Travel is so easy to us these days that we reach destinations too quickly and so we under-appreciate them as rewards for our efforts, and as places in their own right. They’re merely “on the way” somewhere. We have lost the ability to arrive. When we deliberately spend time in these unexpected or unplanned destinations we often are surprised at what we find, see or experience.
My father has never done this. Some how, some time, he learnt to give equal weight to every place he found himself in. On holidays as kids, we knew that we would stop at every city, town, village, watering hole and tourist stop along the way. Initially the excuse was that someone in the car would need a toilet stop (and he was always right), but that does not explain the need to read every sign, memorial, plague and tribute in all parks, gardens and civic buildings within line of sight of where the car was parked.
I remember only a few years ago on a road trip back from Melbourne, my father waxed lyrical about a particular small town on the way. While cruising along a multi-lane freeway, all other occupants of the car fast asleep, I flashed past a sign and realised I had missed the turn to this town. Screeching to a stop and reversing brought everyone out of their dreams and the car was filled with questions about what was happening. Once I was headed down the turn-off I explained that I had missed the sign but there was nothing to worry about as we would be arriving at our next stop in a few minutes. "Oh, we don't need to go through there", my father explained, "That's quite a bit out of our way." My mistake. I had forgotten that places that do not lie on our chosen path of travel did not reduce their importance or meaningfulness to my father.
While I do not give attention to places outside my current itinerary, I do think we miss a richness in our lives that comes from paying attention to the small things, the seemingly insignificant things that fill our day. I'm not expecting to ever re-gain the wonderment of childhood experience, but I am hopeful that occasional attention to the small and the tiny may bring a greater insight into those things that loom large in my life.