3 Non-Food Criteria for Visiting a Place

Half Dome morning sun view

I certainly talk a lot about food here on TLT.

Raven at Mariposa Grove

But food is only one of the ways we can discover the habits of another culture, and step out of our own familiar routines. Another one is sound: for example, exchanging your city life with electric-appliance-hum, police sirens, and random yelling people for quiet and crickets and birds (yes, that’s a raven, and yes, they got very close).

Do you see the face under Taft Point?

Do you see the face under Taft Point?

Giant Redwood at Mariposa Grove

Giant Redwood at Mariposa Grove









Another way, that often comes with sound, is scale. I live in Washington, DC, where there are no skyscrapers, parks are squeezed into whatever space they can keep (except for the Mall, of course), and there are suburbs as far as the eye can see.. which is not far, because of all the developed land. Take me out of that environment and plop me into a forest high above a valley, and I have the chance to become a different person.

The sun above Yosemite is bright

Yosemite National Park, where I visited this July, is a familiar place to me. My family has gone there for summer reunions since time immemorial (at least in my lifetime) every few years. Even though it’s familiar, I learn.

Yosemite Valley View

With the valley floor that far below me (over 7,000 feet down, or 2,200 meters), I seize a feeling of expansiveness and freedom, like being let out of a cage. While I do my best to keep my creative machine going while I toil away in D.C., when all the restraints fall away in a setting like this, it’s easier to see what your life looks like, what’s working, what’s not. In a sense, you’re stepping out of your life when you go on vacation, and from there you can examine ‘how the plane is being flown,’ without having to ‘fly the plane.’

One of my favorite themes here at TLT is delight, and delight is one of the benefits of getting out of the routine. Sure, you can feel the satisfaction of a job well-done when you accomplish a task or project, but delight implies a bit of surprise: you admit there are things in the world that you don’t know about and you don’t control, and sometimes they sneak up on you and delight your senses. Sometimes I can find this on walks around D.C. when seasons are changing, and this is my intentional stab at routine-smashing while at home.

Yosemite light illuminates

The Pocono Trail weaves between forest cover and rock promontory as it winds from Glacier Point to the Wawona Tunnel near the Yosemite Valley floor, and one of the scenes that gave me the most delight was the forest-filtered light hitting this silvery-green ground cover.

Kids Smile with Family at Wawona

Besides sound and scale, there is a third change of scene that will recharge your batteries and refresh your mindset: different people!

I don’t encounter a lot of little kids in my daily rounds, so connecting and spending time with my niece and nephews made me think differently (“No, I don’t suppose that table edge WILL taste good.”). And even though they were rowdy and always in motion, kids can give you occasional moments of quiet, where you feel balanced, collected, at peace…

…when you’re tired and a little cold from swimming in the water-hole of the Merced River, but feel alive and connected to the late-afternoon golden sunshine, the tamped-down path trod by other Wawona vacationers, the breeze bending the rye, and these two people walking in front of you.

Finding Balance in Yosemite

This trip to Yosemite was a nice break. I connected with people, disconnected from ‘real life’ (more to come on that in future posts), and took the space I found with me.

Sunset Illumines Half Dome

What helps you get out of your routine, either at home, or while traveling? Do you have criteria to add to the list? Let us know by leaving a comment!

And a special welcome to readers who have come via A Dangerous Business, where I guest posted today- thanks for checking out Taste Life Twice!

7 Responses to 3 Non-Food Criteria for Visiting a Place

  1. Beautiful scenary! I love to hike to clear my mind. I can always tell how much of my real life I bring with me by how many miles I need to walk before I start noticing my surroundings. It usually takes a mile; sometimes more. Then I notice little wild flowers and animals, nature sounds, etc. Hiking is a great way to meet new people, too. Some of my closest friends, I’ve met while hiking and camping. I hope you get over to Shenandoah National Park on a regular basis. It’s practically in your back yard! My kids and I hiked Old Rag Mountain in 2011 and LOVED it. We spent 6 days camping in Mathews Arm. I hope to get back there again next year.

  2. Great point about the internal needing time to adjust before it can take in the external sights and sounds. When I hike, I tend not to meet new people… what am I doing wrong? Shenandoah I usually visit once a year, and Old Rag? That’s where I got my Twitter profile pic! :-)

    • Doing wrong? Probably nothing. It depends on your intent for the hike you’re doing. If you need the hike to reset your inner peace, you probably don’t want to meet people on the trail. Sometimes I go out looking for the social aspect. Then I’ll be more likely to say hi to other people on the trail and engage in conversation if they’re hiking the same route I am and are open to conversing. I’ve joined a few meetup groups that hike in areas I like to hike. When you go out in a group, the hike is mostly focused on meeting new people and interacting. I’ve posted a lot of hikes this past year and lead hikes from time to time.

  3. Beautiful pictures — both the pictures themselves, and how you laid them out!

    I like looking at these different ways to break a routine. I’m a very routine-oriented person, much more comfortable spending a weekend at home than out traveling. But, I also love traveling. For me, it’s important to have a few familiar routines — like my morning mindfulness practice — that travel with me.

    Sound is a big one for me, but only if I go from noisy to quiet or manmade to natural. I’m not big on going the other way, up the scale, as it were — my life is plenty noisy for me already!

    When my husband and I travel to India, it always takes me time to get used to the smells. Everything about India smells different. And then when I notice a very India-like smell when I’m home, it can instantly transport me to a memory or environment far far away. Kind of cool :)

  4. I went out to eat at a new restaurant in my town yesterday. When I walked in I heard one of my favorite country songs. When they brought me my Sweet Tea, it was served in an actual Mason jar. The only word I could use to describe those things is delight. I’m a true country girl and I’ve grown bored with the city, with cars and traffic jams.
    I absolutely love the feeling that comes over me when I go out of town to visit my dad. He lives in a small town (around 500 population) and I love seeing the open fields and deer on the side of the road. I feel just like you describe, like I’ve been released and now I have this sudden, delightful freedom to experience.
    At dinner yesterday, sipping on my Sweet Tea, I told my fiance that, that is what I want. A small town, Mason jars, front porches, old men and women sitting in rocking chairs on their front porches.
    Oh and smell… I was walking to the grocery store the other day, and it seemed to be grass mowing day all over the neighborhood. I passed three yards that had been freshly cut. Now, I LOVE the smell of cut grass, but I noticed something… each yard had a slightly different scent and each one sparked a very specific memory for me. The first was of high school marching band, practicing on the football field. The second was of my grandparents condo in Miami, Fl. And the last was of my own home growing up. I guess each type of grass has a different scent… but it amazed me and I thoroughly enjoyed those memories and my walk.

    Great post!

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