I saw orcas, sea lions, peacocks and a bald eagle. I had conversations with lovely folks from Down Under. I stood in line for more than an hour for fish and chips. I saw an old friend for the first time in 15 years. I rode on six boats.
Not once did anyone claim to be king of the world, at least as far as I saw. That part was a little disappointing.
Honestly, so was coming home.
I love you, Chattanooga, but I'm not overly giddy to be back right now. I'm not sad, mind you, just not tap dancing. Of course, the last time I actually tap danced was 1988.
But as much as I love to dance, I love to travel even more. While I enjoy seeing new places, I think I also like myself a little more when I'm away.
I have two hard-and-fast rules: One, whenever possible, go somewhere I've never been. Two, have a new experience.
In other words, I am not the type to spend a week sunbathing at an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas.
The week I just spent in the Pacific Northwest fulfilled my requirements. It's a part of the country I've never been to, and I did things I've never done, primarily extended solo travel through North America.
Last week, I wrote about my concern that actually having an ability to communicate beyond the bare minimum would hinder the contemplative solitude I've cherished during my past travels in other countries. To my deep regret, I am not multilingual.
Did I spend as much time in reflection walking around Portland, Ore., or even Orcas Island, Wash., as I did wandering the narrow streets of Assisi? No.
But I had a conversation about sustainable living with a woman from Massachusetts while on a whale-watching boat. I got called a "dangerous woman" in a hotel/hostel lobby at midnight. I learned about a chain of islands off the coast of British Columbia, where wolves skulk in the forests, emerge to the water to dine on unsuspecting seals, then disappear back into the trees. I visited a lavender farm.
All these were things I've never done before.
Here's the problem with me, and if you recognize this symptom in yourself, raise your hand: I'm incredibly boring at home. I watch TV. I spend time on my computer. I work. I read. I knit. I talk to my boyfriend. I cook. I think about how I need to exercise more and clean more. I listen to music on my iPod. I go to the movies. My daily life, while not lacking in general contentment, lacks a sense of adventure.
When I'm away, things are different. I take more risks. I try more new things. I notice more. I am not afraid to, quite literally, go off the beaten path.
Does this sound like you, too? Maybe it's a little different. Maybe you're more inclined to sing karaoke or kiss a stranger in a city other than your own.
So herein, friends, lies the question: How to bring that sense of liberty that exists away from home into our every day lives.