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2013 May — The Meaningful Traveler

May 2013

Move and be moved – Part 2

by Steve Brock on May 31, 2013

We seem to have this inexorable pull toward places and situations that move us.

Gateway at Memorial“Awaken, O my soul” is our cry from the depths of our being. We live so much of our lives in a state of bland routine that when something touches us, it stands out and makes us take notice.

Memorial ViewpointThough I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum a few weeks ago almost by accident, it was no accident that the place moved me and my colleagues. Artists, architects, historians, construction workers, landscapers and others have artfully rendered earth, water, plants, concrete, metal and the remaining buildings in such a way that the import of that place reaches beyond our jaded facades and resonates with something deep within us.

In such places, we willingly give to the scene our most precious of resources, our attention. We heed the messages taught there. We listen. We learn. But in places like this, we learn with our senses as much as with our minds.

Victim NicheWhile I wandered through the memorial, I looked around me and took in all the visuals elements. Next, I noticed the sounds: the background rumble of nearby traffic, the low, solemn voices of other visitors, the whispers of wind and water.

Taste and smell didn’t get their fair share this day, but I more than compensated with touch. As I stood at one end of the reflecting pool, at the suggestion of my colleague, I reached down into the pool’s water deep enough to wet my whole palm. I then turned around and placed it on the cool metal structure – one of two book-ended entry gates – behind me.

Hand prints on wallMy palm print on the dark metal joined dozens of others still visible on this day and likely thousands of others, long since evaporated. They mirror the painted hand prints that surround an area outside the museum where children can leave their own messages in chalk.

Hand printsOn this day, a few moments after leaving my palm print, I walk over to the painted hand prints and noticed a young girl finishing her message in chalk: “You will be in my prayers 4ever.”

Girls and chalkHer words will last only slightly longer than my hand print. What we leave behind rarely lasts. But by engaging this place through our senses, what is now imprinted in us both from our time here likely will.

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Move and be moved – Part 1

by Steve Brock on May 23, 2013

I’d heard of the memorial and vaguely recalled the past events that led to its construction. But until last week, it meant little to me.

Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum Just a few days before the devastating tornado touched down a dozen or so miles from there this week, I stood amidst the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. I came not so much to pay tribute to those killed on April 19, 1995 when the rental truck driven by Timothy McVeigh exploded, cutting short the life of 168 people.

Oklahoma City National Memorial and MuseumInstead, I arrived simply because my work meetings on my business trip there had ended early. My four colleagues and I were looking for something of interest until our plane departed four hours later. We decided on the memorial for reasons that stemmed more out of a lack of other choice than intention.

Oklahoma City National Memorial and MuseumAs we approached the memorial, we took in the murmured whispers of other visitors, the  dark arches that bookend the black reflecting pool and the ochre colored building that now houses the site’s museum. Minutes later, we stood on the curved overlook listening to the park ranger as he filled in details that added incredible meaning to the space around us.

Listening to the RangerHe told of the rental truck loaded with enough fertilizer that, when ignited, left a crater seven feet deep and 27 feet wide – the distance, he pointed out, between two trees across from us. He explained about McVeigh’s getaway car parked at the time to the left of where we now stood, left unattended and unmoved for a week before the blast.

Oklahoma City National Memorial and MuseumHe told of how the axle of the blown up rental truck landed over a block away, smashing a car but not harming the person inside. How that axle’s serial number led to identifying the truck which led to finding its rental location and a description of McVeigh. How by not having license plates on the getaway car, McVeigh was pulled over an hour and a half north of here and arrested not for anything related to the explosion but because of an unregistered concealed gun they found on him when they pulled him over. How the FBI pieced it all together so quickly and made the connections that led to McVeigh’s eventual execution six years later.

Chairs of the VictimsThe ranger also recounted the personal loss in what is still the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil carried out by its own citizens. He pointed out the 168 bronze and glass chairs on the lawn across from us, one for each victim, the small ones representing the children killed that day.

The memorial wallStories and more stories, far too numerous to recount here but all made more tangible by what we could see, hear and touch.

Oklahoma City National Memorial and MuseumThe power of such memorials is that they are physical reminders that tell those of us who lived through the time of the events, “Remember.” And to those who come later: “Learn and do not forget.”

Oklahoma City National Memorial and MuseumTravel moves us from place to place. But often, if we avail ourselves, take the time and venture forth on “unnecessary” side trips, it moves us in other ways.

Jesus Wept at OKC MemorialI had no intention when I left on this business trip last week to visit this place. Now I cannot imagine ever forgetting it.

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Unnecessary trips

by Steve Brock on May 14, 2013

Some of the best trips are the ones you don’t need to go on.

Untanum TracksI’m referring to the unplanned, spontaneous kinds. The ones with no worry about reservations or itineraries, no concern for what you’ll see or do. They are the trips that just happen, not out of necessity, but just because you can.

Don’t get me wrong: I love planning trips. Oftentimes, anticipation is one of the best parts of travel. However, along with the preparation and forethought can come unnecessary expectations of the place you’re visiting, the people you hope to meet or the ones with whom you’re traveling (including yourself!).

Sometimes the unexpected trip is better: You just show up and take whatever comes your way.

My family and I did this a few weeks ago. We knew we had to be in Ellensburg, Washington on a Saturday for my oldest son’s performance at the State Finals for high school musicians. That was the “necessary” trip. However, we stayed overnight and took off Sunday morning to hike a nearby trail (Untanum Creek Canyon) I had once heard about.

The only planning consisted of making the decision the night before to go there and then asking for directions the next morning. The rest was a spontaneous, totally “unnecessary” trip on a gorgeous day that included crossing over a suspension bridge, under some railroad tracks (pictured above), hiking along a creek past beaver dams and seeing a herd of bighorn sheep on the walls of the canyon that surrounded us.

Untanum Creek Canyon

Would the day have been any different had we planned it out and made it an intentional destination? Who knows? But by not thinking much about it before we got there, it added to the surprise factor of the day. It made our explorations feel like more of a discovery despite the dozen other people on the trail who clearly planned out their adventure more than we did (the backpacks were a good indicator…).

Fishing on the Yakima River near Untanum

I’ve recently been reading Paul Theroix’s book, The Tao of Travel. It contains quotes from his own travel books and insights from many other traveler writers over the years. One quote of his I read last night applies here:

“Travel is at its most rewarding when it ceases to be about your reaching a destination and becomes indistinguishable from living your life.”

When you incorporate little surprise trips within your daily life, both are enhanced. Sure, you have to carve out the time for even the short trip. But too often I find I use lack of time as an excuse to do nothing.

Instead, this recent family hike reminded me of how much room there is in this world: room in my schedule if I make it so, room in the places around me to explore and room in my life for growth and possibility.

When I consider it this way, maybe these small, spontaneous adventures aren’t so unnecessary after all…

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The hunger for a quest

by Steve Brock May 8, 2013

An article in the paper about the best baguette in Paris sparks the idea for a quest to find the baker for the sheer joy of having a quest.

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Stories beyond words – Part 7

by Steve Brock May 2, 2013

When telling stories with your photos about your trip, don’t forget to include images that tell the “how” of your journey.

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