itinerant life where I get to know places by immersing myself for a time in their culture. I am grateful to have such an opportunity.
(Also, I need to spend more time watching the river flow by and reading good books).
You can read more of Charlie’s articles on his blog, Wandering Toes.