anticipation

Looking forward

by Steve Brock on October 3, 2014

Wake of shipAnticipation isn’t just something we practice before we leave on a trip.

It’s an experience that goes with us even as we travel and, for the creative person, something that fuels our returns with as much excitement as when we set forth on the trip.

On virtually every long trip I’ve taken with my immediate family, the last day or two gets filled with several concurrent conversations:

  • “Now what?” Sometimes this involves trying to pack in as much as we can in the remaining hours we have. More often, it means adjusting to a quieter pace and relaxing on the last day or two, savoring all that has come before.
  • “Remember when?” The end of the trip is a time of initial reflection, an attempt to keep the enthusiasm high as we relate to each other high points from the past several days or weeks.
  • “I can’t wait to…” This is where what I call “reverse anticipation” kicks in. Here, everyone begins to give words to dreams that are formed around returning home. Sometimes, we discuss friends or family we’ve missed and long to see. Other times, we think of tasks we need to perform. But usually, something on the trip has sparked a dream.

This last direction causes us to rhapsodize about creative projects we want to continue, the distance from them and home adding greater impetus to our desire to see them accomplished.  Or just as likely, we become enthusiastic about new projects we want to start as a result of something we encountered on the trip.

In any case, we enter into a new form of anticipation as we look forward to our coming home. We see return not as the end of our trip and all its fun and excitement, but as the beginning of a new opportunity to extend what we have learned and become on the trip. Thus, the trip continues in ways we never would have suspected before we left.

Here at The Meaningful Traveler, I’m about to venture forth into something new as well. Not the end of this trip of writing on meaningful travel, but more like coming home to start something very new and yet really, just an extension of what I’ve been doing here at The Meaningful Traveler for the last four plus years.

I’ll share more about this next time, but I leave you with this reminder: Great trips never really end. We just extend them into the future, drawing from them and using what we learned from them to anticipate our next adventure.

And as with life itself, in so doing, even as we learn to value the present moment more, we simultaneously live in a manner that is always looking forward.

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Go ahead, dream

by Steve Brock on June 19, 2014

Rothenburg StreetsThe photo above is a familiar scene to anyone who has been to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the most popular of medieval towns along Germany’s famed Romantic Road. My guess is that if you look up the city name in Google Images, you’ll see more shots of this one Y shaped intersection than of any other scene from the picturesque city.

I like the shot (which I augmented with textures to give a bit more of the feel of the place) , but in part due to its popularity, it is far from my favorite of the many photos I took of the town. I have others like these below that I prefer because they bring me back to the exact time and place. All the associations, even of light and temperature flood back when I see these photos because now, they are highly personal.

Rothenburg Fountain

Rothenburg Gate

Rothenburg Sunrise

Yet the location captured by so many others still has a special meaning for me because that was the image that was imprinted in my mind before we visited the town. It was, in short, the image of my dreams.

If you’ve read The Meaningful Traveler for any time, you’ve likely detected the ongoing advice to “live in the present.” On a trip, the present is the trip, the real-time experience you have there. Be present to it with all your senses, and you’ll derive greater joy and satisfaction from your trip.

But before the trip? That is the time of dreaming, of looking to the future with longing. I once read of a woman who’d never left the state in which she was born. Late in life, her adult children decided to take her on a cruise to the Caribbean. They booked the trip a year in advance and over that year, the son noted a profound change in his elderly mother. For the first time in years, she had something to look forward to.

When I read that story, I must confess, I thought it sad that something like a trip was all the woman had to look forward to. But as I get older (and more aware of grace in all aspects of life), I see her anticipation of the trip not as sad, but as beautiful.

I have long recognized that anticipation before and reflection after a trip can be the most meaningful aspects of the journey. But now, as my own family has undergone a very difficult year and my wife and I plan out a trip for next year, I’m reminded of how powerful that anticipation of a trip can be.

