Going Off the Well-Worn Path

IMG_1792We are part of a tribe, or herd. We find comfort in numbers. Going it alone is scary or at least very uncomfortable for most people. That’s who we are.

It’s neither good nor bad. What’s important, however, is to know our tendencies — and our insecurities, preconceptions and biases — and be thoughtful about what we do with that information. And not to be merely the product of society’s forces.

I wish I’d better understood this when I was young, Vera. I probably would have been more adventuresome and explored and learned more things earlier. And taken more risks. Instead, it was if I were in a dinghy amidst society’s vast flotilla, being carried along by the current of history.

To some extent, that’s inevitable. We are hostage, to some degree, to our times and circumstances. We operate chiefly within the context into which we were born and reared. Yet how much of this in inevitable and how much is by choice? My reaction to Venice, Italy brought this question to mind.

I immediately fell in love with the city. It’s a marvel. It’s truly unique. It’s a jaw-dropping monument to the abilities and ingenuity of humanity.

Yet some people don’t like Venice. I’ve heard it before and heard it again when we returned home after having spent the better part of last month exploring Italy.

The themes repeat: The water is dirty. It smells. It’s too crowded. It’s not safe (pickpockets). It’s too hard to get around. It’s easy to get lost.

The photo above is of Venice. I took it when your grandmother and I were exploring the city. But where are the crowds?

Crowds do exist in Venice. But not everywhere. They tend not to be where the people live — the people who run the city, who call the city their home. They tend not to be in places that aren’t highlighted by tour guides.

We spent the better part of two days walking as much of the city as time allowed. Most of that time was spent where there were no crowds. It was there my love for the city grew. It was there the wonder and awe of the city became even more vivid.

When I was young, I may have stayed where the people congregate, deferring to their judgment of what is important and what isn’t. That’s fine, but it’s not where I want to be at this point in my life.

Some people have asked, weren’t you afraid of getting lost? I laugh. I’ve never been lost in my life. I’ve made some wrong turns, but it’s never occurred to me I’d get lost (or could get lost). Perhaps I owe this (arrogance? delusion? truth?) to my dad (your great-grandfather, whom, unfortunately, you will never have the privilege of knowing).

I hope you’re not afraid of getting lost, Vera. And I hope you’re not content with staying where the herd gathers.

I hope you allow your curiosity and yearning for knowledge and new experiences to pull you to out-of-the way places and uncertain experiences. I hope you’re more courageous than I was. And I hope you are thoughtful and mindful in your choices and don’t allow your boat to be carried mindlessly by the current of history over which you have little or no say.

An amazing world awaits you. Yet, to find it, you occasionally may have to leave the perceived safety of the herd. Sometimes, you may have to get off the well-worn path.

Try to get lost, Vera. Experience the unexpected. The unscripted. The unusual. The truly amazing treasures that await you.

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