Exploring downtown Huntsville, Alabama
If we daydream of exploring nature and cities in other countries but never explore our own, we are lying to ourselves. Either we only want the “big adventure image” or we only imagine that exploration and adventure are for us, we don’t actually believe it to be true.
I watched a video of one man walking El Camino del Santiago in Spain, and I wished with all my soul I was there, walking the mountain pathways and exploring the Spanish villages. I have a dream of walking El Camino one day. I want to find joy in the daily wonders of walking across the Spanish landscape.
The next day I drove to the library in my brand new town of Huntsville, AL. After parking in the shade, I grabbed my camera and walked down a sidewalk towards downtown. I entered a neighborhood of townhomes and shops all mixed together. Just outside the front door of a restaurant was an old piano and lawn chair painted in bright colors. I turned a corner and climbed a grassy hill, then continued to a beautiful city park. Huntsville was founded beside a natural spring, which was later turned into a canal to move cotton to the Tennessee River. Now the spring has a water fountain, a canal leading to a large lake and surrounded by walking trails. Thousands of colorful Koi swim around waiting for handouts. In the park I found another decorated old piano and chair.
Walking on I passed the courthouse, and several offices, of which many were law offices. I entered the Old Twickinham neighborhood. Twickenham was the original name of Huntsville, later changed to honor the first settler, a Mr. Hunt. The neighborhood was beautiful; homes were built between the early 1800’s to the 1940”s. I saw hydrangea bushes as large as small cars, lots of older gingko trees and daylilies everywhere. The Magnolia trees were large and healthy, covered with plate-sized flowers
I just walked along one street then another, turning as the fancy hit me, and mainly choosing shady streets. Alabama is hot, and I walked slowly under the trees enjoying any breeze I could find. Eventually I returned to the park, made a loop along the city trails and ended at the library and my car. Although Huntsville is not as old as my last city, Charleston SC, it is still beautiful and well preserved. While walking I remembered exploring my SC home as well as the times I’ve walked and explored cities, and neighborhoods in different states. Many times one location will remind me of another. Even though there is so much variety in the world, there is also sameness. The differences are exciting; the similarities create bonds. Isn’t that part of the joy of travel, reveling in that which makes us different and rejoicing in things that are the same?
So, in order to truly enjoy travel abroad, we must know what is at home. How unique could a foreign place be, if we don’t have our home standard to measure it by?
If we don’t like to explore and open up to people and cultures outside our own door, what makes us think we will like it in the exotic places of the world?
I guess I can see a comparison to a person that dreams of being a writer but never writes, to a person that dreams of walking/exploring but never goes out on nearby pathways.
All these thoughts passed through my mind as I walked around town that day. I don’t have the time right now, or the money, to travel to Spain and walk the Camino. Does that mean I have to put all that exploration on hold until my life changes? I read bloggers that say, “This is your life, now. Get up and go!” I say yes, but maybe not in the way they mean. Adventures, exploration, these are mindsets, attitudes. I choose to live here, with my family, and I choose to be an adventurer and explorer anyway. I can walk and discover new (to me) places and still pick up my daughter from work, and cook a healthy meal for my family at the end of the day. My exploration life may look different than another persons, but it is mine, and I am happy.