Travel and the serious work of play

In the pursuit of meaningful travel – travel that moves your soul, touches your heart, connects you with others and seeks out life-changing experiences – I sometimes forget something.

I forget the joy of playing.

I forget that sometimes the most meaningful thing we need is simply to have fun. In my busy, responsible, adult life, I forget the value of play. I’m thankful, however, that travel can remind me of its importance.

Travel and play actually share several commonalities:

  • Both take you out of the ordinary into a different reality from your daily work or routine.
  • Both, in the best cases, require or spark creativity and imagination.
  • Both are for a distinct period of time, a self-contained event.
  • Both can be done alone or with others, but when done with someone else, you forge certain bonds through the shared experience.
  • Both are – at least at key moments – just plain fun.

 But play, as with beauty, is best experienced rather than analyzed.

I was reminded of this last weekend on a short trip I took with my family to Port Townsend, Washington.

The day was drizzly (which, in the greater Seattle area, is as surprising as saying that water is wet). We stopped by Chetzemoka Park, a small sanctuary of green overlooking the Straights of Juan de Fuca. My wife and I had just informed our youngest son, Connor, that we wouldn’t be purchasing some item – I don’t even recall what it was – that he wanted. This left him in a bit of a funk, a mood not uncommon to 13-year-olds, other teens and the parents of said teens when having to deal with said moods for extended periods of time.

As the rest of our family explored the park, Connor spotted a tire swing and plopped down on it, glumly sitting there in the gray. I called over to him if he wanted me to spin him. No response.

So I did it anyway.

The initial “Daaaaaad!” of protest quickly disappeared as I pushed on the tire and simultaneously spun the supporting chains. Within a few seconds I heard a single giggle. Within a few more, as speed and centrifugal force gained momentum, a continuous flow of laughter emerged from my son.

And from me.

That small moment on that short trip reminded me of a very serious fact.

I need to play more often.

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