The best trip

Smith Rock State ParkMy grandfather was apparently asked on multiple occasions – usually over dinner since that is when such questions tend to arise – what was the best meal he’d ever eaten.

“This one,” he would inevitably reply without irony.

Many professional photographers are asked by novices what the best camera is. The usual response?

“The one you have with you.”

A year ago, if you had asked me what was the best trip I’ve ever been on, I would have rattled off a list of trips – perhaps not whole trips, but moments:

  • Descending into the underground cisterns in Istanbul, Turkey
  • Fly fishing at dusk right before a thunderstorm on the Firehole River in Yellowstone
  • Enjoying a spartan picnic in the Stone Forest near Kunming, China
  • Dining with my wife in a special, unexpectedly good restaurant in Kenmare, Ireland
  • Witnessing a body being cremated near Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Stumbling through a wedding in progress in Lima, Peru
  • Family time on the central California coast
  • Being charged (no, not as in credit card) by an elephant in Swaziland
  • Running like the children we all are through a maze of castles with my sons and father in Scotland

These and many other moments would have defined for me “best trips.”

But now, after an extraordinary trip to Europe this summer, I would answer differently. I cannot yet state in words what changed on that trip, but travel – in particular this idea of meaningful travel – feels different.

In upcoming posts, I’ll try to explain that difference, one that conversations with other friends reveals is not limited to me alone.

For now, let me give a brief illustration. Last week, I traveled with my family for a long weekend to central Oregon. The general Bend area is somewhere I’ve visited before, but we discovered new places (for us), like the rock-climbing paradise of Smith Rock State Park (shown in the photo above). But while there, my whole perspective shifted. It’s as if the big trip to Europe helped me see anew the value of being present to the small moments all trips offer. Be content with whatever comes my way. Nothing more.

If you’ve read The Meaningful Traveler for some time, you’ll recognize this as a familiar theme. Be present. Enjoy the journey – any journey – and experience it fully. But actually doing that? Not so easy…usually. Not so this time – and hopefully well into the future. We shall see.

But for now, if you ask me what’s the best trip I’ve ever been on, my answer will be simple.

“This one.”

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