I took this photo several years ago at a time when CAMPER GIRL was in limbo.
When I think of Shannon's adventure through the Adirondacks, this is one of the images that comes to mind. In the distance is Blue Mountain, a popular Adirondack climb and the site of one of Shannon's biggest moments of clarity.
If you look closely at the photo, you'll see a 'glowing' effect around the trees. This is a filter I applied in post-production, and while I'm not normally a fan of filters, this one seemed to work well. It gives the landscape a dream-like quality, like a painting.
I imagine that this is a scene that Shannon paints from memory when she's older and looking back on that first journey away from home. This landscape that's stuck in her mind all these years isn't of some far-off, exotic land; it's of a place just a few hours' drive from home--essentially, her backyard.
In the last several years, global travel has taken on a somewhat perverse notion of one-upmanship. The message pervading society seems to be that the more exotic places you visit, the hipper or cooler you are. The more you travel, the more fulfilled you'll be. The more 'free' you'll feel. There is a growing pressure to keep up with the Jones' travel schedule (and to post photos online as proof).
Thus, places have become bullet points to tick off. Cities and their attractions become bucket list items. Stop, click a selfie, post it on social media, and move on to the next conquest. The internet is crowded with articles titled, "The Ten Places You MUST Visit Before You Die."
This is a sad way of looking at the world. This perverse view frames travel as a way to conquer place--the more exotic, the better. It's disappointing to see how global travel has been turned into a sort of litmus test for measuring one's happiness. We are surrounded by messages that the more places we visit and the more personal victories we rack up, the happier we will be.
Travel can be wonderfully life-changing and eye-opening. The danger lies in this idea of conquest in which travelers hurry off to an exotic place, snap a smartly-composed selfie (bonus points if you are inches away from bodily harm/death), then hurry off to the next scenic view.
Travelling abroad, along with opening our eyes to different cultures and a broader mindset, can also remind us of the majesty and beauty in our own backyards.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to discover the art of not travelling. How do we make peace with ourselves when we're asked to stay at home or within our community? What do we do when we have to cancel our cruise or our annual vacation at Disney?
A bigger question may be how do we make peace WITH our communities? In the midst of so much grief, loss, and confusion, there have been heartening stories of people making the best of a bad situation. They rely on creativity and cooperation to enrich their newfound time with family. They spend more time outdoors, they take up learning an instrument, and they volunteer more. They take more trips to the local park and they reach out to neighbors--these are all positive side effects of a truly horrible reality.
CAMPER GIRL is about the importance of stepping into the unfamiliar, but it's less about physical place and more about a person's inner self. What lies within? Who are we when forced into a corner? When the allure of travel is stripped away, what's left? What's truly important to us and why?
I reject the idea that we have to set off to faraway dots on the map in order to 'find ourselves.' If we rely on our travels to dictate healing and growth, we could end up just as lost and unhappy as ever.
What have you discovered about yourself and your communities during this era of limited travel and increased time at home? What hobbies have you taken up? What's been the biggest challenge? What's been the greatest benefit?