It seems ironic to begin a travel blog from home, but I can’t think of a better spot to center future explorations than the place that taught me to explore.
I write this sitting a few dozen feet from the high-tide line of the Alamitos Bay in Long Beach, California. The wind is insistent for this early in the afternoon, and swimmers’ wakes overlap inside the buoy line as the current condenses their strokes. In the last few minutes I have counted three California least terns, an endangered species that nests in the nearby wetlands, the sharpness of their flight splintering into a long drop into water so shallow I can see the sand beneath.
This is the same beach where I learned that sea slugs pee hot pink, and where I first swam the marathon 25 feet to the buoy using nothing but the power of my own arms.
That same buoy floats in front of me now, and from it runs a yellow rope. If you follow that line around the curve of the bay called it leads to the base of a peninsula. Swim along the inside of that peninsula, and you will come to a channel. Weave your way out through the sailboats and powerboats leaving the channel, and you will leave the civilized harbor behind.
Before you will be the ocean. Beneath the whitecaps another world pulses, canyons twist into darkness, sea turtles trace the contours of ocean basins. A whale’s song from a hundred miles away winds through the ocean in your body and continues to find an answering call another hundred miles down the coast. Plankton divide, blossom, leave their own light to sink into darkness. Gulls knead shape into the air as pelicans waver along the fringes of the sky. In the midst of this rolling life your own hands scoop microcosms of color, your feet treading the cusp of another world.
In this water I have seen the green-white bodies of 100-foot blue whales darken with depth. I have discovered sea turtles a full mile up an urban river. I have spent five summers on the beach as an ocean lifeguard, and I have learned to write by giving voice to the letters of foam on the backs of breaking waves.
My home has taught me that beauty is a discovery, an imperative. I cannot leave that knowledge behind.
Place is more than just an accumulation of sand, water molecules, uplifted seafloor or gum-spotted sidewalks. Place shows us what it means to be a human being, with a body made of water molecules and melanin, and feet that measure distance by the scorch of a summer sidewalk. Place introduces us to ourselves, to the beauty that thrills differently behind each set of eyes.
This power of place drives me to travel. I want to discover beauty in new places, in the shadows of mountains, in the touch of kelp and the whir of a coral reef. I don’t want to leave life unseen. I want to give voice to all of the life and color that defines our world.
Traveling, ultimately, is not about the eye behind the camera. Traveling is about the place itself, about the respect and the joy that our world demands. This joy should be reciprocal—when I leave a place I want it to have been honored by my presence, and I expect to have been made stronger by its beauty.
To travel is to expand our idea of home. To be fully present at home is to expand our idea of travel. Adventure lies everywhere, shadowed beyond the next mountain range and wrapped in the chrysalis in my front yard.
So let’s go discover the world.