Travel "Beyond the Pavement"

If you've ever traveled to a National Park, specifically in the summer, you know it can be extremely crowded. But you might also know it's pretty easy to leave the crowd  behind and find your own space. It's as hiking that extra mile on the trail. The majority of tourists stay on the paved path. Going that extra mile out of your way when traveling makes all the difference in the world. For us, it means going to places that extend "beyond the pavement."

It's holiday time and you might be looking for gift ideas. I want to talk about travel and adventure because it's an important piece to the whole "doing life" puzzle.

In The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, a book I am only halfway through, Vishen Lakhiani recommends adventures as one of 12 areas of balance in life.

"Your world will feel bigger and brighter when you regularly expose yourself to new corners of it."

In our house, our gifts tend to be adventure-based. If it isn't directly about taking a trip or making memories, it is about facilitating those trips/memories, i.e. powder skis so we can go in the backcountry of Japan. A warmer hooded down jacket so I don't have to stay inside if it's too cold.

Travel is my primary motivator for doing what I do, and for earning money: So I can take time to see places I haven't seen and experience it with loved ones. Having been exposed to travel at a young age, it's something I never let go.

Sometimes, we go somewhere and stay in a resort and book tours through the concierge. It's easy. It's a relaxing vacation. For some of us that's enough. Every now and then that's all I want. Heck, I'm doing that in January. BUT. We don't get the real feel for a place doing it that way. We get the manicured experience, created specifically for tourists, with edges softened for our delicate constitutions and our reluctance to accept dramatic change.

I know this because I frequently visit Seattle, a city that was my home for a decade. And we stay at a hotel downtown. The experience of being in a hotel downtown on a weekend, versus out in the neighborhoods where the people who actually live in Seattle are (where I lived), is a totally different feel and experience. I wrote about a time we broke away from the "pavement" in Cabo San Lucas and had an unforgettable dinner experience.

How To Get Beyond the Pavement aka the "Comfort Zone"

It's riskier when you travel this way, to be sure, but where there is risk, there is greater reward. This is how we do it: It starts with Airbnb. We have stayed in a gorgeous top floor one-bedroom apartment in Paris overlooking a market with nary an American in sight. Our tiny studio apartment in a residential neighborhood of Tokyo was in such a great location, we just walked the narrow streets and ate in the little restaurants there rather than go to the Michelin star restaurants downtown.

One night, in a tiny little soba joint with a huge language gap, the other restaurant patrons noticed our looks of confusion and chipped in to show us how to mix the sauce with all the condiments on the counter, and how to take the noodles, then dip it in the sauce. All by gesture. When the owner placed a plate of noodles in front of us we didn't think we had ordered, they pointed toward the gentleman getting up and putting on his coat. He had ordered and bought for us.

These kinds of experiences are memories that last forever and wouldn't happen in the JW Marriott in Paris or in the t-shirt shop on the rue de Rivoli just off the Champs Elysées where the employees are simply fed up with all the tourists and who's cars probably have bumper stickers with the George Carlin quote:

Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot at them?

We choose destinations that might not be mainstream choices. Our love of Hokkaido, Japan started by a simple YouTube video we saw one day and made a promise to visit. (It took five years to get there, but we did it) Next year, we'll go to a small village in southwestern France in search of the best Cassoulet and Rhône-style Rosé. But it doesn't have to be to a far away location. A drive to the next town over counts too!

If you're struggling for that gift for a friend or loved one, here's a thought: Consider opting for experiences instead of stuff. It could be as simple as a gift card to the corner Ethiopian restaurant, a weekend bag to make trips out of town easy, or an invitation to lunch at a new place.

In that vein, I wish you wonderful adventures in 2017.