Experiential Travel Without Boarding a Plane

I eagerly ran downstairs when I heard the doorbell ring, knowing that my mattress was being dropped off. And I really mean dropped off, as I forwent paying the extra $25 for the delivery guy to carry it up 10 steps to my room. The problem with traveling for 9 months and moving 2,500 miles across the country is that you evidently have to buy things - like a lot of things. Hangers, towels, pillow cases, blankets, and toilet paper. After pushing and rolling the mattress end over end up the stairs, I again reviewed the invoice. I don't know what I was looking for. Maybe some fine print telling me that I was the one-millionth customer and had 60 minutes to claim my prize, which was a brand new bed frame, mattress cover, and a year's supply of pizza from Nizario's across the street.

Alas, it didn't, but instead, I could only find myself saying under my breath: "That could have bought me a round-trip ticket to anywhere in the Western Hemisphere." I'm not stepping on a plane for a while. After doing it so frequently for a year, the next time will probably be during the December holidays, which won't exactly be travel in the sense that I'm used to. That's kind of tough for me to swallow, because real travel always involves getting on a plane or at least visting another country. Right? Because Ferdinand Magellan and Lewis and Clark traveled thousands of miles in a single day. Right? NO! I'm an advocate for traveling abroad and am testimony to the effects that it can have on your life, but what about when you aren't or can't travel abroad. There has to be a happy medium where the feelings and experiences abroad can also be encountered while at home.

I took a long hard look at my bucket list this week, looking more so at the actual experiences that I mention, rather than the destinations.  A few of those experiences included writing a book, snowmobiling, hot air ballooning, surfing, caving, waterfall rappelling, and hiking a 14er. All of those experiences are no more than a half-day trip from my apartment.  Sure, I would love to go snowmobiling in Antartica and make out with a girl from a hot air balloon while hovering over giraffes grazing in the Serengeti. However, when travel is more about the experiences for me than the place itself, I can still travel without actually getting on a plane.

My point is this: travel abroad. Do it. If you don't have your passport, apply for it now, because it's one of the best investments you can make. It's an even better investment than an iPhone. Are you going to be lying on your deathbed and say: "Damnit, I would have lived a full life if I only would have bought the iPhone 4S?" However, when you aren't traveling, which will be most of the year, you can have the same types of experiences without having to get on an airplane.

"But Spencer, not everyone lives in California like you do with accessibility to nearby experiences like you mention. I live in Crete....Nebraska, and we don't even have a population over 10,000 people." Yes, there are in fact a lot of places that are rather boring and uneventful. Yet when I look at a map of Nebraska, for example, I see several green and blue spots, marking parks, national forests, lakes, and rivers and I see large open spaces without highways for miles. No matter what beer and soda commercials tell us, experiences don't come to us. You're not just sitting in a bar and the girl of your dreams walks up to you to ask you to dance and you're not sitting on your porch drinking a soda while a couple mountain goats get into a skirmish in your front yard. Get up and go find those experiences you enjoy.

It's almost like we're just looking for excuses. Last night I was watching an episode of Arrested Development. The main character, Michael Bluth, was finally dating the girl he had liked ever since he was a teenager, yet he kept making excuses of why he was afraid it wouldn't work out. She finally breaks up with him because he's always looking for something to come in between them. It doesn't make sense does it? If somebody really wants something, the logical progression is that they would go get it and hold on to it. Yet so often we talk about the things we want to do, but months turn into years and years turn into decades without ever doing them.

As I looked at my bucket list this week, I realized that it had been a couple months since I had crossed anything off. Knowing that I didn't have any immediate plans to travel, I decided it was time to stop talking and start doing. I began by scheduling a surf lesson in Santa Cruz in a couple weeks to finally learn to surf. With Rip Curl Pro Search coming to San Francisco in early November, maybe I'll be able to talk and walk like a surfer, which isn't likely since I don't think any of them have a southern drawl as thick as mine. Learning to surf has been a dream since my childhood and it's time to put those words into action.

What kind of travel experiences can you have nearby without boarding a plane?

It's not a travel experience per se, but I'm using November to tackle a second item from my bucket list: Write a book. I just signed up for National Novel Writing Month, taking on the challenge of penning a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Surfing and writing a book are two things I've dreamed and talked about as much as anything and it's time to put action to my words. Sure, writing a book isn't exactly a travel experience, but I'm convinced it will conjure up some of the same feelings I've encountered while traveling.