Saturday, April 18, 2009

The great American stay-cation.

About six years ago my bro and I grabbed a couple last adventures together just before he shipped off on his two-year LDS mission to Pennsylvania.

Adventure #1: We drove off to California on two hours' notice just to catch a concert in Pomona (this was boring Marie trying to pack an entire lifetime's spontaneity into a single weekend to compensate for being such a dull teenager).

Adventure #2: We snuck/sneaked/snook* into the LDS Church Archives and looked at an old journal we weren't strictly entitled to handle.

I know. Gasp. If this is the best I can do for rebellion, I should just pull my knobbly shawl around me and hobble into the sunset. Humor me -- I'm going somewhere with this.

Anyway, this Forbidden Journal we read through was the journal of our great-great grand uncle Moses Thatcher that he kept while on an 1883 LDS mission to the Crow Indians in Yellowstone. We were giggling (veeery quietly, of course!) as we sat in the Archives reading of Uncle Moses's meeting an Indian named Chief Two-Belly. Yes, you read that right: Chief Two-Belly. It was an interesting little book, but I was especially taken by one of Uncle Moses's rants. He marveled at the natural wonders of the Yellowstone area and then noted in frustration that many Amercians considered vacationing in such a place to be inferior and instead would continue to spend their life savings traveling to Europe and other distant places considered more Cultural or Historical or Important. Uncle Moses's opinions were of legendary strength.

Let it be said that I love to travel. If money and time were no consideration I would give the last layer of skin off the soles of my feet to visit the world's wonders and people. I feel very fortunate in the chances I've had to travel to far-off lands and that besides being fun and giving me occasional delightful feelings of superiority these experiences were educational, enriching. I'm also banking that the memory of my adventures will keep me sane one future day as I'm changing diaper #17,286.

(Yes, I just wrote that, and what's worse: I MEANT IT. Forgive me, Susan B. Anthony.)

But do you think there's something to Uncle Moses's rant? Is it possible for a modern person to be openminded and well-informed and world-wise and completely happy without wandering very far afield from their home?

The couple I stayed with in England were avid travellers. They had been to Australia, Greece, Italy, the United States, and many other places. "Holiday" for them always meant leaving England. I told them I really hoped to visit Scotland while I was there. Scotland? We've never been to Scotland. Why would a person want to visit Scotland?

There's an amazing rock formation on the border between Utah and Arizona. I've never visited it, and I don't know any other Utahns who have, either. However, it's famous in Germany. Germans will fly all the way to Utah just to visit that one rock formation.

Is it just that we crave novelty, or is it more than that? Can library card + curiosity + vivid imagination take a person wherever he needs to go intellectually? Or is there something vitally important that we absolutely can't get anywhere except on Mount Kilimanjaro or in the Valley of the Kings?**

I really really need you to tell me. Because it's spring, you see, and I've never been to Paris....

* Okay, we didn't have to SNEAK. We wanted to be sneaky, but really anyone can go in the Church Archives.

** If so, why am I sitting at this computer? Why are you sitting at your computer? We need to sell our computers and buy plane tickets!


plainoldsarah said...

that place looks like heaven! america IS beautiful!

Carvel said...

I really enjoyed reading this post, Marie.
It is sneaky of you to show that gorgeous "rock formation" without naming it, because now, besides not having seen it myself, I don't even know whether I've even heard its name from the other ignorant Utahns who look outside this state for their travel destinations. Touche!

lenalou said...

I was somewhat fortunate to grow up with parents who thought it was a lot more relaxing (not to mention affordable) to holiday in England. So I didn't go abroad much as a kid, but I don't regret it now I'm an ex-pat, as I got so see so much of my very beautiful own country. Now maybe I need to visit Antelope Island instead of whining about Thailand all the time.

But really-- you've never been to Paris? Would you be up for a long weekend? I don't truly love Paris, but as long as we got to spend a day somewhere fun outside, I might be up for a cheap plane trip...

Jessica said...

I have a very good friend who I have known since Kindergarten. We grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same schools, were in mostly the same classes, attended the same university... and I have this travel bug that never quits and she thinks all those places sound fun and interesting but she has no real drive to get there and see them. I share this because I think different people just have an affinity for different things. Me, I want to see everything. The rock formation in Utah, the geysers in Yellowstone, the cities in Europe, the temples in Asia - nothing is above being visited. And nothing is below it. But sometimes those distant places just sound so exotic and different - and here is just here. That's true wherever you are. I guess we all just need to take a look at wherever we happen to be and find appreciation. In the immortal letters of my crazy uncle: "B WHERE U R"

Belladonna said...

This is a great post.

I've been to Egypt, to Costa Rica, to Fiji, Mexico, Canada.

I've never been to Spirit Lake even though I live in Oregon.

As I am now gearing up for a move to Idaho I'm sort of taking stock of all the LOCAL stuff I never made time to see during my years here.

Kind of pathetic, really.

Anna Maria Junus said...

I haven't had the fortune to travel much. I've been to a few states and down to Peurto Vallerta in Mexico and that's it.

I yearn to live for two years in Europe, visiting a different country every month.

But I know people spend a lot of money to come to where I am and to where I grew up.

I do try and take in the sites of my local area. I live not far from the most famous dinosaur museum in the world, within a couple of hours of one of the most famous skiing resorts in the world, and not far from one of the longest ranges of mountains in the world, and only an hour from the biggest mall in the world and two hours from one of the most famous rodeo events in the world.

Yet I yearn for far off places.

Marie said...

Dad -- It's the Wave formation in Coyote Buttes.

Lena -- I bet there are thousands of Thai folk who would fly to Utah just to behold the noble Brine Shrimp in its natural habitat. As for cheap flights abroad, I'd really rather do Italy but 1) you're supposed to want to do Paris in the spring, right? and 2) you've pretty much scoured the place already. :)

Jess -- Very good advice. Be where you are. When you're vacationing in tribal Zimbabwe, don't waste your time looking for a Dairy Queen: embrace bug cuisine! (Don't get me started on who go abroad and search for malls...)

Belladonna -- Yes, it's a common affliction, so don't feel too bad. However, if you managed to live all those years in OR and not visit Cannon Beach (my personal childhood heaven), then that is truly unforgivable. Of course, I've lived all my life in Utah never ventured down to the Grand Canyon. Sad, sad, sad.