I’ve always loved that image, from Alice in Wonderland, of the rabbithole that goes on and on. Far beyond where a rabbithole should really go, until you find yourself in a place that no rabbithole should contain. If you pick the right rabbitholes, the whole enterprise can be rather rewarding.
Jonathan has written recently on the idea that in order for travel to be a rewarding experience, something that pushes you out of your typical frame of mind and into the really interesting places, you need to have an intentionality about it. A conscious desire to find an adventure, grab it with both hands and wring from it every ounce of magical strangeness. But not too much intentionality, mind you, since the path of excessive adventure-having can lead you down the path of seeing an omen in everything, and a wise sage in every bizarre character you meet. The truth, it would seem, lies somewhere in the middle. To be intent enough on adventure to find it, but relaxed enough about what it will be not to ruin the experience by fitting what happens subsequently into the box of what you expected.
In this, I think Jonathan has a pretty useful view of how the finding-of-interesting-experiences thing works. Whether it is a correct view is up to wiser minds than mine to quantify. It is exceptionally useful though. What I would add to this understanding, perhaps, is the role that people play in the whole adventuring affair.
you realise how much of the basic, common being-human stuff you share, but at the same time, how truly differently it can be expressed when compared to the limited emotional vocabulary your own culture has taught you.
People open doors to strange and interesting places – to the worlds they have constructed and the lives
When you find yourself a stranger in new surroundings and are looking to find a new experience, a new way of seeing the place you are in, nothing works faster or better than connecting with someone. Not in some Steven Covey-esque suck-them-dry-for-their-networking-potential sense, but rather in the more honest introduce-yourself-shut-up-and-listen sense. I have lost count over the years of interesting places I have seen and events I have ended up being a participant in where the gatekeeper between an afternoon of mediocre exploring or an evening at the local traveller hangout and the places that I ultimately found myself, was an interesting person whose path I just happened to cross.
they live where they are. Lives necessarily infused with the flavour and texture of a place in a way that no guided tour, no trip to a museum could ever replicate. Even more valuable – those places are such fundamentally human ones, that being invited to share a part of their worlds grows you – as you realise how much of the basic, common being-human stuff you share, but at the same time, how truly differently it can be expressed when compared to the limited emotional vocabulary your own culture has taught you.
Participation changes you in ways that being a transient observer never can. And the first little step to that is having the intent, the will and the courage to meet someone. After that, it’s a case of seeing how deep the rabbithole can go.