By: Vincent Ventura
We were sitting on the wall near the Charles Bridge, when we became accidental eavesdroppers. In earshot, a bespectacled old man stops, a young man and woman in tow. They must be tourists based on the map in his hands, and the camera around her neck. The young lady begins to thank the gentleman for showing them around Prague and providing his wisdom as a resident of the city. The old man interrupts her though:
“Living in your favorite city is like eating your favorite ice cream flavor everyday.
Even though it’s your favorite, there is no way you can appreciate it like when you first tried it.
The only way you can fall in love again is to show someone else that thing you love. So, this is for me.”
Though I didn’t know his name, the bespectacled man’s words left a mark on me. The idea of the traveler has become synonymous with the completely foreign and the distant. To travel, we must be completely challenged in a far-off destination: if they don’t speak the language, the better. For the sake of argument, let’s take out the destination in travel. Take out the passports, packed bags, and the plane tickets. After all that, is there still a reason to travel? What is left?
The answer is the journey.
Seldom do we say we are travelers and then just move from Point A to Point B. We do not arrive in our destinations, touch our feet on foreign soil and say “Man, that was all worth it!” and then turn around and head back home. No, we travel to discover something new, and to be sponges, absorbing the culture around us. We travel for much more – we travel for another adventure and to learn something new.
I picture the bespectacled man by the Charles River. Although he lived in Prague, he was seeing the city with new eyes because he was sharing the experience with that young couple. For that moment in time, he was rediscovering and finding a new way to appreciate his favorite ice cream flavor as if it were new again.
When the emphasis is no longer on the destination, the oxymoron of the “local traveler” becomes a lot more logical. To paraphrase the old cliché, destinations do not make travelers, but the journeys. If journeys focus on new experiences, it is then always possible to travel – you just need to be open to it and to learning something new. We are constantly changing as individuals and so are the places we travel to. Human beings and places are variables, not constants. Even though we may live somewhere, or return somewhere time and time again, we can choose to accept our previous experience there or seek to add more experiences to the collection.
I encourage you to be a local traveler and to never become complacent, no matter where you find yourself in the world. From Rome to your hometown, take the opportunity to put yourself out there. Meet new people and try new things. There is culture everywhere. Find out the reasons people visit your area. What are the touristy things to do? If you haven’t done them, do them. I have lived 30 minutes outside New York City for the entirety of my life, and only went to the top of the Empire State Building last year. If someone is visiting you, find activities that you never had the opportunity to do. And do them together and together make new memories in old places. If you have the time, travel off the beaten path and uncover the unique, the special, and the weird. Learn to appreciate what makes your particular nook in the world special.
Above all, remember that travelers remain travelers no matter where they are in the world – even if that somewhere happens to be in their own backyard.
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