The great escape…

My mind has been wandering recently. It’s been on adventures far and wide to crystal blue waters, dramatic mountain views and lush green forests. To those places where both literally and metaphorically you could get lost for days. For some, when their mind wanders to such places (and lets admit it, we’re all daydreamers to a certain degree!) it would be an imagined place in the mind’s eye full of tranquillity and calm…but for me my daydreams take me to an amalgamation of all those beautiful places I’ve been lucky enough to experience already in my lifetime. Those breathtaking views I’ll always have emblazoned in my memory like some sort of mental collage or picture book.

Travel and escapism is the theme for this post as I’ve come to realise recently how important having those moments of pure awe and inspiration are to truly enjoying life and finally realising the beauty of the world that surrounds us. That last bit sounds pretty naff, I know it does, but I just can’t think of a better way to describe it. For me, the feeling that comes with standing over a beautiful mountain view or a wild, untameable waterfall just can’t be beaten and it truly makes me feel like a different person. Like all those everyday niggles and worries might just fall away with the cascade of the water or evaporate into the fresh mountain air, leaving behind only admiration and enjoyment of the amazing sight around me. That feeling of ‘just being’ I suppose is what makes travelling so addictive – it’s so rare to experience it in everyday life we often need to physically be taken away to do it.

As I’m writing, I realise this post has gotten quite deep very quickly… I hear 50 Shades does the same actually (ooops sorry couldn’t resist popping in a cheeky innuendo somewhere! ;))
I can’t (and don’t really want to) apologise for the slightly different tone to this, such is the way that ‘escaping’ makes me feel. But to give it some context, I’m personally at a point in life where I’m working out which things truly matter to me and when are the times when I’m at my happiest and most inspired. One of the top three ‘happy times’ for me has to be the experience of travelling to the national parks around America over the past 5 years… The other two? Well I’ll let you muse those over 😉

Travelling and experiencing the new has always been a passion of mine, I suppose because adventures and beautiful places capture the imagination and I’ve always been very well endowed on that front! Even when I was younger my favourite Disney films were Alice in Wonderland and Pocahontas and my favourite TV series, Dreamstone…all of which are an exploration of dreams and adventures with a slight bit of ‘wackiness’ thrown in for good measure 🙂 But I always remember thinking that one day I’d get out there and seek my own adventures…

And so, a little less than four years ago I decided to embark on a tour of America from the East to the West as far as my limited funds would take me. To say I fell in love with the country would be an understatement…the diversity of opportunities, landscapes and people just felt great to me. But my most amazing memories, the ones that form my mind’s collage, are from all the beauty of the national parks along the way…my words simply won’t do them justice. Something just ‘clicked’ for me as I went from one beautiful place to the next, it was amazing to me that one country could hold so many stunning places…so much so I also decided to return two years later. And I still only feel I’ve scratched the surface…

My mind constantly flicks back to those memories of beautiful American landscapes – from dramatic Wild West Navajo country to Grand Teton mountainsides and the lush shores of Yosemite. The indescribable feeling of watching an earth shattering geyser bubble up and shoot from Yellowstone’s lands out into the sky to being just feet away from bears, buffalo and wolves. Watching the sun set over the orange sands at Arches to looking out at snow capped mountains over Grand Teton. Floating out on a boat through the vast, clear blue, peaceful expanse of Lake Tahoe… I just can’t find the words to describe in full how these experiences make me feel and how they have shaped me as a person…and trust me, words are not something I would usually struggle with 😉

Looking out from the top of a mountain, from the forest floor and desert covered lands to such incredible landscapes you just feel like a different version of ‘you’. Like all of a sudden you think ‘okay…so this is what life is all about’. If I could just spend my life looking out at this view forever more I would be a happy lady (probably pretty bored and hungry once a year passes by mind you!:) ). It’s no wonder people nowadays are so desperate to travel…the cynics among us muse that it’s because people are never satisfied with what they’ve got, no matter how much they have – well TRUE! I’m certainly not satisfied when I know what a brilliant world there is out there for us to explore and experience.

The thing that people also tend to forget about travel is that not only do you see some pretty darn amazing sights but you really do learn a lot along the way. What I’ve learnt through travelling is that I know what inspires me and makes me tick – it’s looking out across a vast, lush landscape and realising how much inspiration and ‘just being’ can make me feel re-energised to really, wholeheartedly live my life. When going about everyday tasks, it’s just so easy to forget about the rest of the world still yet to see and to get bogged down with frustrations and disappointment. I just wish I could bottle the feeling and sell it on ebay – I’d make my fortune and go set up house in Yosemite 😉 But in my usual style there are also other things I would share as learnings / musings:

1. Inspiration is as unique to us as a fingerprint. What makes us tick and what moves us within will undoubtedly differ from person to person. I know that dramatic mountainsides, lush green forests, wild waterfalls and crystal clear waters are some examples of scenery that inspire me; another person may be just as inspired by a sparse desert ridden expanse. The point is you have to know what ‘it’ is and try to experience as much as you possibly can in life.
2. Don’t let those brilliant memories fade – use them in times of frustration to re-energise and reinvigorate. Whether it’s through photos, painting a picture, writing it down or whatever, try to keep your memories alive and use them to remind yourself of how you felt at those points in time.
3. Stay hungry for more – the world is ridiculously huge. I just happened to stumble upon America as my dream destination in terms of having all the parks I could possibly want, but I also loved Croatia and Spain before that and I’m also well aware there is a much bigger world out there to pay attention to. When I look back in 50 years time, I want to be able to say I saw all I wanted to see. To have some brilliant memories that comfort me when my physical body is unable to fulfil my adventurer spirit’s demands.

And so ends a short reminisce of the wonderful places I’ve had the privilege of experiencing to date – I could have gone on for pages (my first novel perhaps!!:) ).
Little more than a few years have passed since I was out there exploring my beloved American landscape yet it feels like a lifetime ago, better yet that perhaps it hadn’t even happened at all and I’d dreamt it all. Exactly like that moment in Alice in Wonderland when she wakes up and realises she was asleep the whole time. But that’s also how I know it’s now time to get back out there, get re-inspired and start seeing the brilliant world we live in – it’s those moments, those adventures, those memories that help to make us ‘us’.

I already know where my next adventures will take me (Chimney Rock NP North Carolina and Banff NP Canada if you must know!) – do you know where yours will be? 🙂

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