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Sophia Dembling Headshot

Why Travel? Because It Is There

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I've never met a place I didn't like. And I mean that.

Sure, some trips are more fun than others, and some places' charms aren't evident at first glance. But I've never been anywhere that couldn't hold my attention, never been anywhere I would refuse to visit again.

Travelers fall into two camps. (Not tourists and travelers. Don't get me started on that pretension....) Some people go places where there's cool stuff to see. Some people go places to see whatever happens to be there.

I'm the latter kind. I go because it's there. Because it's different. Because it's someplace I've never been.

The best thing about that mindset: I'm never disappointed. Every place is its own world, interesting in its own way.

I started traveling in my early 20s, crisscrossing the United States on Greyhound buses. An urban rube, I'd barely ever left New York City, and I'd certainly never been west of New Jersey or south of Delaware. The nation's highways, cornfields, and 7-Elevens -- not to mention mountains, deserts, and vast, glorious skies -- were revelations to me. The locals seemed exotic, their dialects were enchanting, they lived in ways I could barely imagine. My provincial little mind was blown open to America's enormity and diversity, and I haven't been the same since.

I have traveled the world and I'm not done with that yet. I adore international travel and believe it broadens and enriches our lives like nothing else. At the same time, I have little patience for Americans who have traveled the world yet have never seen the Grand Canyon. See America First, dammit! Or at least eventually.

See the country's greatest hits -- the Rockies, the California coast, New York City, San Francisco, and so on. Then move on to the deep cuts. Ever been to West Virginia? It's awfully pretty. (And if you like whitewater rafting, it's almost Gauley season.) How about South Dakota? Missouri?

The point of travel is to see new things and lives lived differently, to sample local cuisine, to gain new perspectives. (Could I live here? I ask myself that question everywhere I go. What would it be like to wake up here every morning?) Travel is not a contest with the winner racking up the greatest distances and most countries. I check out of the Commander McBragg conversations that spring up when world travelers get together. No, I've never been to Nepal. You ever been to Arkansas?

Of course, this "see what's there" philosophy applies to international travel, too, but it's easier to appreciate the little things in another country. Bringing that sense of discovery to your own backyard is more challenging.

We're all kinda broke these days and vacations seem indulgent. But fall is coming, the best travel season of all. So here's the radical plan: Take a break in someplace truly exotic, open your mind to a different kind of unusual. Think about B-list cities (Lubbock, Texas--or is that C-list? At any rate, it has the Buddy Holly Center); offbeat towns (Truth or Consequences, New Mexico); oddball museums in out-of-the-way places (the Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma); fine museums in surprising places (The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming).

I've been all those places and liked every one. But I like every place. That's what makes travel fun.

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