Where Don’t I Want To Go

California chaparral
California chaparral

It’s far, far easier to think about the places we do want to visit. It’s far more difficult to reflect and explain to ourselves why we don’t want to visit someplace, because it goes deeper than “I just don’t like it.” There are a myriad of reasons why we are drawn to one place and totally reject another as a place to visit or explore.

I grew up in Southern California, a dry, sunny place for the most part, where if left completely to nature scrubby chaparral is all you would see. There are trees around, but they’re not a dominant feature of the landscape. Their presence wherever they are found is enjoyed all the more because there really are so few of them. When I was little I was fascinated with trees, and all their varieties. They were green and cool, especially on hot days.

When I flew up to Portland to attend college for the first time I remember looking out the window of the plane and seeing giant patches of black on the ground. Coming from a place where brush fires were a somewhat normal occurrence, I figured that there had been terrible forest fires below, with millions of acres burned. It wasn’t until we landed and I saw all the tall firs everywhere that I realized that what I had been looking down on were miles and miles of forest. I was in heaven, especially because Portland stayed green all year long.

Big fir trees are everywhere in Portland
Portland stays green all year

Our family spent a lot of time when I was growing up out in the desert, because that’s where my mom and dad wanted to be. We camped at Joshua Tree, made many trips over to and around Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, because they loved it there. I didn’t. I felt hot and parched most of the time. I wanted trees and green. One summer we did a family camping trip up the California and Oregon coasts – it was wonderful to see so much green.

My childhood city was a suburb of Los Angeles, and came complete with lawns, swimming pools and two cars in every garage. We were located just a few miles from the city, but trips into LA didn’t happen all the frequently, and most of my time outside my hometown was spent on freeways getting to the other suburban cities that surrounded Los Angeles. Trips into LA, to see places like Olivera Street or the La Brea Tar Pits or Chinatown, or to go to the theater, were thrilling and always left me wanting more.

Shibuya Crossing always makes my heart beat a little faster
Shibuya Crossing always makes my heart beat a little faster with excitement

When I went to Japan for the first time at age 18, I started out with a six-week homestay in Tokyo. Tokyo was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. It was in-your-face city life, and I loved every second of it. I still do – I love being out and about in what may be the busiest city in the world. Every street I turn down is an adventure, and a total rush for me.

Although all our time spent living on military bases was pretty much small town living, Brett and I spent more time living in the city of Portland with all it had to offer. We live in a quiet, more rural place these days, but there are lots and lots and lots of trees, and plenty of green everywhere, which keeps me happy. The ocean also makes me happy, and rather than remind me I’m isolated, it tells me every day that there’s a big wide world out there for me to explore. I dream about visiting and spending time in different cities around the world.

So, where don’t I want to travel these days? Not the desert – the landscapes can be stunning, but I prefer trees and greenery. Small towns can be charming to visit (I know, I live in one!), but given a choice I prefer to experience big city life when I travel, in all its vibrancy and variation – the people, restaurants, museums, stores (even though I rarely buy anything), housing and so forth.

Every place is beautiful to someone, and we all have our reasons for preferring some places over others, and we all have places that don’t interest us as much. I no longer feel as though that I have to see everything, to give every place equal weight and appreciation. I prefer cities, or places with lots and lots of trees and green. Those are my happy places.

7 thoughts on “Where Don’t I Want To Go

  1. I’m definitely not a big city traveler. I’ve been to plenty of big cities: Beijing, Seoul, Paris, London, Tokyo (of course!), New York, Chicago. . . they are all worth seeing. But, for personal traveling, I prefer smaller towns, beaches, quiet places. . . hence the vacation house & frequent Hawaii visits. Maybe one day once I’m done with work travel I’ll be more open to it? Not sure, I grew up in a small town & just don’t prefer big city living/hustle & bustle. I do want to take the kids to Tokyo one day soon. I know they would love it.


    1. And that’s what makes travel so wonderful, that it’s an individual act for each of us and that we can all prefer different things, for different reasons. I think I like cities because I’m an introvert – I can have all sorts of people around me but I’m not required to interact with them, whereas in a small town setting I feel like I have make more of an effort to be “social.” But that’s just me.

      Your boys would love Tokyo! One of the places we’re checking out on our next trip is the Cup Noodle Museum. YaYu LOVES cup noodles, so think she will enjoy it. One thing she’s looking forward to is the “Cup Noodle Factory” where you can design your own cup noodles – they have a big list of ingredients and each person can pick three extras and one base flavor. There’s also the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka which is also a fun place for kids (and grownups) to visit. And kids love to visit the castles, and see the samurai armor displays. Our grandson is currently working on the Dragon Ball Z “stamp ralley” – he has a book and at different train stations you can add a DBZ stamp to your book. He’s having a ball with that, and getting out to see more of his city.


  2. I’m open to go to just about anywhere, any landscape, except where my health and safety may be compromised e.g. a place where there is an outbreak or a war going on.


    1. I’m with you on personal safety, but my point is more that given a choice between traveling to this place or that, I’d pick visiting a city over a small town, and a forested, green location (i.e.Ireland) versus someplace not so green (i.e. parts of Spain). I’m not adverse to visiting anywhere, but my funds are limited and I’d rather see places that make me happy!


  3. I loved cities when I was young, possibly because I grew up in a tiny, tiny town (1000 people) and everyone knew everyone’s business. I loved the anonymity and moved away as quickly as I could. But I found as I aged, I wanted more privacy and ended up moving to a rural area just outside a small city, which seems perfect for us. Our neighbors are close by but not nosy (or, if they are, we don’t care…haha). And I find vacationing in a large city to be interesting, but tiring. My favorite spots lately have been Maine (Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park) and No. California where we revisited our former homes and friends. We stayed in the Presidio which is really a small village and went into San Francisco and down the coast without feeling like we were in the bee hive.

    You’re right…it’s such a personal thing. I also love to visit my hometown, but I don’t think I could live there. I get claustrophobic after about a week.


    1. I would love to visit Maine again! Brett and I are thinking about it if we take a trip back east to see WenYu (and YaYu is looking at New England schools as well). The Northern California coast is lovely too – lots to see and explore there, and it’s green!

      I think I like big cities because of the variety that’s found there. And because there’s so much to see and do. You can take your time, and throttle back when you need to detach yourself for a while.


  4. I love green places too. Cities, not so much. When I was in London, I loved to go to the plays and the cathedrals but mostly too many people. Disney Word has a planned community in Orlando called Celebration. My boss at the time loved to go there. I finally went and got so claustrophobic I had to leave. I don’t think I could live in a big city and don’t really care to visit either. I have been to Washington DC and loved the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center but you can keep the rest of the city. I live on 30 acres and we have about 20 families on a little over 300 acres. That’s about as crowded as I want things to be. I also love mountains because Florida doesn’t have any. If I could choose any other place to live, it would be Hawaii. Trees, mountains and water falls. Love it.


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