Why do we travel? Visiting family and friends, escape, learning, connecting, and/or all of the above. How far do you have to go to ‘travel?’ There is an actual definition for traveling — 50 miles one way for pleasure. For the more curious, there is the art of ‘wandering’ or Life Off The Highway as I call it. To me wandering is, “Finding a place or space that changes your rhythm, moves your feet, clears your head, and touches your soul.”
I teach Cultural Heritage Tourism in Indiana University’s Tourism, Event, and Sports Management Program. We spend a lot of time assessing the cultural assets that already exist in our communities and are worth promoting. Having a product doesn’t create an audience. The key question is “What are we seeking to accomplish by traveling?” There are all kinds of responses but the core answer is the same. We seek rich experiences of all shapes and sizes.
Traveling to Destinations and Drive-bys can be so rewarding as they create the stories we tell and the memories we share. For example, my family and I recently took a 90-minute drive to see Williamsport Falls the second highest in Indiana at 90’. Much of the year it is just a trickle, but spring rains were pouring over the precipice into the canyon below. We drove through a public park that used to be a meeting place for Indians to convene or camp. Visited a nature preserve that was too wet to hike. We visited the ruins of an old resort hotel. Stopped for pictures of an old school building in a small town. We parked on a long bridge over the Wabash River that connects two towns and two counties. Were these spots premier attractions? No. But, they can be combined to create a memorable experience.
These same opportunities exist all around you. Instead of seeking entertainment-value, start focusing on experience-value. The things you do together, see together, and play together don’t need to be big. They just need to be experienced together.
Beth and I loved to pack lunch for a picnic in a park or dine at a local restaurant. We enjoyed hiking in state parks and nature preserves. You might go to a festival. Eat at a church or service organization fund-raising meal. Go watch a high school sports event or attend a minor league baseball game. Take a drive along a state or national scenic byway. We always stopped to read the historical markers. One last plea, avoid interstates, as state or federal highways will get you there. And venture onto Indiana’s backroads. These are great for a scenic drive, a day trip, or a weekend excursion.
In the big scheme of the travel industry, these ideas are small. But, you don’t have to ‘travel’ there, you already live there. The beauty of wondering and wandering 30, 60, or 90 miles away is all in the experience. It’s not just a new way to travel, it’s a better way.
Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.
Moroccan Scholar & Explorer
I have been to Scotland and Scotland, Indiana. Brazil and Brazil, Indiana. China and China, Indiana. I have pictures of them all because there’s a story for each. Get out there and go!