Finding the Exotic in the Mundane

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot these days, seeing as how I’m lost in a sea of options. Every day for the past three years we knew what we were doing; where we were going.  We woke up and knew we would be getting back on the bikes and pedaling south. We may take a day or 30 off and we may take a detour here or there, but we knew where we were headed.  Now, we’re lost.  Directionless.  Adrift in a whole sea of options.

It’s a bit confusing to think about all the options in this great big world of ours.  We could, quite literally, go anywhere and do anything. How does one go about narrowing it down to doing just one thing?

But one of the biggest obstacles I’m facing right now is that whole “perception” thing.

We’ve been living the dream for so long, we expect nothing less from ourselves.  We lived and taught in foreign countries for fourteen years.  We’ve traveled the world on our bikes for five.  We’re out there, doing it.  Doing what so many Americans dream of doing.  We’re living the dream big time.

Nancy in Colombia

For the past couple months, my inbox has been filled with people wondering what’s next.  How does one “top” an adventure like ours?  What kind of bigger and better event will come now?

I think there is a mindset in America and many other parts of the world that we always need to move on to bigger things.  We earned five million dollars this year, next year we’ll earn six!  Onward and upward! Bigger equals better.

And yet, I’m not sure there needs to be a bigger and better.  Maybe we’ve done the biggest and the best and there is no need to top it.  Maybe it can stand on its own.

I’ve learned a thing or two on this journey of ours, and one of them is that exotic is in the mind of the beholder. Living the dream can happen anywhere.

Once upon a time I used to look at all those “foreign” cultures and saw how different they were.  How unusual and interesting and mysterious and glamorous…  They dressed differently than I did, their houses were different, the food they ate was different.  I traveled because travel was… well, exotic.

But now, I’ve been around the block a time or two and my perceptions have changed.  I’ve seen that all humanity is more similar than different. We are more alike than unlike.  We all have the same basic needs and we all develop our cultures based on the world around us.  We eat foods that grow locally; we build houses with materials nature provides for us.

building a house

And after all this, I’ve come to the conclusion that the USA is a great place to live.  Not because we’re “rich” or because we have this, that, and the other.  It’s because we have everything – deserts, mountains, seasons, coasts…  It’s a lovely place with amazing vistas you can reach from your doorstep no matter where that doorstep happens to be.

And yet – the USA is not “exotic”.  It’s not unusual and interesting and mysterious and glamorous.  Or is it?

I feel so fortunate that I can live in the USA.  I can travel the USA for years and years and not need a visa stamp in a passport to do it.  My friends from other countries are limited to a short three-month visit, but I can stay as long as I want.  No paperwork, no visa applications, no bother.

And you know what?  The USA IS exotic! It’s beautiful and glamorous and striking and out of the ordinary.  It also happens to be home.

I keep hearing from others that we’ll be off again soon – and we very well might be.  But maybe we’ll stay in Boise, Idaho and enjoy the exotic right there.

We’ve toyed with all the options – staying in Boise, continuing to travel full time, living in another country, travel half time…  And all those options are still open, but I wonder about the “why”.

We could move to Argentina or Honduras or Thailand or Spain, but why?  Would our lives really be that different?  Better?  We would still have to wash our clothes and do the dishes.  We would need to clean the house and go grocery shopping and fix flat tires and pay the bills. We would just be doing the mundane in another place. Is that what exotic is all about?

I don’t know which option of many we’ll choose in the future, but I do know it’ll be exotic.  It will be out of the ordinary and exciting.  Even if it is Boise.

long road ahead

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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8 Responses to Finding the Exotic in the Mundane

  1. Debra Speakes March 30, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    I think the advantage lies in being on the bike. The landscape one sees out one’s window, or passes by in a car, is not the SAME landscape you see from the bike, because when you are on the bike you aren’t just seeing it with your eyes — you are experiencing it with all five senses. You SEE the beauty with your eyes; you SMELL the flowers blooming; you FEEL the sun or wind; you HEAR the birds or the silence; and even the sense of taste can come into play if you smell a barbecue and stop for a meal.

    As I learned on that horse in France, just being out in the open intensifies the experience, and even a familiar landscape takes on new dimensions when we strip off the armor of our automobiles and experience life as God created it.

  2. Margie Lundy March 30, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    Okay, Craters of the Moon IS in Idaho and we found it very exotic! One of our favorite places so far! 🙂 But I totally get you. We do all of those mundane things and have very boring days, we just like that the scenery changes whenever we want it to.

  3. Alice Griffin: Traveller ~ Writer ~ Boater March 30, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    WOW, I read this through and nodded – A LOT.

    When we were wrapping up our adventure of 15 months on the road we too had gotten to a point of thinking that wherever you go, people are doing really quite similar things. We too wondered if we could indeed find the exotic on our own doorstep. It’s taken us a while, but now we are seeing our home country of England from a new angle – and a new pace – on our narrowboat. And it’s opened up a whole new world and yet, here I am back in my hometown!

    However, my love for travel further afield remains and I’m sure always will… but that’s OK. But equally it’s OK to admit that I do indeed feel inspired by England, too.

    As you say, I’m sure that whatever you do it will be out of the ordinary and exciting. I believe that if you look to live in that way then you can – wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

    Can’t wait to see what happens…

  4. Alice Ricard March 30, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    I know whatever path you and your family go it will be fantastic and exotic. I would love to follow you right at home in Boise. As a former educator no one can say your boys are not well educated. Not many people get to say that their family went to the end of the world. I applaud you for what your family has done in the past 3 years and I have had the honor of following right along with you and your family. It will be boring to me…lol

  5. Jumbleberry Jam March 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    As always, beautifully and thoughtfully written! I am currently on a wanderlust fast for the first time in my life. I am not sure if I am choosing to give up overseas travel/living, or if I am finally fully embracing the exotic right here in the Pacific Northwest? Either way, I never want a day to pass without experiencing the wonder around me.

  6. LouAnn March 30, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    I have never tired of my garden in Boise. It changes daily if you look close enough. The sun, the breeze, the beautiful things it grows–A million miracles in one small acre.

  7. Sandra Riedo March 30, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    Awesome article! Nothing to add – whatever you will end up doing, you will make the best of it :o)

  8. Anjuli April 4, 2011 at 4:56 am #

    I have just discovered your blog- and have been reading backwards attempting to ‘catch up’– what amazing adventures. Totally agreed with what you said in this post….have thought many times about that…living the mundane wherever I am in my travels…and yet, also living the exotic life no matter where I am.

    Hope you arrive back in Boise safe and sound!

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