Backyard Travel

A moment on the streets of Cork City

A few weeks ago it became clear that, financially, I would not be able to travel this coming Spring/Summer. This left me with much sadness and an itch I haven’t been able to ignore. You know, the travel itch? The feeling of wanting to leave your valley or city or known patterns and shoot out into the freshness of the wide world? Yes, that itch.

All of this got me thinking. What is it that I love about traveling?

-Meeting new people
-Experiencing new places and cultures
-Being out of my normal routine
-Feeling in “the flow”. It’s a place where resistance is minimal and adventure is always around the corner.

Ultimately, what I love is how I feel when I travel. I still get stressed, but it doesn’t sit on me like a fog. Instead it blows through. I mean how can I be stressed when an old Irish man is speaking to me in almost unintelligible English and laughing at my American seriousness? Or when a wild haired immigrant in Sweden tells me I have an open heart while driving an open-aired city vehicle?

You never know who you’ll meet (Times Square, Manhattan)

I’ve been figuring for awhile now that it’s possible to be in “the flow” while being at home, going to work, and living day to day life. And it seems to me that staying home this summer is a perfect opportunity to practice the gift of traveling in my very own backyard.

Last weekend I woke up slightly depressed. Instead of sinking into it I did something different. I said over and over to myself that adventure, love, and magic were coming to me all the time and all I had to do was pay attention and let it happen. The following ensued:

-I went to get coffee at Starbucks. It took forever to make it through the drive-through. Pain in the ass, right? Wrong – I got a free coffee. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been through there, that’s never happened.

-Breakfast at Grand Central Bakery. Placed my order and 10 minutes later got called up. No more biscuits, have to wait another 10 minutes, is that okay and would you like a pastry while you wait? Why yes, I would!

-Rhythm Festival Seattle. Doun Doun Drumming class followed by a Samba Reggae dance class with live drummers = grinning ear to ear for at least an hour afterwards.

-Movie at $3 theater in Shoreline with friends. Here I discovered that across the street is a very kind Puerto Rican man who works at the 711. He was playing fun Latin grooves over the loudspeaker in the store as well as through outside speakers thereby broadcasting music into the streets. Speaking with him reminded me of how friendly the majority of people are outside of America. I encountered that all the time while traveling and it doesn’t happen often in the US.

These may seem like small things to you, and perhaps they are, but put together, all in one day, reminded me of what it is like to travel. And this made me incredibly happy. While I know that I’ll travel soon (plans for Brazil in January and Europe next Spring) I’ve decided that there’s no need to pine while staying home. I’ll travel here!

Sitting on a book bench – Duvall, WA

Here’s my plan: To rediscover my own hometown area. I’ve got a good start. A friend of mine shared a secret but not so secret walking place that I love. I’ve been going to Jazz Jams in Seattle at a Brazilian bar called Paratii. I borrowed an accordion from a local farmer and ended up having drinks and dinner with them afterwards. Little adventures, everyday, fill my heart. They also help me perceive my hometown differently, with fresh eyes, with the eyes of a traveler.

Any suggestions for fun things to do where I live? Has anyone else done this before? Share your thoughts below!

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13 Responses to Backyard Travel

  1. DeAnna says:

    I lived on Capitol Hill for almost a year, and I never stopped having those amazing experiences that happen so often when you travel. Mostly awesome interactions with homeless folks, but lots and lots of synchronicity in all sorts of ways. Of course, it also often had that sense of strangeness and discomfort that I feel when traveling too. What are the customs and expectations here? What if this homeless person is actually setting me up for a mugging? How do I tell if this divey looking bar is the awesome kind or the actually just divey kind?

    But mostly, every time I went outside and walked down the street something awesome happened. I was introduced to a whole new kind of music that I’d never heard anywhere else at Top Pot Donuts. This flamingly queer couple handed me a paper cup of hot chocolate and peppermint Schnapps as I walked by on the sidewalk during the first snow of the season. A haggard looking man with broken teeth lit up when he saw me on the sidewalk and (as he passed by in a harmless lope) told me that God had sure got something right when he created an angel like me. A murder of crows flapped along behind an old woman in a cream-colored Karmen Ghia, landing on the car and on the antenna, screaming and trying to hold on as she drove down the alley. A stranger handed me a baby robin, asking if I knew what to do with it.

    I think the secret (as with so many things), is just to go outside and wander around. Thanks for reminding me 🙂

  2. Christina says:

    Wanna hang out with me at the 3rd and Pine bus stop? I could watch people go by for hours. I especially love people watching at places of transition – airports, bus stops, train stations – or city plazas. Downtown Seattle’s travel hubs are at least as interesting as any I’ve found abroad. The last time I returned to Seattle (from Texas), Cory and I missed our bus and spent half an hour surrounded by the hustle and bustle. Favorite character – homeless man in an ankle length fur coat, on a very warm sunny day. I swore I would visit downtown at least once a month with the purpose of doing absolutely nothing but let my senses take it in. I would love for you to join me.

    I also LOVE to walk and wander. Something I do when traveling, and something that keeps me sane when at home. Turning when tickled by the urge to turn. Popping into a cafe on a whim. Exploring a new neighborhood or bringing fresh eyes on an old path. Even better if you get lost.

    When Cory and I decided to stay in Seattle awhile longer, I swore I’d ride the ferry at least once a month. Thirty minutes of being stuck in time – no rushing, no hurry. You’ll get there when you get there, and while you wait you are surrounded by some of the most beautiful views the PNW has to offer. And if that’s not enough, there are islands to explore at the end of the ride.

    You wanna dance? Zumba, Community Fitness. this Friday at noon. Saucy Argentinian teacher makes it really fun. Let me know, or call me when you go to Afrobrazilian…

    Love your post, as always.

  3. Thank you for sharing Kat. When I was in the Navy through when we had young children we traveled a good deal. Having a house, medical expenses and two adult children who still need help financially curtailed our traveling.
    I find all the rain during the winters here to be my greatest challenge. I am so grateful for all the adventures that my garden provides and the common bond it provides for our family. I also restarted piano lessons last fall which gives me a healthy indoor activity that I enjoy.
    Just recently, I started working at Emerald Downs, the racetrack. Meeting interesting people and the excitement of the races in addition to some extra cash was a great way to change things up. I can be happy where I am now.

  4. Fiona Clark says:

    Hey Kat, and if your budget will get you to Tucson, we do have a guest room 🙂

  5. julie says:

    Nothing like being a tourist in your own city! Great post. I will try to follow the same practice this summer since i am unable to travel due to work. Nice pic of you on the book bench btw. 😉

  6. Fiona Clark says:

    When I was still living in London, I came back from an extended trip overseas feeling a little down to be home — untill I had the bright idea of pretending that London was a new city to me. So I went and did all the tourist stuff again — museums, the Abbey, the Tower, wandered in Camden Market, etc. I had an amazing time and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the city. I really think it’s a fab thing to do every few years, since familiarity really does seem to blind us to the wonders that brought us to live in a particular area in the first place.

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