I’ve been travelling about a bit lately. I’ve seen mountains and rivers, cities and people, and it all seems quite exotic and beautiful. I’ve met unusual characters who seem to have it easy as well as those who seem a little more hard done by. I’ve basked in the sunshine and watched the world from a tourist’s perspective. I’ve spent more than I should and eaten badly. I’ve experienced strange cultural differences and heard new languages and I like to think I’ve learned new things…. And I’ve done all this without going more than 50 miles from my house.
Really, I haven’t been more than a hop and a skip from home for months now. It’s not that I don’t feel the urge to travel, it’s just that I’ve not needed to. I would love to leave it all behind but that’s never how it ends up is it? The trouble is that wherever you go to get away from it all, you always take yourself with you. You might leave behind the friendly and local in exchange for the foreign and exotic, but surely that just means that coming home feels even more flat and boring than when you left it?
Alain de Botton sums it up quite nicely in The Art of Travel:
“The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.
If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.”
I’ve always believed that one person’s local is another person’s exotic. Beauty is just bleakness but with a different attitude or with different weather. This is hard to see when faced with the same surroundings every day but home doesn’t have to be the thing that grinds you down and makes you want to escape to somewhere new.
No, I prefer to look at where I am and imagine what a tourist might see. What do I have on my own doorstep which would make someone else want to move here? I want to see what is here that is interesting and exotic. I want to break the “habits and confinement” in which I’m rooted in order to enjoy what I can here on my doorstep. And surely I can make everything work better in this new-found exotic if it’s a place I know better than anywhere else in the world?
And this is why, as I look through albums of other people’s holiday snaps, I treasure the things I have here. I make the most of every little detail that can possibly enhance the life I have. For me, the grass is greener here and I’m working hard on seeing all of it as often as I can.