Here’s a quote from John Robison out of his book, Be Different: “I probably feel more at peace in the woods than anywhere else. Walking in the woods is calming and tranquil….But, it’s always stressful trying to unravel the complex signals from other humans. Being in a crowd always tires me out for that reason. When I’m in the woods I’m free of that stressor. But I don’t think that’s the whole explanation for why being there feels better. Maybe it’s a combination of things: the lack of people, the tranquility of nature, and its natural beauty. Maybe outdoors is a place I feel safer, and that’s why I can unwind in a place where many people would feel alone and scared.” (194-195)
On Tuesday morning of this week, I went to the OKC airport at 5:00 am to catch my plane at 6:40. The manager from our department I was going with didn’t arrive until 6:20. But I sat in the seating area at the gate and found myself being asked random questions here and there because of my Whole Foods hat. No big deal even at 5 in the morning.
By 3 pm, after working in a crowded kitchen, having to be ‘on top of my game’ at a meeting at 9:00 and dealing with being in an unfamiliar kitchen, working with Regional Coordinators for our department that I didn’t know, I said “Damn! Enough!” By 3 pm, we had gotten to our hotel room. J, the manager I was attending the training session with, had zonked out after 5 minutes of being on the bed. I needed to get out. I ran like the proverbial bat….
Out of the room I went. I put myself in the wide world of northern Dallas and all its traffic and people. I just started walking to anywhere but to the crowd of people I’d been around all day. It was wonderful. I found out that Texas has acacia trees very similar to the ones in Africa that giraffes eat from. Dallas also has palm trees. There was the California fan palm; I saw about a dozen of those. There was a hippie store called Retro. Very much a Little Five Points or Paseo thing. And right next door to Retro were TWO, not one, but TWO, ‘novelty’ stores. And neither of the ‘novelty’ stores looked like they were trying to hide. It was nice to see all the things that you don’t normally see when you visit a place.
After walking well over a mile, I stopped and asked which way the Whole Foods was. “It’s about a mile and 3/4 behind you!” I was told. So, I backtracked another mile and a half until I found the store. While retracing my steps to the store, I decided that it would be fun to walk down the tracks for Dallas’ light rail system. I noticed a trail of beer and liquor bottles and counted beer as opposed to liquor. Liquor predominated. As I was crossing a bridge over a highway, I noticed a little space under it. I looked over and there were mattresses and piles of newspapers. It was a homeless lair. “Cool!”, I thought to myself. I finally got to the store and sat down to a dinner of a crispy baguette, Lancashire cheese and a pint of Fox Barrel pear cider. One of the best dinners I’ve had in a long time!
After I had sat there for a while, I realized that I had had a wonderful time. I hadn’t realized when I left the hotel room that I was needing to hyperfocus to relax. I had gone on a small adventure in a strange city to learn new things and see new sights and that had relaxed me. As curious as I am, satisfying my curiosity made me feel happy. The walkabout also helped me get lost in a chaotic city to ‘get away’. I realized that seeing the chaos but not being part of it helped me chill out because I wasn’t part of the chaos. I was on the outside looking in at the chaos. I’ve almost always enjoyed being on the outside.
John Robison also pointed out that “maybe outdoors is simply a place where I feel safer, and that’s why I can unwind in a place where many people would feel alone and scared.” I’ve always found outside a place to be fulfilling even with the water moccasins and tarantulas. Outside, in the woods, in the city, is my way to renew myself. Find a way or a place to unwind and when you do, use it often!