I am a dreamer, always have been. I can recall sitting in my bedroom as a child dreaming about fantastical adventures, the allure of adulthood, how everyone in big cities was having lives that were so much more interesting than mine. My long-standing career goal was to be Indiana Jones, traveling to far-off, untouched, distant lands, making incredible discoveries, running into danger regularly, and exploring the great pyramids as an expert Egyptologist. I made it through two years of archaeology and evolutionary biology classes at university before the archaeology program was dropped and I switched to cultural anthropology. From there, things went a bit off course.
I still dream of travels, yet I have a way of creating a life for myself that doesn’t lend itself to my dreams (self preservation, perhaps?). It’s not a bad thing; on the contrary, it’s wonderful to have dreams that do not come true. The longing, the visioning, the what-ifs. The desire makes us work toward the goal, which is so much sweeter if its achieved with effort.
But I love to explore. I am excited learning a transit system in a new city, stumbling upon an interesting shop that isn’t in a guidebook (I rarely make plans when visiting a new place, which has it’s own pitfalls), and meeting people. There are so many interesting people in this world.
Instead of lamenting my inability to travel to far off places at this very point time I decided to explore my neighborhood. You might be guilty of this, too – ignoring the beauty and distinctive traits of what is right outside your door. I’ve lived in the Boston area for close to 18 years and have not once walked The Freedom Trail.
About a 1/2 mile from my house is a tiny car park off the side of a country road, with a narrow paved path leading into the woods. I’ve driven by it countless times. I’ve lived in this town 13 years! It was time to explore.
What I discovered is that this path leads to a soccer field, hidden among the trees, like a secret. Pine-needle covered trails meandered off the pavement on either side. I hiked one through the woods and discovered a lovely stone-studded hill, rock walls left over from the area’s bygone days as farm land, and a maze of cross-country running trails. Along the running trails small placards with student names were attached to the trees; kids who had won races over the years. It made me happy that these mystery people have their accomplishments remembered in a permanent way, even years after their win.
Much recent news highlights the importance of our connection with nature, and how spending time outside has multiple positive effects, including alleviating stress. My adventure was only 30 minutes long, but I felt a sense of freedom during my walk, and refreshed afterward. The change of scenery, the smell and sound of the forest, and the excitement of not knowing what I might find ahead, was a shake-up I needed in the middle of my habitual day.
It’s time to work on reminding myself that adventure awaits out my front door, and that I don’t need to travel across the ocean to find it. I’ll continue to find roads never traveled and explore.