by Steve Brock on February 21, 2012

Sometimes Ginger acts more like a cat...

With our look at dog envy and how being in a new place is great but getting there isn’t, it may seem as if this whole blog has gone to the dogs lately. But bear with me as I use my pet Ginger to illustrate one more important point about meaningful travel.

Some would look at our pet and say that our family has a dog.

We know better.

We refer to her in many ways depending on the antics of the moment. But the most common definition for Ginger is that she is a “catcowbeaverdog.”

Sometimes Ginger acts more like a cow...

Most of the time, she behaves in that finicky “I’ll show you affection on my own terms” way associated with cats. Unless, of course, she wants food or to go on a walk. Then she practically swoons over you.

Other times, she munches on grass like a cow. We asked the vet about her diet, but that seems fine. And on close examination, she doesn’t actually eat the grass. She just likes to pluck it and munch it as if she’s chewing her cud. Very attractive.

Sometimes Ginger acts like a beaver...

Then there’s the beaver identity. As a puppy and, to a lesser degree still today, throw a stick for her to retrieve and nine times out of ten she’ll fetch it then trot over to a grassy corner, lie down and chew up the stick – or even a large branch – until all that is left is kindling.

And sometimes she acts like a dog...but mostly by sleeping all the time.

Oh, and sometimes she actually behaves like a dog. Sometimes.

What does this have to do with travel?

We’re a lot like my catcowbeaverdog. Not that we chew grass and trees on our trips but that we exhibit different aspects of our personality when we travel.

We sometimes take different trips for different purposes. On one trip, we’re all about relaxing. On another, we’re in a learning or serving mode. On another, our goal is adventure.

Often, we change our focus within the same trip. One day, we pursue art and history with a vengeance. The next, you couldn’t get us into a museum if you tried.

We may act like completely different people on a trip and that’s okay. It reflects the nature of travel as the great liberator. Travel frees us to try things we’d never attempt or be interested in at home. We’re free to pursue new interests or explore aspects of our personality that have been repressed or have atrophied from disuse at home.

What have you always dreamed about doing but have been to hesitant to try? Scuba diving in Belize? Taking a cooking class in Paris? Learning the tango in Buenos Aires? Working with orphans in China? Riding a luge in St. Moritz? Doing a safari in Botwsana?

Knock yourself out. God has given you hopes and dreams that often look very different than your routine life. Travel lets you not just do more, but be more than you think. So be bold. Take a risk. Try something new.

Just don’t chew on any grass or trees.

"If I can't see them, I don't have to obey..."

If you found this interesting, why don't you share it with others?


The traveling dog

by Steve Brock on February 14, 2012

Ginger in La Conner, WA, resting her raw paws with another dog who likely won't be running on any beaches

My wife gets sad whenever she sees a person driving with their happy hound contentedly riding in the vehicle or extending its delighted dog face out the window. That’s an experience we will likely never have with our own pet, Ginger.

Much like my friend Al’s comment that he loves being in a new place but hates to travel, so too does my dog Ginger like arriving but despises what it takes to get there when it involves a car.

Somehow, as a puppy we must have scarred her in some car ride to the vet or imprinted within her a fear of being in a motor vehicle. She has a canine panic attack whenever we get going in the car yet she always jumps in the vehicle at the outset as if she knows the end justifies the frightening means.

A few years ago, we took her camping to Camano Island, WA an island about two hours from our house that you can reach via a bridge. For those two hours, she whined and paced continuously. But once we got there, it was doggy heaven, particularly running along the beach. In fact, we realized after a few hours there that she had run so much that she literally sanded off the pads of her paws. We were horrified to see raw, bloody feet on our favorite pooch.

Once we realized this, we tried to get her off the beach and to bandage her paws as best we could. We even wrapped old socks around her feet.

Ginger would have nothing to do with that. Much like her putting up with the horror of a car ride to get some place fun, she similarly put up with the pain of padless paws just to be back in the water and running up and down the beach.

