There is something special in the emotional unfolding of settling into a new place that I find invigorating and tantalizing. There is something in the sensational, wide-eyed nature of delving into the unknown and the unfamiliar. There is something in the mental transition from feeling lost in a foreign land to feeling the comfort and quietude of a place becoming home as the days and weeks pass.
I am in Seattle now and I am slowly growing fond of this strange and enticing place. It’s the little things, like the aroma of seafood and artisan foods strolling down Pike Place Market. The electric, vibrant air after a recent rainstorm. The endless roar of bus engines, the percussion of footsteps, and the vague chatter of crowds as you roam the streets. The cool, fragrant sea breeze surprising you as you pass in between buildings. The sounds of gulls calling, even downtown, reminding you that you are never far from the water. It all culminates into a painting. A painting of a place in the minds eye, which unfailingly blooms into something beautiful and memorable, to be cherished down the road.
In my journey to be more mindful and aware in the interest of self-improvement, I find that taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of a new place makes this whole process far easier and more rewarding. There is something in keeping your brain fixated on the present and yet eagerly guessing about the next move. Moving to a new place is its own kind of adventure, and one of the best things I have come to love about adventure is the element of surprise. Subverting expectation and craving surprise are fundamental parts of our survival.
Curiosity is perhaps one of our greatest characteristics as humans. Besides the obvious things like love, compassion, and generosity, curiosity is a fundamental part of what it means to be human. There is a reason we climb mountains, explore the depths of the sea, and blast off into space. There is a reason we scattered out into all edges and corners of the earth. There is something universal and essential beckoning us forward. Perhaps it is a higher order. Like enjoying a home-cooked meal with cherished company or gazing out onto the stars or making love, exploring for its own sake is a sacred, ancient practice. These are the beats of our own survival. They are a celebration of our existence and of our cooperation with one another.
And It’s funny to note, but I have lived enough places by now to know how the whole process works. Like my first week in Seattle, while exciting, was a little nerve-racking for me. I initially feel a tension, not quite fear, but an unease as I slowly acclimate to a new place. I am not quite sure how to gauge the people, the customs, and the pacing of a place. Everything is brand new and having to be learned, which is both engaging and frantic for the brain as it tries to make sense of the new environment.
And then something happens. After a couple of weeks, things sink into a familiar pattern. What was once bewildering and a little off-putting becomes familiar and is adapted to the new way of life. You get to know the people, you solidify your directional proficiency, and a place slowly becomes home. That mental and emotional transformation is what I find fascinating. There is an excited tension at first followed by a slow burning ease as a place becomes fleshed out and routine.
The new place is often reinvented for me in two major ways. The first way is that the simplistic expectations and stereotypes of a place in time dissolve, and then slowly expand into a complex array of experienced diversity. An understanding is formed. The truth is, everyplace is an ecosystem, worlds within worlds. Everywhere resists simplicity. A city or town is actually a hundred or a thousand different worlds within one. A geological region can foster both deserts and rainforests within its borders. Nothing is a monolith. We tend to create simplistic versions of places and peoples from a distance. Travel breaks those beliefs down, reveals the complexity of our world, destroys prejudice, and hopefully fosters some humility in the traveling observer.
The other way a place is reinvented is that the scenery, people, routes, and routines all acquiesce into a comforting, mental domicile over time. Seeing this transition only further shows that the place isn’t the thing that is changing. You are. Nothing has changed but your own framework of the place, based on new information being processed, understood, and cataloged. Seeing this transition always enlivens me because I feel like it highlights one of the remarkable things about our brains and about this experience of being human. We are the conduits for infinite experience, love, and adventure and it’s all constantly changing and shifting. I see it all as a universal unfolding, as a changing stream of consciousness which brings resonance to our power and creativity. We are worlds within worlds experiencing worlds within worlds. Somewhere in the static background radiation of all of this beautiful noise, I find peace. Let the journey continue…