“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust
Oh, to travel! With a passport in my pocket, I’m ready to see the world — maybe travel to Stonehenge or to see the Eiffel Tower. With so many amazing attractions throughout the world, a person could travel all year and never see it all. Proust’s words are good food for thought, though, in a budget conscious family. What if the real voyage of discovery meant not getting a passport, maybe not even a hotel room? What if the treasure you and I seek is in the landscape we see regularly?
“Where would you like to go while you’re in town?” we ask friends who come to visit. We live not too far from Music City, USA — Nashville. Lots of people from around the world travel here for festivals and to see wonderful pieces of history. Most recently, we had a cousin visiting after our son’s wedding (to our wonderful new daughter-in-law). “The last time you were here, you mentioned wanting to see The Ryman,” I commented. We drove into the city and purchased tour tickets. I’ve lived within an hour or two of the city my entire life, and I’ve never been to The Ryman, except for attending a concert. I was fascinated to learn that the auditorium began as a tabernacle, saw the conversion of a wealthy saloon-loving traveler, and was kept alive as a concert hall by a widow with a good eye for talent. The tour was really delightful, and seeing the dressing rooms and hearing about the odd requests from some performers was equally entertaining.
The time we spent being tourists for a few hours left me wondering what other hidden treasures I’ve missed. Chances are, wherever you live has something of interest to tourists that might never have piqued your own curiosity enough to get you to visit. It seems Proust’s words are worth taking to heart — look at the landscape where you live, or within driving distance, and see where you’ve never been.
Advocating being a tourist in your own town is what I’m doing here, but I am not saying we shouldn’t travel. In fact, studies show that traveling holds enormous value for people. Jonah Lehere (The Guardian) wrote that travel broadens the mind, makes us smarter, and most interesting to me, makes us more creative. “The larger lesson is that our thoughts are shackled by the familiar,” he says.
Traveling to far away places might hold great allure, but the attractions nearby are only familiar if we’ve visited them. I can go into the city and feel as if I’ve traveled hundreds of miles, as long as I don’t go to the same place every time. The same could be said for seeing the sights closer to home. If you live near Niagra Falls but have never visited, what are you waiting for? 22.5 million people travel there each year. More than 9 million people travel to Paris to see The Louvre each year. I wonder how many locals have been through the doors. If you live New York City and have never visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you have missed doing something that I hope to be able to do one day. If you’ve traveled hundreds of miles to enjoy the Grand Ole Opry, it might sadden you to know I’ve never attended something so close to my home.
Whether we decide to travel near or far or both, let’s begin today remembering the words of Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”