This column has lead me to a lot of exciting places this year. As 2015 draws to a close, I’m asking myself the following questions: How will I remember these accumulated experiences? How should you, kind reader? And does the world really need another year-end round-up story?
With exception to the last question (answer: “no”), only time will tell. That’s how memory works. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least try to make sense of the dozens of “Off The Grid” columns I wrote this year, the first collection of many more I hope. You know, give these serialized stories a proper, poetic and happy annual ending.
So here it is. But instead of ranking this year’s columns on epicness, magnitude or popularity, I’m going Confucius on you and rank them by their spirit. I’ve undoubtedly missed one or two of your favorites. But these are the ones that affected me most.
My family travels long distances several times a year … kids and all. We like seeing and doing new things, especially unfamiliar national parks, attractions and civilizations. And by “we” I really mean my wife and I. We mostly drag the kids along because we want them to love the world as much as we do. They’re mostly good sports about it, but they like man-made things better than naturally-occurring things. When asked what they’re favorite trip of 2015 was, they replied in unison, Las Vegas! Not because they like hookers, gambling or other adult vices. They just prefer big pools, lights, buildings and shiny things that grown-ups make. You probably did too at their age.
After fjord-hiking, iceberg-spotting and all manner of adventuring through much of Newfoundland this summer, I can’t for the life of me figure out why more people don’t visit this place. There’s simply no good reason only 100,000 foreigners travel there each year. On the contrary, many people would jump at the chance to visit a place that’s one part Norway, one part Scotland and one part Ireland populated by the nicest people in the world (i.e. Canadians). If only they knew about it. I consider myself lucky to be in on the secret. See for yourself if you don’t believe me.
Wide open spaces are powerful because they make the observer feel small. They also remind us that we’re not the center of the universe and that our existence is a lot more temporary (i.e. precious) than we normally like to accept. It’s partly why people like the great outdoors as much as they do. But you don’t have to travel outside to feel small. Sometimes examining a globe is all it takes.
The idea of “letting go” can be boiled down to the following belief: it’s okay if this, that or the other happens, and it’s okay if it doesn’t. In other words, you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react it. Much of that wisdom involves putting your scorecard away, or at least rethinking how you account for your life and chase experiences. Perspective is everything.
As a storyteller and critic, I sometimes exaggerate, sensationalize or overstate the truth to help the reader understand why something’s important or why they should care. I’m not talking about fudging the truth, omitting facts or covering things up. Only that my passion and excitement for deserving things often hit 11, when in fact the meter maxes out at 10. That said, it’s no exaggeration when I say visiting Africa for the first time was a life-changing event. So much so that I hope you’ll upgrade it to the top of your bucket list.
Honorable mention: Finding myself 10,000 miles from home.
Photo: Global Panorama, CC-BY
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Follow him on Twitter.