Extreme athlete Dane Rauschenberg with an essay about the unappreciated art of traveling without traveling.
One of my favorite moments in the Don’t Fear The Reaper SNL skit with Christopher Walken is not the one most people seem to remember. (And if you are still making “More Cowbell!” jokes and expecting some laughs, I have this hip new song called the Macarena I’d like for you to hear.)
Telling the band to really loosen up, Walken mentions they should explore the studio space. Then, for emphasis, he repeats: “I mean, really… explore the space.”
It cracks me up every time. It is so artsy and pretentious all at the same time. It is a cramped fake studio with nine members of Blue Oyster Cult crammed in there. Of course, it is merely the setup for Will Ferrell to give the seminal moment in his career, but it is still wonderful.
Recently I spent the day in Salt Lake City, a town I spent over four years in before moving to Portland. When looking over a map of where I was staying I noticed a park I had never heard of. In runner’s terms it is tiny and wouldn’t warrant any special trip to check it out. Nevertheless, I was surprised it had never hit my radar. So, I decided I would run to it and, well, explore my space.
It is no secret that most people tend not to look into the nooks and crannies of the world closest to them. When focused on seeing the rest of the world, the nearby is often neglected. We tend to stick to the ways which get us to and from where we need to go the fastest. Our commute to work, our favorite eating places and our places of leisure are where we go most often. Even we runners, who think that with every footstep we take we are solving an international crisis, don’t see as much as we think. A great deal of that repetitiveness is necessity. There is a finite time to run the miles we want in a day, and if you have to factor in safety, access to liquids and bathrooms, etc., even trail runners with their Instagramming of life have to stay mostly of the same trails.
So when I hit the International Peace Garden in the middle of this park I had never even heard of I was flat out blown away. It was an absolute hidden gem. Statues, flower arrangements, monuments, benches and a plethora of other things were piled into this little place. How had I missed this? I stood for a minute and was rather moved much to my surprise. As a cynical pragmatist I am not “moved” too often. But the moment struck me.
I began my meandering journey back to where I was staying on the Jordan Parkway Trail. I have run parts of this trail to the North and to the South but never right here in this locale. The sun was shining and I just felt good. I was exploring my space.
Soon I found myself looking at a sign I didn’t recall seeing in SLC before. It reminded me of my new home in Portland. “Cycle the City,” the sign said. Salt Lake City is not really known to be a runner’s town, per se. It and the greater of Utah are more of an outdoorsy place. Rafting, mountain climbing, and spelunking are what you see in the brochures and in the lifestyles of many. There is plenty of cycling to go around but it is not necessarily “bike-friendly.” But here was this sign.
It reminded me of how much I loved my new home and how much I look forward to exploring its space. In fact, an entire chapter in my new book is about exploring the space of this country. And the world. And doing what you can to suck the marrow out of life.
Obviously you don’t need to do this through ambulation. You don’t have to travel great distances and see great things. Like Walken’s character suggested, you can explore the space of the most cramped areas. But I would suggest you do both. Look inside you while you are outside. Learn as much as you can about the world and this will in turn help you learn about yourself. Go on, “Explore your space.”
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–Photo: Dane Rauschenberg