Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finding Travel Excitement; Here, There, and Everywhere

Main St USA (El Segundo, CA)

Meet me in El Segundo? El Segundo, I know where it is but why would I go there? Suggested by a very hip and cultural poet friend, I was intrigued.  Although I had lived in the megalopolis my whole life, I had never been there.  But taking the hint, I said yes.  Located a half hour south of my home just past the airport, El Segundo is a small city with the reputation of having a small town feel. These days Angelenos carve out areas of activity due to spirit numbing traffic issues.  Certain areas, perhaps no more than ten miles away, can have such an aura of distance that it feels like you need a passport to go there.  I broke the mold this day, turn left , turn left again and suddenly I was off the freeway and in middle America, sampling the local vibe.   Main St is about three blocks long, with the high school at one end and the city hall at the other.  In between on the pedestrian friendly street are all manner of local shops from cleaners to beer bar to yoga studio.  I passed two other local cafes before settling on the Blue Butterfly Coffee Lounge.  It has great outdoor seating and comfortable couches.  I decided to eat there because almost immediately a couple of police sat down next to me.  My spirits had lifted in a ten mile drive as much as a four hour flight to HI.  Something new and at the same time comfortable!


Coffee in Kaimuki, HNL
Much commentary about little?  Well, yes but I am offering a happiness tip that is available to virtually anyone almost immediately.  You can escape from  from funk, from routine, banality,and into the fun of novelty.  We all crave the new.  This hard wired human trait, known by anthropologists as the exploration benefit, developed when we were in the hunter/ gatherer period because visiting new places improved the chances for survival.  When we dip into the stimulation of the new, the unknown, the mysterious, the happiness hormone dopamine is secreted.   Finding the personal balance of the known and comfortable in one’s life with enough of the new and challenging requires experimentation.  A journey to a new place in your city doesn’t have to be saved for out of town visitors who want to see the big sights.  It can be as simple as walking down a new street to your yoga class or driving to work on city streets rather than the freeway.  The key is to stop, look, and linger.   One of my interests is to visit non-corporate coffee houses and soak in the local ambience.  Each is unique in its personality with common features (neighborhood bulletin board) that help to make me feel at home.    I have a favorite locals’ coffee house in Honolulu in the Kaimuki district called Coffee Talk.  When I stop there, I can instantly settle down to work without disorientation.  Last time I was there the barista gave me a kamaaina (locals’) discount.  If I happen to be on the north shore, it is the same vibe at the Coffee Gallery in Haleiwa.  They have a whole lanai (outdoor) section for computer workers.  It is so relaxed that one man posts there every day and interviews tax clients.   Home away from home but discovered by getting off the main travel arteries.
Tropical Coffee & Lanai, Haleiwa, HI


Maybe your thing is spas.  Every neighborhood has a spa these days.  It is easy to walk around a new neighborhood and get a facial.  Major point:  Walk around.  Get on the ground and see life as it unfolds.  Our two ton traveling homes often are an impermeable barrier between our souls and life.  Connecting with a place is connecting with its life.  Perhaps you’re into famers’ markets, most towns now have a weekly organic produce market.  Instead of thinking it is out of your parameters, consider it an opportunity discover that area.  Too much of the same old, same old is deadening. 

Blue Butterfly on Main St, El Segundo, CA
Sometimes it takes a kick start to get the novelty gene online, like the case of my friend suggesting El Segundo.  It wasn’t on my screen, never thought of visiting that town but when the idea arose immediately my adventure gene kicked in.   I investigated possibilities, found a destination, and jumped in the car.  Instant energizer and cure for the boredom blues.  So, keep your eyes and ears open for ideas and invitations to break into a travel adventure right in your own city.   Then find a destination that feeds one of your interests or passions and park the car and walk.  I guarantee within a few blocks you’ll be in discovery mode and ennui disappears.  You’re now foraging in the wilderness and that is exciting.

1 comment:

  1. Attitude is everything. With a desire for novelty and an open mind we can find it anywhere, just like a baby sitting on the kitchen floor playing with an empty can. We never stop being sponges for novelty even though we may forget it when we get caught up in our daily crap.
    I keep writing but not posting. When I sit down and relive an experience through writing, I embed the positive emotions even more deeply. I just have to be careful not to write before I go to bed because sometimes I become so elated that I can't sleep.

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