I have traveled to many places for most of my life. Since the 1980s, I have traveled far and wide, for business as well as pleasure. There are many places I would like to re-visit, many I vow to visit only on business, and many, many more places I’d like to go, when the time is right. I am one of “those people” who, once I’ve been someplace, can almost always find my way back again (without a GPS or paper map). I have what some people call “a good sense of direction”; I know, for example, how to re-trace my route toward someplace in reverse, to get me back to where I started. I am usually the navigator on road trips, while walking in an unfamiliar location, and when finding the way underground on a subway. I began navigating my family’s cross country road trips when I was in elementary school, so I have had lots of time to practice. All of this being said, the point of this post is more global: I know where I have been because I pay attention to the details about the places I have visited. Years later, I can say, “Oh yes, Seville, Spain is the place where David and I stayed at the Hotel Alfonso XIII, near the Rio Guadalquivir. We took a carriage ride and the horse’s name was ‘Cherokee,’ ” among other details. I can close my eyes and visualize the location of the hotel, the place where we boarded the carriage, the route we traveled on the carriage, and many other geographic features of the lovely city, Seville. I can, just as easily, recall geographic details of most places I’ve been, even places I have visited on business, for a brief period of time. And, don’t even get me started on naming the exits on I-95 from Miami to Jacksonville or equally fun, from Jacksonville to Miami! For me, knowing where I have been is an important part of my happiness for many years after I’ve visited a particular place. I’m always ready to go and ready to make new travel memories!
I don’t recall all of the details as well as Melissa does – but it is a fun exercise to mentally walk down the street retracing steps long ago taken. One of the tests for me was re-finding my way in Sydney after having lived there for a year. On the 2 occasions when Melissa and I have visited Sydney since then, and these visits were 10 years apart, I have mostly been able to find my way around the central part of the city, despite not previously living in that area. I sometimes “walk the streets” there when day dreaming, or trying to fall asleep. But, to follow in the global thread of this post, knowing where you have been means knowing where you are. It is a form of situational awareness – being aware of one’s surroundings at all times. Some people don’t know where they have traveled because they have overloaded their memory with what they are seeing at a given time. This is dangerous for many reasons. You won’t know where you have been, which means you won’t know how to get back to your starting point. And, you put yourself at risk in not knowing alternative, or “escape” routes that could lead you to safety. I’ve observed friends and employees who are seemingly oblivious to their surroundings, relying on me, Melissa, or others to lead the way, to find the car in the parking lot, etc. Much better to know the way yourself to be able to negotiate travels so that they don’t turn into travails. In a world reliant on Siri, Waze, and other tech tools – realize they can’t always help. Lose or break that phone, run out of battery power, or worse, drive into a dead zone, and you will be stuck there unless you are capable of navigating without such devices. As cool and helpful as they are, total reliance on tech tools can create a whole new world of problems which will reduce the enjoyment of just being a bit more tuned into one’s surroundings. For business or personal travel, local or international, pay attention to surroundings. The stress you reduce will be your own.