Losing my Religion

Recently, I was having a discussion with a friend of mine and we were discussing living in the moment, dealing with fears, and taking risks in life.  You see, in the prior years, I’ve found that I’m starting to turn into an old man.  Not necessarily old by physical standards, although at almost 44, I feel the pains brought about by previously believing far too much in what my body can take.  I’ve become more conservative and less tolerant of things in life.  My friend and I joke about ending up on some porch someday, cantankerous and yelling at neighborhood children.

The talk produced an interesting conversation of how we don’t enjoy the outdoors enough.  I’ve always admired those that bike in all kinds of weather.  So, a week later, I found myself taking a run along the Mississippi river south of downtown Minneapolis in the pouring rain.

It was after a day of work, and I desperately needed some exercise.  It wasn’t coming down too hard, but I thought I’d be fine wearing my marmot shell.  A mile in, the rain started coming down fairly hard.  On another run, I would have turned back, but that day, I decided to go for a loop between Franklin and the Stone Arch Bridge.  Passing others as I made my way under the Washington Street bridge, I caught the eye of others that were either biking or running in the rain as well.  A shared look, grunt of encouragement and sharing some small thing that most people miss in life.  I plodded forward.

By the time I was crossing the Stone Arch Bridge, the rain had abated again, but started to pick up as I passed under the I-35W bridge, by the abandoned railroad tracks, and into the University of Minnesota campus.  Running along the Dinkytown greenway, the rain finally started up just shy of coming up on the TCF Stadium.  I was past the halfway point, there was no other option than to finish this run.  By the time I reached West River Parkway, the rain had become a full-on downpour.   My jacket was fairly wet on the outside, and my shorts and shoes were drenched.  My legs were tired, and my feet started to get cold from running through puddles.  I had just a little over a mile till I returned home.  Crossing the Franklin bridge, there was lightning off in the distance, yet, I wasn’t the only one out there braving the elements.  Finally arriving home, I was drenched and tired, but exhilarated by the experience.

I need adventure and the means to express that.  Some type of wildness exists in all of us.  Paul Kingsnorth of the Dark Mountain Project writes about our loss of wild places and concerns about our increasing disconnection with the outside and wildlife.  He and other similar writers are sounding the alarms of our growing reliance on technology, and disconnection from nature.  I’m a hypocrite, knowing that I work in technology, and enjoy spending a lot of my time indoors.  But these ideas have struck a nerve.

I haven’t traveled much this year, for various reasons, some of which are my unease about the current state of travel and what it represents.  However, not traveling has resulted in questions of what I’ve identified about myself in the past.  And, In the last year, I’ve found it more and more difficult to detach myself from work.

So, I’ve been struggling with any kind of prospect of where to go and what to do with myself, being unable to select a destination.  But destination, I think, should probably be one of the last things to concern a traveler (minus flying to some dangerous, war-torn region of the world).  I needed to remind myself that it’s about going somewhere where I can just “Be” and let my attachments dissipate and re-connect with myself.  I wish sometimes that I didn’t feel the need to go someplace to feel that way, but here we are.

So, merely two weeks before scheduling my vacation from work, I bought a ticket to Ireland.  Stories coming soon……

Flurry of belated Portugal Memories

It’s hard to believe that I returned from my trip to Portugal almost 2 months ago, and have yet to write about the second half of my experience.  I’ve found it difficult finding the desire to sit down and write about my experience, I think partly due to the crowds (travel during high season), the hurried travel between destinations, and the unfulfilled goals that I had for this trip.  I think it’s apparent that the things I want out of travel are different now and that my approach to it is changing, or will likely change in the future.

When I think of the memories that stick with me while on mainland Portugal, I most vividly remember the following:

Traveling to Porto, and walking the boardwalk and narrow streets of Gaia, and visiting three of the Bodega’s that make port wine: Porto Cruz, Graham’s and Ramos Pinto.  This included witnessing a spectacular sunset as the backdrop of Porto from the Dom Luis 1 bridge.

Rediscovering my enjoyment experiencing the countryside taking a train from Porto to Lisbon.

Enjoying long walks on the beach and incredible sunsets in Ericeira.  I wanted to take surf lessons here, but found that I started to acquire a small cold once I arrived.  For those interested, Ericeira is a small surfing community.  If you’re interested in surf lessons, you should stay at Hostel and Surfcamp 55 – they’ll make all the surfing arrangements  for you.

Touring the castles in Sintra, a 45 minute train ride from Lisbon.

Having my fish-out-of-water experience (I seem to always have one of those), while trying to get through the ticket exit in the train station.  The reader wouldn’t accept my ticket.  After at least two minutes of struggling with the reader, a nice Portuguese woman came up behind me and pushed us both through at the same time.  The hospitality and help from people in the world never ceases to amaze me.

I mostly relaxed while in Lisbon, but while there, enjoyed some amazing fare at the Time Out market.  I also had a most incredible watermelon gazpacho at a restaurant near the bay area.  The night before I left, I also was gifted in experiencing a bit of Lisbon’s burgeoning micro-brewery scene by sampling some beers at Duque Brewpub.

Overall, it was a good vacation, albeit, I was quite tired of dealing with all the crowds.  I noticed, that upon returning home, that I had taken, roughly, 1/4 of the pictures I usually take when I’m gone for two weeks.  Instead of taking my SLR camera, I opted to take my point-and-click.  While walking down the streets of the towns that I visited, I was often compelled at times to take pictures of my surroundings, but decided against that.  I’ve found that taking a lot of pictures takes me out of the moment, and I don’t really experience my surroundings.

Since returning to the states, I’ve spoken with my friend, Lisa, a traveler currently living the dream (she may disagree) in Denali, Alaska, about my changing travel goals.  I think we both agree that the best travel is done while staying in 1 location for some time.  Traveling from place-to-place, only resting for a couple days, with constant planning, and harried preparations is really tiring after a time.  And many times, upon returning to your life back home, you find yourself exhausted and not entirely rested from the life you were trying to escape from (at least momentarily).

When I used to think of traveling for an extended period of time, it mostly encompassed seeing new places, and having different experiences while meeting different people from around the world.  While that’s still a goal, I think spending time in one place for a longer period of time and possibly becoming part of a community, or actually living in one place for a period of time, resonates with me a whole lot more than trying to pack it all in within a two week sprint.

It will be interesting to see what the next adventure brings.  Maybe I’ll slow down and take my time in one place.  Or, maybe I’ll accept the inevitability that I need to experience as much as I can while in my new destination.  Either way, I’m already thinking of my next adventure.