To spare our dog, we ended up cutting down on the beach time and exploring nearby La Conner, Washington instead just to aid our dog from doing herself more harm.

The implications of this for us our numerous. First, I doubt most of us will run on the beach until our feet turn bloody, but we do tend to overexert on trips. We stretch ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally on a trip because, like Ginger, we simply don’t notice the pain or distress. We push ourselves because the delight of what we’re experiencing distracts us from any discomfort.

Second, another lesson we can learn from this traveling dog is that no matter how inconvenient modern-day travel can be, it is still better than it was for our parents or grandparents. Moreover, I find that like Ginger, I quickly forget the cramped airline seat and hassles of getting to the place once I make it there.

We are all at our happiest when doing what we were created to do...

Finally, the biggest point is that Ginger couldn’t resist the beach because as a Labrador Retriever, she was meant for being in the water. We too are meant for more than our routine lives would indicate. Often, it is only during the freedom of our trips that we realize the fullness of our passions and callings.

And once we do, nothing will hold us back.



If you found this interesting, why don't you share it with others?


Dog Envy

by Steve Brock on February 9, 2012

I have no photo of Easter in this pose so Ginger will have to demonstrate the pose that solicits envy...sometimes.

In case you haven’t noticed, over the last several months, I get into themes and, some might say, run them into the ground. I prefer to think that I explore all the nuances of a topic. You be the judge.

So, having raised the topic of my dog, let me, uh, explore the nuances of her and how she (and other pets from my past) relate to travel.

One relevant pet from the past was my first dog ever, Easter. She was a beagle named after the day on which we brought her home. With the exception of the rather lengthy baying she would let out when miffed or her tendency to dig holes in the most unusual spots (including attempts to do so through the plywood bottom of her doghouse), she was a great dog.

We got her when I was in Kindergarten and each day when I would head out to school, there she’d be either standing by the door wishing me goodbye or relaxing in the sun. And therein lay the problem.

I liked school and was usually glad to go, but I would have days, as most kids do, when I just didn’t want to be in class. On those days, all it took was to see Easter lying on her side lazily glancing my way and wagging her tail as if in a farewell wave and that’s when it would descend on me faster than a hound to a fire hydrant: dog envy.

Dog envy occurs whenever we wish we were dogs or rather, simply wish we weren’t us, or at least us with all the responsibilities or deadlines or concerns that go hand in hand with being us. On days like that, I would call out to Easter, “You lucky dog,” with no sense of irony. Just a sadness that she could stay home and I couldn’t.

Or so it was until one night when my entire perspective on dog envy flipped like a trained poodle in a circus sideshow.  

I grew up in Southern California and once a year we’d go to “Bank Night” at Disneyland, an evening when, after 5:00 p.m., they closed the park and admitted only the employees (and their families) of the bank where my dad worked. It was Disneyland at its best: Nighttime at the park, and so few people that you never had to wait for any rides.

So on this one Bank Night as we headed to the car to leave for Disneyland I looked back. And there sat Easter looking forlorn, her family having abandoned her (or so I projected at the time). And that’s when I realized it: Not “lucky dog” but “poor dog.”

On the ordinary days, I wanted to be her and stay home. But on a special occasion like taking a trip, a trip to Disneyland no less, being a dog was the last thing I’d want to be. I felt so sorry that she had to stay at home…and so happy that I didn’t.

So it is today. My friends who wonder why on earth I’d ever want to travel anywhere outside our city limits, sleep in a bed other than my own or eat unaccustomed food, all these friends are like me back when I had dog envy.

They see the familiar as the better option.

But me…and likely, you if you’re reading this…we know better.

I’ve been to Disneyland– and beyond. And there’s no turning back.

So when these homebody friends ask, usually with some derision, where I’m off to next, I answer them politely and then I just smile.

Poor dogs…

If you found this interesting, why don't you share it with others?


You had to be there – Part 3

by Steve Brock January 12, 2012

Another, simpler way to understand the phrase “You had to be there” is to recognize the value of engaging a place with all our senses. So here are some ways for you to do that…experientially.

Read the full article →