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.
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.
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.