Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Travel Tuesdays: Mount Desert Island ME and Chatham, MA

Today I'd like to focus on travel that's closer to home. Not everyone is able to travel internationally, but nearly all of my suggestions can be applied to domestic travel.

This past summer, my family took a vacation to Mount Desert Island (MDI) in Maine. MDI is home to Acadia National Park, so we spent part of our time visiting various sites in the park. The rest of our time, however, was spent getting to know the area as the locals do.

We observed birds of prey that were fledging and talked to local residents to see if they had identified the birds. During one conversation we also got a tip about a local swimming hole. When we went for a swim, we were the only ones there. We spent lots of time observing a sunfish protecting its nest. On another day, we hiked to a scenic overlook (some say the most beautiful on the island) that few tourists climb. Afterwards, we purchased delicious bread from the local bakery and tasted ice cream at a shop a block away. While eating my ice cream, I noticed a flyer for a local artist.

After seeing that flyer for r scott balz gallery for a third time, I decided I should take a drive to meet the artist. Scott and I engaged in a lively discussion of our creative processes. We viewed his bold landscapes with rich colors. When I told him I tend to take close-up photos of small things like rocks, insects and lichen he told me he used to take close up photos for a living and went into a back room to pull out a photo of kelp on the beach. It was an enriching and inspiring conversation I never would have had if I were on a scheduled tour with a program of events to follow.  Our family had scheduled a couple of things, but otherwise wandered where we felt inspired to wander on any given day.

A couple of weeks later I was in Chatham, MA on Cape Cod (about one hour from my home) with my whole family (sisters, spouses, nieces, parents, kids, etc). While kayaking in a pond, I noticed a man in waders walking along the edge of the pond. He had a camera hanging from his neck and was taking notes. I turned my kayak and paddled over. “Hi. I hope you don’t mind me interrupting you. You seem to be documenting something. May I ask what you’re working on?”

Fred went on to tell me that his parents used to own a large section of land surrounding the pond. Much of that land, including the sand banks along one edge, had been destroyed by various human activity including locals riding ATVs. About 10 years ago they sold the land to a private conservation organization at a discounted rate. Fred was out that day documenting the changes in the edge of the pond since conservation efforts were put in place. He told me that ten years ago a plant commonly called Marsh Mallow, that only grows in three counties in Massachusetts, was wiped out along the pond. Now it’s back and getting stronger. He was documenting these changes by counting and photographing the plants. By talking to Fred, I looked more closely at the edge of the pond and noticed the detailed centers of these beautiful flowers.

By connecting with the locals, we learned more about the places we were visiting and connected to the landscape in more meaningful ways.

How might you put some of these ideas into practice in your domestic travels or daily life? Have you had an enriching experience by interacting with the locals where you are? Please share your stories.

Related Posts:
Wordless Wednesday: Seal Cove- Mount Desert Island, ME

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