People travel for a variety of reasons. Even people who travel for pleasure don’t all have the same agenda. We may be looking for simple relaxation, thrilling adventure, outdoor recreation, breathtaking scenery, cultural or historical education, stimulating enlightenment, or something altogether different. Generally, we are looking for an experience that transcends our day-to-day lives. We seek a opportunity to look at the world with fresh eyes, to be somehow transported if only for a brief time. And, we really don’t have to be in some romantic or exotic location. It can happen so unexpectedly, not because of our plans but in spite of them. It can also happen in an unlikely place — not at all where we anticipated “the magic” would occur.
Several years ago, my wife and I took a trip to San Francisco. We stayed for about a week at a good friend’s house in Port Richmond, a neighborhood in Richmond, California overlooking the bay. It was my first time to the west coast, so we acted like true tourists and visited Muir Woods, the wine country, various places in and around the city, and even took a drive down Highway 1 along the Pacific coast and spent the night in Carmel. It was fabulous. On one afternoon during our vacation, we met up with a young man who is a family friend who lives in the city. He took us to some of his favorite hiking spots at Land’s End and other locations around the entrance of the bay. We came back to the Port Richmond house and settled out on the deck overlooking the bay. We had a few drinks and took the time to catch up with him as the afternoon drifted towards evening. We were enjoying each other’s company and the comfortable weather so much that we decided to have pizza delivered instead of going out for dinner.
We continued to sit on that deck after the pizza was devoured and talked for hours. As we sipped on drinks, we watched the sun slowly sink behind the top of the distant hills to the west beyond the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge and marveled as the lights of the bridge and its endless stream of vehicles began to glow with evening’s approach. We talked and laughed about life, our memories, our hopes and fears. We soaked up the beauty of the bay at nightfall. There was nothing spectacular about the meal, although the setting was certainly enchanting enough. We were together, enjoying each other’s company, completely immersed in the now — the right then and there. We had not necessarily planned for the day to end this way. There was no remarkable event, no famous landmark, no fanfare at all. Still, it was somehow wonderful, and I knew it would be impossible to replicate. I took a photograph of the sunset from the deck to commemorate the occasion. Anytime I can stumble upon a moment like that, I get the sense that I have done more than travel. I have taken a journey.