Thursday, February 3, 2011


For the first time, I feel traveled-out. Too much movement. While on the plane this time around, I was thinking about how ten years ago I would get a rush from seeing new places, I would feel awed and grateful just to be standing in country X. I don’t think I’ve felt that in a long time, in at least two years, and my two-years-ago awe was the result of seeing a particular place that had been on my list since I was a little kid. A place where I now take students every year; a place where I’m no longer excited to go and which is starting to seem like a chore instead of an opportunity. How sad that having the chance to see something amazing every year is now just a thing on my list, like attending a faculty meeting.

This year in the field I was forced to clean out my GPS unit, which is completely full. This was my first field unit, the one I used throughout my dissertation, and since I’m currently working in my dissertation area I’d like to keep those points available. I was therefore dumping things from other projects, like my summer field work, which will be getting its own dedicated GPS unit. However, a few of my points are from places I went as an undergrad, or as a grad student, and I took the points just to be able to say “I was here!” A lot of these places were my first “I can’t believe I’m standing here” moments, and I may not visit many of them again. I will probably be keeping them in my GPS unit, for now, at least. I have to wonder when I’ll be so jaded that I erase them in order to record one more piece of research-related data.

This process of GPS cleaning just made it more obvious that I’ve traveled too much. Free trip somewhere? I have to check my schedule. I may say no, just because I’m feeling overstretched. And I’m a bit tired of monthly jet-lag. Everywhere new just seems like a variation on places I’ve been before, or it’s a belt-notch. If you count the last eight months, for example, I’ve been on four continents. I think I finally understand the frequent flier mile-junkies; after too many miles, you have to find SOMETHING to keep you interested.

Realizing all this had made me really sad. How do I get back that love of place, of standing on dirt I’ve never been connected to before? My current trip home has not helped, since the process of getting out of the field and getting home has not been easy. I'm not all that excited about my next scheduled plane ride.

Perhaps most importantly, can I use all this ennui to justify a cruise to Antarctica? There’s a place that has always been on my list, and which I suspect would at least temporarily topple my bad attitude.

1 comment:

Eric Reuter said...

I've found that, since starting our farm, we've grown in appreciation of both travel and locality. We get away so rarely now that travel has regained that sense of freshness and discovery that, as you noted, tends to wear away when it's overdone. Now even a few hours' drive to somewhere new feels wonderful.

We've also found increasing enjoyment in our love of place here at home. Staying in one place allows you to pay more and more attention to that place, whether with regards to natural events or human patterns. Even if the place you live is "generic" or seemingly uninteresting, it's nearly unique to you. Though our farm is hardly that unusual, we now know so much about the specific weather patterns, birds, wildlife, seasonal changes, and so on that so few people anyone have the ability or opportunity to appreciate.

Very few people in the history of the world have lived or known the specific piece of land you live on, or your favorite nearby spot in a park, or whatever. By paying attention to the little details in these places over time, you gain something that is far more unique to you in some ways than being the 10 billionth person to photograph the Great Wall.

Something to help keep you sane. Maybe find a corner of campus you can slip away to every few days and take note of what's happening there. Are there bird nests; have the leaves come out; is it a good acorn year; how does the snow melt on the topography or the winds change there? Travel in time rather than in place.

Just some thoughts, as I somewhat felt like you before we settled in and let our world shrink to something we could appreciate and understand. There are still people who can't understand how we don't get incredibly bored :)