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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nothing to Do...?

"Never mistake motion for action."
                                           - Ernest Hemingway

The search for adventure takes us all in different direction, each one of us focused on what it is that fulfills us and what it is about a particular destination that fills that particular and personal void.

The subject comes up because as I write this I am on the north shore of Kauai, the northern- and western-most of the seven primary Hawaiian Islands. As we were readying for our trip – this one being for pleasure rather than business, though it turns out business will play a hand – my wife was telling an acquaintance about our plans. 
The person in question travels a fair amount, but chief in her mind is the social aspect. She goes places with a vibrant night life, exciting entertainment, social clubs. She loves New York and Las Vegas.  In conversing with my wife, she dismissed Kauai as too boring. Not enough to do.

And I get that. She goes places which fulfill her need for something. Las Vegas and New York are certainly favorite places for us, but they are not the end-all and beat-all for vacation destinations.  We believe, strongly, in mixing it up. Exploring new places but also have in reserve some comfortable and familiar places where we know what we are going to get – and perhaps more importantly, where to find it.

If you read my column with any frequency (and if you do, thank you), you know I am on the road. A lot these days. And for the most part I really love it. (For the record, the part I don’t love has to do with the usual travelers’ issues: lines, crowds, bumpy flights, etc.)

For the the joy of travel has to do with the variety of adventure. Only through moving from one defined place to another can you experience different things, different options. Obviously the things you can do in Las Vegas differ wildly – almost oppositionally – from what you can do on Kauai.
You can take helicopter tours of spectacular scenery. That much they have in common.  And that’s pretty much where the cross-cultural experiences end. Where Vegas is in a desert, the north shore of Kauai is verdant. Vegas is primarily an indoor destination. Kauai is very much outdoor.

Vegas has the beach at Mandalay Bay. Kauai has beaches everywhere you look (and a few places you don’t).

I’m stating the obvious. 

We travel to experience something different. This kind of goes back to my rant regarding the people who go all the way to New York, only to eat dinner at the Olive Garden in Times Square. Or Planet Hollywood.  Or the McDonald’s, for that matter.

So while I understand the woman who told my wife that Kauai was boring, she probably didn’t arrive with the proper expectations. Define “boring” and you probably have your answer. It didn’t have what she was seeking. And that’s fair enough.  To each their own, and she prefers Las Vegas – I get that, I love it there too. Just not every time. Give me a variety of destinations, a variety of experiences. It makes me, I think, a more well-grounded person. The key is to delve into places and find the interesting in it. Find the special things and learn why they are so fascinating. 

To some people, the ideal vacation is simply going somewhere sunny, laying out by the pool and eating sandwiches from The hotel deli. It is undoubtedly relaxing, but what, really, do you accomplish, learn or discover along the way. I look out over the pool from my balcony on Maui and see families spending time together -- invaluable, no doubt -- playing in the pool and otherwise keeping the kids engaged. Meanwhile, when we head out on adventures, it is sad to see how few of those children are engaged and enlightened. The pool is not the end-all, beat-all of travel. It is simply a pause, a moment perhaps. But it should not be the totality.
I used to think the desert was boring. And it was, for a ten year old boy who looked out at the hot, dry expanse and didn’t have the experience to appreciate it on its own.  But life is experience, and as we mature and as we gather our own little library of experiences we can appreciate everything for what it adds to the whole.

The purpose of travel is to get away from the familiar, get away from the tried and true. To learn something.

Otherwise, why bother?

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