When you travel, dont gawk, set a learning focus

Published 2:39 pm Friday, June 11, 2010

There are numerous ways to take a trip and the travel industry will be happy to sell you a few. What is often overlooked is how to travel simply with style.

Travel is all about time and taking time can lead to many broadening and fulfilling opportunities. All your experiences will be firsthand far richer than what can be obtained from brochures, guide books, or videos.

For example, a wonderful exercise is to buy enough food supplies for a couple of weeks and then escape to a remote, beautiful location without phones, newspapers, radio, television, and the like. Take books, hiking shoes, perhaps, a canoe for entertainment. Then, relax and live day-to-day. Give yourself permission to enjoy the natural world. When successful, this cold-turkey withdrawal from modern society opens you up to how little is needed for memorable moments.

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Traveling with style implies having a purpose other than gawking at the natives, touring all the museums, or shopping for souvenirs. This focus might be finding Native American rock art; visiting historic or archeological sites; learning about wines or regional foods; walking among geological wonders; hearing folk songs or stories; photographing events, people, animals, landscapes, or flowers; trying to spot a rare bird; touring scenic byways; following in the footsteps of explorers; visiting places of power.

If you schedule your journey with extra time, impromptu side-trips can provide long-lasting memories. You may find a stone ledge overlooking the North Platte Valley in Nebraska and watch hundreds of spiders ride gossamer threads on the wind.

Or, you could take an unplanned turn at a brown sign to discover Sheep Creek Canyon, a geologic treasure in Utahs Ashley National Forest. Perhaps, an unsafe bridge will make you detour down a seldom-used Mississippi road through loess (from ancient dust storms) thats taller than your vehicle.

Along the way, youll find a Presbyterian Church with a Civil War cannonball in its brickwork. The shot came from the Federal gunboat Rattler on the Mississippi River.

You can plan exotic experiences, such as paddling or rafting the Grand Canyon, bicycling Shark Valley in the Everglades, walking across a volcano in Hawaii, taking the Polar Bear Express train to James Bay on the Hudson Bay (hundreds of miles from the nearest highway), sailing the Caribbean, horseback riding in Monument Valley, snow skiing in the Grand Tetons, or sea kayaking in Alaskas Lynn Canal. And, you can do all of this in North America, if you consider Hawaii to be North American.

Of course, there are many places to stay, too: campgrounds for tents and RVs, youth hostels or Ys, bed and breakfasts, motels, hotels, resorts, cruise boats, institutes, even, convents and abbeys.

Many people perform services or volunteer work as a way to see the world while giving something back. Others vacation for personal development or adventure. However you travel, have a focus, keep it simple, and enjoy!

Editors Notes: Go to www.livesimplywithstyle/parody.pdf to see the Smiths photo-parody of How the West Was Camped. If youd like to learn what the Smiths have learned about wines in their travels, pick up a copy of their Winning Wines: Medal-Winners for $10 or Less. Its at Tryons Book Shelf, across from the Tryon Post Office.