So you have spent years packing up your camera and jumping on a plane. Then a pandemic shut down borders killing travel plans overnight and you are not sure where your next story is going to come from. Where do you go for those sweet photos or that glorious content you had been able to churn out as fast as you could make it?
When was the last time you traveled where you live? Now you might say “Brad, I can’t travel where I live, I freaking live there. Quit asking dumb questions.”
Firstly, let me put it to bed that you can travel anywhere, even right around your own house. Now more than ever we can try local travel as locations begin to slowly re-open and we try to redefine how our lives look. I can personally attest to climbing the walls of isolation. I went a little bonkers when, almost overnight, the open doors of the world all slammed shut in my face at the same time. Trips I had saved for and planned years in advance to Iceland and Japan were taken from me and that loss was crippling to my creativity.
But the borders will re-open and we will resume adventuring, albeit with a little more caution. Until we are back to getting our passports stamped and trying to get a good night’s sleep in a horrible airplane seat, we can travel locally.
It is new for a lot of people because the cliche that “you never do anything where you live” is true more than ever. Some of the confusion comes from the image of travel that has been built up for us as jet-setting to a far-flung corner of the globe, staying in a hotel room with a 5-star view and pool in the room where you can eat your floating breakfast. The kind of trip that you have to take out a second mortgage to afford and will end up paying off for years.
Even on those trips, do you really remember the experiences that you had? Do you come home from an adventure with a story to tell of the people you met and the lifetime friends you made in a foreign culture? What if there was another way? What if there was a way to practice traveling right where you live? Well, have you ever considered Wandering?
What Wandering is and Why You’re Doing It Wrong
Alright, stay with me. Have you ever just driven somewhere you have never been, parked the car, and just walked around taking in the area? What is your favorite thing about where you live? If someone comes to visit you and they want to go out to dinner somewhere special, can you recommend a perfect mom-and-pop joint that is a local secret?
Out of those 3 questions how many of them did you answer no to? That’s totally fine — most people are going to answer no to all 3. Today we are so on-the-go and in such a perpetual state of hurry that it is very difficult to Wander.
So let me address what Wandering is and why I keep capitalizing it. Let’s take a quick look at what our friends at Webster have to say about ‘wander’.
1. walk or move in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way.
So that’s it in a nutshell. Thanks for reading… If only simple things were really that simple. But the definition of wander is really the core of Wandering. When you go beyond that it is a mindset and way of being open to experience. The idea of Wandering is that you have no plan.
You go to a place and you allow, that’s right YOU ALLOW, yourself to be open to whatever is going to happen. You walk into a place and you start an actual conversation, with a person you don’t know, who might be the oddest, scariest, strangest person you have ever met. Your goal is just to interact and be an interested human being acknowledging others and their stories and experience.
Look for the little the details that no one else ever sees. Poke your head down alleyways and look around corners. Similar to the photos in this article, you want to see the little things that are happening all around you every day. The photo at the top of this article is just a gentleman I came across stacking rocks on a tiny beach in Seattle. We exchanged pleasantries, talked about his hobby of stacking rocks, followed each other on Instagram, and parted with a handshake.
The beauty of this whole thing and the real meat of this article is that you can literally do this right where you live. Take this opportunity to try that weird food place you have never been to even though you have lived a mile away forever. Maybe it sucks and you have a terrible meal, but what if its amazing?
Stop in that coffee shop on main street that only has one location and you might be surprised at the level of service you find in a small business. Try and make a game out of trying everything where you live. This is how you will find the answer to “What’s the best place in this town to grab something to eat?”
So some of you who made it this far probably think I am a little bit odd but let me tell you about a recent experience I had. I allowed myself to get out of my comfort zone and meet and actually engage with someone else. I’ll try to keep it short.
I was on a date and we were exploring Luray, a small town in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The whole day was set aside to seeing the entire town on foot. We walked from shop to art gallery to antique store taking in the people and the town. At the visitor center, we met a wonderfully charismatic woman named Clancy who talked about the town’s history and let us know about a special spaghetti dinner happening that night at the historic Mimslyn Inn to support the park rangers being affected by the government shut down.
We explored the town until the sun went down and the temperature dropped enough to have us seeking warmth. We warmed up in a small wine shop and chatted with the owner a bit about the store, wine, and the town. After a sampler flight of delicious white wines, we headed for the dinner. We met Clancy in the lobby and she introduced us around to her friends.
We chatted for a little it and then headed to the reception desk to purchase tickets. Our hearts sank as they let us know that we needed to pre-purchase tickets and we would not be able to take part. I asked if I could make a donation to the park rangers in the amount of two tickets, which they let me do, and then we headed for the door.
One of Clancy’s friends spotted us and asked why we were not staying. We explained the situation and this woman quite literally drug us back inside determined to get us in. She spread the word of our plight to a few more of her friends and soon we were the talk of the event in the lobby. It didn’t take long until they found some of her friends who and purchased more tickets then they needed and were happy to give us tickets free of charge.
I am the kind of person that HATES to be a bother even in a small way, and being the center of these wonderful people’s attention even for a few minutes was tough. Please keep in mind all of these people were complete strangers. What followed was one of the most unforgettable meals with the liveliest bunch of folks I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a table with.
Clancy introduced us to some local leaders and some total characters that I will not forget anytime soon. This all happened simply from walking into a visitor center and just starting a conversation with someone most people would not have even noticed sitting behind the desk.
About the author: Brad Denny is the photographer behind the Restless and Wandering travel photography blog. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Denny’s work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.