Most of my weekends away include me behind the wheel of a car, listening to Huey Lewis and the News while eating gas station popcorn. But that’s not to say, I don’t travel more broadly.
If you are a longtime follower, you may already know that the #MNBucketlist was borne out of an attempt to recover from a major event in my life. I looked for ways to fall in love with where I’m from while putting myself in the way of beauty and light, regardless of whether the places I found fell on the traditional top ten lists. I learned to love the mundane and hidden, becoming a tourist in the place I call home.
I have seen glowing Ice Castles, the wonders and excitement of the SPAM Museum, the Mall of America, Paul Bunyan and his Big Blue Ox in their native land, and the Northwest Angle and the Lost 40, Minnesota’s most famous mapping/surveying errors. I have stepped foot in the headwaters of the Mississippi, learned all about the world’s largest ball of twine, and had the unique opportunity to see of my favorite people play at First Ave.
But, maybe, just maybe, your bucket list includes places across state lines.
Maybe what’s on your bucket list is to celebrate Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, spend Valentine’s Day dining next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, take a carriage ride through Central Park, catch a game at Fenway, follow up a hike through Multnomah Falls with a bowl of wild rice soup at Multnomah Lodge, see a Chihuly up-close, climb the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (for the uninitiated like me, the “Rocky steps” that Rocky Balboa famously climbed) or touch the hallowed rocks behind Mount Rushmore. Whatever wanderlust-worthy destinations are on your bucket list, I am all for finding reasons to cross them off.
If you need further reason to travel, near or far, allow me to share what these experiences have taught me.
It taught me to let go of the things that were outside my control.
The moment you fly somewhere new, you are no longer tethered to the help you so often come to rely on. In a moment of uncertainty, you are left to our own devices and are forced to figure it out. Figure out where to stay if the hotel is overbooked. Figure out where to eat when the restaurant you planned to go to is closed. Figure out what to do when the weather turns on the day you planned to be outside. And you do, you figure it out. Difficulties in unfamiliar places are often inevitable and force you to practice tolerance, flexibility, creativity, and independence, resulting in better resiliency when you are faced with similar situations at home.
It taught me to broaden my perspective and be more aware.
I have traveled most of my life and found a new sense of self and roots by the time I return home. It rekindles my faith in humanity, forces me to see beyond myself, and continuously allows me to re-evaluate my life and my relationships. When boasting about my independent nature and ability to jump into the world with both feet, my mom will often tell friends the story of the time I went to Europe alone in my early teens. After a few pivotal days, I called her and said, “I never knew how significant your love was for me until I realized how insignificant I was to the world.” She loves this story. To be fair, I was 14. Insightful, but still 14. For those who read this in horror, mind you, she always knew where I was and who I stayed with.
It taught me a new way to interact with the world around me.
Visiting somewhere new and allowing yourself to be immersed in the local environment helps you find things to hold onto. Whether that’s a newfound love of pinball because a local arcade was the only place opened in the middle of the night or finding a new favorite way to make grilled cheese because of that one time you were forced to try it with asparagus as the no-name bistro you stumbled on had no other options. I brought the things I found or was introduced (or re-introduced) to home with me. Allowing life to present itself to you, even if it’s just for a weekend, lets in opportunities for new memories and educational experiences. Meeting different people and discovering new places provides an education that is impossible to get elsewhere.
It taught me the value of being a planner and that planning allows for less-anxious spontaneity.
Whether I’m headed to Duluth, Marshall, Baudette, Portland, Boston, or Seattle, I plan the same. Logistics, food, places I’d never heard of, often spending time scouring Pinterest, Instagram and Google Maps for ideas. I learned to make the most out of every trip, no matter where I am going so that I have a multitude of options, regardless of the difficulties or constraints I may face. Planning ahead helps avoid last-minute panic and improves productivity and problem-solving skills.
It taught me to love home that much more.
Travelling has always helped to remind me what I find meaningful and interesting in my life. Temporarily disconnecting with the stress of life and my normal routine reminded me who I missed, whose voice I needed to hear, and who I wanted to call to share my excitement (news flash, it’s usually my mom). Removing the distractions gives you a chance (if you are willing to take it) to appreciate home and who you share your everyday life with. As an introvert by nature, I find myself always watching those around me. Being an outsider in a place I don’t know gives me the opportunity to see issues and daily life challenges from a different angle and remind me that these familiarities are universally applicable.
Going a step further, check out some of the places outside of Minnesota that I’ve traveled to recently. Come along as I tell you where to stay, what to do, where to eat, and the whole reason I chose to visit.