Sniffing New Trees! …the importance of travel
(originally published August, 2011)
I tend to be a homebody. When I was a puppy, I’d do everything I could to dig or climb or break out of my yard, as I was so curious and excited about the world. But since I’ve grown up, I’m more interested in hanging out at home and protecting the house from squirrels and cats! So much so that even if Handsome forgets to lock the gate when he leaves, I tend to be sitting here calmly when he gets home.
But sometimes, Handsome takes me on a trip. And oh, do I love that! You see, every time he leaves me at home, it hurts my heart. I know he cares about me, but it always feels like he’s saying “I’m doing something more important than you. And you’re not good enough to be there.” I know that’s not what he’s saying! He tells me over and over – he’s going to work, where dogs aren’t allowed; or he’s going to a restaurant, where dogs aren’t allowed; or he’s going somewhere where I’d be bored or have to be chained up or something… I know he would love to take me everywhere he goes, but he just can’t. Still, it hurts.
So those days, those magnificent splendid exceptional days, when he opens the back door to his car and yells out “In ya go!” I am so excited I can barely contain myself. Somewhere deep down, I know it might even be something I don’t like much – like going to the veterinarian for a shot, or even (I shudder to say it) a groomer! But most of the time, he’s taking me on Adventure!
There are a few dog parks where we live, and those are absolute joy. But then sometimes we go much farther. For example, there’s a beach that’s many hours away, where we go on hikes for hours. I’ve written on here about how I hate baths and showers, and don’t even like rain, but when it comes to jumping in water, like to leap into ocean waves chasing sticks, oh that’s heaven! And beaches have so many smells and birds and funny little shellfish that crawl in and out of the sand, and it’s one place I can run and run and run… till I sleep the whole way home in the car!
And just as good, or even better, sometimes we go to the mountains! How clear and brisk the air is there, and how beautiful it all looks. At the beach you can see all the way to the end of the world, but in the mountains it feels like you can see even further! And how many new plants and animals there are, including the ones we don’t see but I can smell, like Elk and Deer and (uh oh) Mountain Lions! (I try to avoid those folks)
I never get tired of these trips, or of the joy of knowing I’m welcome on them. But you know what, I also always learn stuff. Maybe it’s just new smells and sounds, but often I actually learn something I can use at home. I grasp what’s special about where I live, which one forgets when they just live there all the time. I learn better ways of doing things. And I also learn what’s really universal (for example, people everywhere are annoyed when I roll in something smelly and then climb into their car; not just my guy!).
But if I were a human, oh how I’d love to travel way more. To take buses, trains, boats, and even airplanes, and to visit other countries and continents! To see how other people live, to meet other people. To realize that there are different ways of doing almost everything. To hear music you never heard, to see beautiful people who look like no one you’ve ever met, to hear the glorious rhythms of other languages. Oh I’d never want to stop!
And how much it helps everyone! I’m a big fan of Democracy, which is the kind of government where the people get to vote for the leaders and policies. But isn’t it funny that so many people are voting for things every day when they really don’t understand the alternatives! Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in the world could live in another country or two, and then bring home some ideas of what worked there, and improve their homeland’s systems? (And don’t you know that if everyone could do that, we’d reduce wars everywhere, as people would have better understandings of why others are the way they are, and probably be nicer to each other!)
But I know that can’t happen. Most people can’t afford to travel nearly as much as they’d like to, especially with the tough economy going on everywhere now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t travel at all…
Isn’t it still travel if you find out about a place in your home town that you’ve never been to before, and go there? Maybe a museum or a really great park? What’s the closest city to yours – could you go there for a weekend and see things you’ve never seen? Even making a new friend at school – anything where you’re moving out of your usual “back yard” and experiencing something new.
So does TV count? Not really. It’s great to watch shows about other places, and I’m all for it, but it’s the experience that really defines travel, and you can’t have that on your living room couch.
Well, actually I can… you see, I’m not supposed to climb on it. Ever. So if I do, I’m kind of daring to go into a dangerous new land, full of mystery and suspense… and a great likelihood of getting yelled at by my best friend!!