Editor’s Note: This touching story comes to us from Jurgen Haver, Judith’s husband.
The memorable thing about my travel days is, from time to time, I wander into something unexpected.Â I remember driving on I-20 into lazy southern New Mexico. There was a sign pointing off to the right.Â It said Ranger Station.Â I turned onto that road.
After a few miles I came to a raised platform made from what looked like left over railroad ties.Â It was about a short step-ladder high.Â I climbed to the top.Â Everything was flat and stretched out forever.Â As I gazed into the distance, I heard something new.
I heard the non-sound of silence.Â The highway was too far away to hear the big tractor trailers rushing along.Â I was standing ten feet off the desert floor and all around me there was nothing but hot sunlight emptiness. The next thing I heard was a screeching sound.Â Then, cutting close to where I stood, a Hawk flew by and said, in his screechy Hawk voice, â€œIâ€™m Hereâ€¦Iâ€™m Here.â€
As a grown man it is hard to admit this but, I broke down in tears.Â Silence plus a single bird sound did me in.Â Itâ€™s something that remains in my memory and will probably never leave.Â It was an experience that punctured my heart.
I asked my self, as a past Philidelphia-Manhatten-Chicago resident what was it that so devastated me.Â It became clear.Â The difference was that there was no expectation.Â No brochures.Â No videos.Â No travelogue expectations.
I ask myself, â€œWhat if you were up in the Buffalo, New York area? What if youâ€™d never heard of Niagara Falls?Â Suddenly, you hear an on-going thunder in the distance.Â You wonder what it is.Â And, you follow the sound.
Then, suddenly, you stumbled on Niagara Falls. You, on your own, have discovered the never-before-known falls.Â I know for sure your breathing would be difficult; your senses would be overwhelmed.Â And you wouldnâ€™t be comparing it to that really cool CD where you saw the falls from every angle the helicopter pilot could manage.
I believe thatâ€™s one of the things to look for in life.Â Drive off the beaten trail. Donâ€™t read the guide books.Â Just haphazardly come across things.Â I recommend it as the only way to travel.Â It will leave you with a lot more than a Kodak moment.
So, shun all â€œdestinationsâ€ and seek your own epiphanies.Â The abandoned ranch with itâ€™s fencing collapsing.Â The ghost town you didnâ€™t know was there.Â The soda springs you had not read about.Â The salt Lake no one pointed you toward.Â Avoid the guide books.Â Donâ€™t ask locals â€œWhatâ€™s here to see?â€Â Skip the photo opps.
Reach out for the unknown.Â Just stumble about.Â Come upon things unexpected.Â Itâ€™s what the explorers did.Â Itâ€™s what will give you the grandeur you didnâ€™t know about.Â You will see the things too small to have been noticed.Â You will find things no one knew were there.
You will discover what a friend of mine told me 30 years ago when I took up photography as a hobby.Â He said, â€œIf you canâ€™t spend a lifetime taking extraordinary pictures in your own backyard, you do not have an artistâ€™s eye.â€Â How much more is this true of daily sojourns into nearby and distant territories?