We now are entering summer when many of you too will be traveling or looking forward to traveling. As you plan your trips, you’ll find iconic images like the popular one of Rothenburg that will define the place for you in your imagination. Once you get there, you’ll likely notice that the image is close, but not exactly like the reality before you. And that’s fine because the image has served its purpose. It gave you something tangible to hold onto as you think about your trip. Anticipate what you’ll discover. Imagine the wonders you’ll encounter.

So go ahead, enjoy your trip now, before you even finish packing your bags. Enjoy the anticipation. Let it be something you look forward to. Let it forever be a special part of that special trip.

Dream.

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Waiting, waiting, waiting…

by Steve Brock on April 15, 2014

Delft CafeI’m normally about as excited by the prospect of waiting as I am of going to the dentist, seeing the friendly neighborhood-roaming Jehovah’s Witnesses approach my front door or having a water pipe – upstairs – burst.

I change lines at the store and lanes on the freeway at least twice (usually ending up worse off) and I will enter 1:11 on the microwave instead of 1:00 (alas, our microwave doesn’t offer the coveted “1 min.” button) just to save a few milliseconds required to move my finger the 2 inches to the other keys. Getting someplace too early is, to me, a greater violation than paying retail. Delayed flights? Don’t ask.

It’s not that I am inherently impatient. Okay, I am. But I like to think that I’m optimizing life: I’d rather be spending time on all those wonderful things that delight rather than standing in some line somewhere for longer than I should because someone in front of me isn’t, well, optimizing life.

So imagine my reaction last summer when faced with the prospect of waiting seven hours for my oldest son to attend a concert. Not any concert. The North Sea Jazz Festival (one of the jazz world’s top gatherings each year in Rotterdam, Netherlands). He had been looking forward to this as the highlight of our European trip. Which was great for him but left my wife, younger son and me…waiting.

Actually, we used the time well by driving out to see a jam-packed Dutch beach and the major sites of The Hague before stopping in the quaint town of Delft.

This beautiful old city – home of the famous blue and white china that bears its name – was a joy to explore: the main square, churches, canals and windy streets. All of these made for a great way to spend our time as we waited for my oldest son.

Most of the shops and points of interest closed by 6 PM and we still had over three hours to wait. So we found a small tree-lined square several blocks from the more touristy main square, selected a restaurant both by sight and due to a guidebook recommendation and sat down at an outdoor table for dinner.

For three hours.

Yes, I know the Europeans do this all the time. But me? Three hours just sitting there?

Sure, the meal was extremely good: salad leisurely followed by the main course (barbecued pork something: our waiter’s excellent English failed to find the word for this part of the pig put he reassured me it was a noble – and tasty – section. He was right.) Eventually, dessert and coffee, all spread out over three hours. Three hours just waiting.

The funny part? When it was finally time to go, we were not ready.

We’d had great conversations among ourselves, with our waiter, with another waitress who was delighted when we gave her the page from the guidebook with the restaurant’s write up, and even nearby couples were also enjoying their leisurely meals.

By the time we picked up our son at the jazz festival, the three of us who had “endured” the lengthy wait all wondered the same thing: Why don’t we do that more often?

I can still be impatient. But I realize that waiting isn’t the issue. It’s how you do it that can make it feel like a curse…or an amazing blessing.

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Start before you leave

by Steve Brock August 6, 2013

Why wait until your destination to start looking for wonder on a trip? It may be closer than you think but you have to be present and prepared to see it.

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Wonder in the rearview mirror

by Steve Brock June 26, 2013

When you lose the ability to wonder, sometimes what you need to do is look forward to your next trip…or look back on a past one.

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Unnecessary trips

by Steve Brock May 14, 2013

Taking time for small, unplanned, “unnecessary” trips may be more necessary than you think.

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Getting the most out of a guidebook

by Steve Brock February 21, 2011

Do guidebooks help you on a trip or predispose you to see what everyone else has already seen? If you use them well, they might prove more valuable than you think.

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