Virtues of Travel: Part 11
Since much of my free time beyond family and work has not been focused on writing but on outdoor experiences and environmental advocacy, (whether through the Friends of Colorado State Parks, or my new obsession with birding which has taken me from Alaska to Florida), more than a year has passed since my last post, ‘Change‘ (#10 in this Virtues of Travel collection). In that time, I have come to realize that my travel and my travel writing has always sought a sense of place.
Though I’ve hit the road many times in the past year, I’ve returned to seeking out this sense of place, a place of stillness and contentment as simple as my daily walk through the park across the street from my house. This is a disruptive place to explore as a “gray wanderer.”
Yet the sequencing here makes sense. If we are connected to a place and we have weathered its changes, and then we have come to love those transformations, a new commitment, over time, arises. As we come to feel and know the ebbs and flow of a place, our intimate understanding of the place transcends anything we ever thought possible. And so we shift from tourist to traveler to steward.
Sending a postcard home, writing a blog post about a funny or scary travel antidote, or even just ‘staying in touch’ or ‘staying connected’ with that place or with people from that place, no longer satisfies what it means to be an ethical citizen of that place. We are called to a higher commitment and service and purpose. This is stewardship.
We are now compelled to take care of that place, to give it additional time and energy, to ensure that the place is available in all its glory for ‘seven generations to come;’ we know the place is important for a future that we will not live to experience. We thus become true servants to the place, because such a future can only be selfless. As stewards, we venture into the spiritual beyond.
While the dinky beautiful park across the street from my house is not a perfect place, (there’s plenty of highway noise, and trash after weekend picnics and flag football tournaments can be more than frustrating), we need these places direly. My neighborhood park is part of a greenbelt between other parks and lakes and a river that runs from the mountains to the plains; in our vastly urbanized world, this park is the last bastion for the resourceful raccoon, the migrating birds, and the sly red fox.
Like these creatures, we would be hopeless without such a place and the others like it. We become stewards, because we have destroyed enough, and there is drastically little left compared to what was. We become stewards because we must, it is the last action we can take to save the world we love.
What are you stewarding today?