I learned a lot about myself on my last trip. I’d spent two months in Europe, mainly in the south of France with some time spent in Portugal, Spain and a quick jaunt into Italy. Many of my previous trips centered on exploring a single city, visiting its museums, walking its streets, tasting its food and drink. This was fine, and I certainly did some of that on this last trip, but this time I placed a greater emphasis on outdoor activities, and absolutely loved it.
Look, I loved wandering around Venice, adored exploring the alleys of Lisbon’s Alfama, and thoroughly enjoyed soaking up the ambiance in New Orleans, for example. And on this trip I explored Barcelona, Nice and Paris, but what really struck me, what sticks with me and will likely always stick with me, was the outdoor stuff: canyoning in La Maglia, hiking the Cap de Creus, surfing the Alentejo coast.
There came a moment when I realized that, hell, I can explore cities anytime, at just about any age, but rappelling down waterfalls? I kinda gotta do that now. I’m creeping up on forty (or forty is creeping up on me) and, though I’m in pretty great shape, I’m distinctly aware of the fact that, eventually, I won’t be able to hike, kayak, or surf the way I can now. So, while I’ll still always include some cultural and culinary exploration on any travel itinerary, getting outside, exploring the region’s nature, doing so in as active a way as possible, is now my priority.
Basically, instead of admiring the country’s nature from afar, I wanna figure out how to admire it from within, while interacting with it physically. On this last trip, I spent over a week in the Verdon Gorge. The Verdon is the second largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon. I hiked along its edges and I hiked into it. I also did some canyoning in some of the nearby canyons, branching from the Verdon. Instead of just peering down into the canyon, I also explored it from within. It’s intimate and, depending on the activity, it can be a real rush. Think of it as the difference between watching your lover do a strip tease and having sex with him or her.
We often think of a destination as the ultimate reason for our travels, but your favorite outdoor activity can be the reason, with the destination simply a setting for that activity. When I research a new potential travel destination, one of the first things I do is punch the country name into Google, then add the word “canyoning”, one of my favorite outdoor activities. I then do the same for “caving” and “surfing”. Then I figure out how to fit in as many of those activities as I can. I build my trip around the activities. This way, new destination options have cropped up simply for the outdoor activities they offer, from San Gil in Colombia and Puerto Varas in Chile, to Da Lat in Vietnam and Miri in Malaysia.
That kinda travel isn’t for everyone, of course. Different travelers have different priorities. But, until this trip, I didn’t realize just how much getting outside and being active while traveling was a priority of mine. I guess I’m just not satisfied watching the world dance seductively as it disrobes, I wanna have sex with the world. That’s the lesson here: have sex with the world. Lovingly and respectfully, but also vigorously and with passion. Or something like that. I dunno. Just jump off a waterfall once in a while.