Since my quintessential experience exploring San Francisco — balancing my hometown of Philadelphia across the country — every new city has offered its own special charm.
Boston, Paradise Island, Spain and More
In Boston, the path along the Charles River invited walkers and bikers to gather and chat in outdoor glory. The astounding constellation of museums in Washington, D.C., filled each day with artful education while Georgetown’s collection of cozy restaurants and shops animated an easy-to-navigate college town. In Chicago, the towering architecture along The Magnificent Mile stretched the shape of another world-class
On another trip to New York, the pulsing street life and international flavors at Rockefeller Center were guaranteed energizers. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor welcomed families marveling at the glass-enclosed aquarium, creating the sensation of becoming part of a colorful fish underworld.
In San Diego, the zoo provided an unforgettable proximity to pandas napping on tree branches in one of the largest-scale animal sanctuaries in the nation. During a trip to Florida, roller bladders whizzed around South Beach, artists sketched portraits on easels, and outdoor cafes lit up a vibrant nightlife.
Further afield in the Bahamas’ Paradise Island, a female taxi driver shared stories about universal dating woes. A German roommate at the island’s Club Med facility provided enlightenment about her country’s paid vacation policy for a minimum of four weeks. As American oglers openly gaped at various shapes and sizes on the island’s pristine beach, European’s ease with “natural” sunbathing was testimony to their nonchalant body comfort.
Satisfying a growing appetite for travel, the quaint streets lined with used bookstores and antique shops in Nottingham, England, delivered a small village’s walk back in time. An international literary festival in Hay-on-Wye reinforced the belief in the power of words to forge — or break — universal connections. In the emerald-green fields of Wales, sheep roamed freely while massive castles transported visitors to another century.
In Costa del Sol, Spain, elderly women sweeping steps energetically and tending flowerpots meticulously offered insight about a beneficial lifestyle for longevity. Two-person boats with foot pedals, operated like a bicycle in the Mediterranean, offered a thrill for even the most entrenched landlubber. During late-night performances in venues along the city’s central balustrade, Flamenco dancers clicked their heels
proudly — asserting the culture’s spirit.
Vivid Snapshots of Extraordinary Places
Decades later, each of these vivid snapshots of extraordinary places — around the country and world — continue to provide a bright moment on a dreary day. Although these trips involved a certain degree of inconvenience away from the security, familiarity and comfort of home, they have added multicolor layers to an otherwise one-dimensional understanding of the world.
Years ago, others’ obsessive talk about travel was a mysterious fascination. Before visiting a new city, people and places appeared basically the same.
But that was a grave misperception.
Common Experiences and Views of the World
We may all have common experiences involving families, jobs, love, loss, joy and aging. But our cultural heritage, the way we live and our view of the world — from the spot we happened to land or choose to live — varies substantially.
Surely, waking up every day along a coastline with the sound of water serenading the rhythms of a day has to impact one’s outlook and attitudes. For cultures that value the importance of vacation time —and the health of employees — the drive for nonstop work and wealth must assume different proportions.
In cities and countries where residents from many backgrounds have settled, a level of tolerating differences — or at least a necessary effort in that direction — emerges, even on the surface, out of sheer necessity.
Although nesting in the comfort of our own home is often easier, cheaper and simpler, traveling to new places invites us to stretch both our physical and mental boundaries. Despite some initial discomforts, perhaps accidentally bumping an unfamiliar leg in a small space, at the start of a trip, is the first step toward enlarging our experiences — and bursting each other’s protective bubble.
Bon voyage! Send us a postcard, and post a comment to share your travel experiences….
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