Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Off The Beaten, Well-traveled Track

His email exploded with enthusiasm. And I believe in him, that he meant every word to the core of his soul.

     “This is what makes this trip different to the 100's of other emails you probably get; I'm 
     looking for a real adventure, something pure and truly "off the beaten track".

An off-the-beaten-path taken from a highway.
There is a lot of truth in his statement.

His trip is different – can adventures ever really be duplicated even if you follow a fairly well traveled path. The weather, the people met along that path, the food, the way our perception takes it all in, will never duplicate exactly what another has, even what we have, experienced in the past.

Real adventure, that’s the pure essence of what we go searching for. To do something atypical, to have to work a bit for it, to get greater reward than what we put in, to get the shit scared out of us just a little. And to come home with a story worthy of the rapt attention of everyone around the campfire, so focused on our every word that they forget to sip the beer slowly warming in their hands.

Purity. Free of the hassles and clutter most of the rest of the world bring with them when they travel. Like the lady at airport security who turned back to check her bag when she was told her three quart-sized baggies of mini bottles of shampoos and lotions and important salves of some sort or another was over the one-baggie limit rather than lose them even if it meant being late to the gate where her flight was departing. The simplicity of letting go of our comforts and embracing what another place and culture has to offer. It’s a beautiful way to travel, to get outside ourselves.

It’s also true, that I get hundreds of emails requesting sponsorship for people’s amazing and life changing adventure plans. Its part of my job, and I find it fairly entertaining, if not only a way to feel productive by sending massive “no’s” out and in a big lump, emptying out my inbox.

But going “off the beaten track” and being different from the 100’s of other ideas that are out there? In this world where community is global, where people in the most remote places have access to cell phones and internet, where for the right amount of cash you can go anywhere – is there really any place truly off the beaten track at this point? Or is off the beaten track simply a blanket description for places your friends and parents never have and may never want to travel to? And when it comes down to it, the likelihood that no one has come up with your “unique” free flying, low budget, no-guidebook idea is pretty unlikely – someone probably set out with that same travel itinterary yesterday. You’ve been scooped.

But it doesn’t really matter. What is it behind our incessant need to be the first, be different, push the boundaries past the guy who did it last time, find the new thing/people/place, have the experience NO ONE else has had? Your trip to the local farmers market could be just as entertaining and interesting as that guy over there who’s telling a story of narrowly escaping attacks by wild monkeys throwing green bananas. Are we trying so damn hard to be different simply because we cant tell a good story about what’s already around us without the extremes found off the beaten path? Am I trying so goddamn hard to climb as hard as I can simply to tell a good story around the kitchen table, when in reality, the story I want to tell is about the 5.2 I followed with a good friend in a beautiful place? A place that we accessed by well beaten trail (most of the way) and by shuttle boat ride that to arrange required we talk to at least 3 people, in our own language, without having to mime what we wanted in a goofy game of charades that we would’ve had to play in a truly exotic place where there is no book on how to learn the local language and for $15 allowed us to skip a grueling “character-making” bit of trail?

When is the last time you read a book or heard a story (not on TV) that grabbed you at the core, left you breathless with anticipation, and made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end? That made you laugh so hard that you started hyperventilating and could barely muster enough body control to grab hold of your aching sides to keep them from splitting wide open? That moved you so much that you wanted to reach across a table or into the book to touch the hand of the storyteller, give it a squeeze, offer a tissue with hand that would then wipe away your own tears.

I’m not saying we should stay on the couch forever doing nothing because its ALL been done before, so whats the point of anything. But maybe… Maybe its not so much about being needing to be different, to be extreme to be recognized and to have people want to hear our stories, but to be able to tell a good story about whatever, wherever and whomever is important to us; a walk in the park or a walk on the wild side.