“Are you kidding me? They pay you to write this crap!!”

Some years back, I found myself incensed while reading an article in which the author suggested that we should all just stop traveling. His argument wasn’t about the carbon footprint of air travel (which actually is a pretty decent reason to manage our wanderlust). It was more about how unpleasant and uncomfortable travel has become, and how we can enjoy the world more enjoyably (and more frugally) by vicariously watching travel movies and videos from the comfort of our living room couches. “How dare he?” I remember thinking. “Travel broadens the mind! What an old fuddy duddy!” To be honest, I still feel that way – that only through seeing the world in person can we put aside our ethnocentrism and see the myriad, equally-sophisticated, equally-valid ways that people around the world live, work and play.

One point I will concede to the author of that article is that you don’t have to propel yourself to the far ends of the earth to encounter amazing Wow places. All too often we forget about the wonders that are right here in our backyards. Take, for example, the exquisite Goat Rock Beach, only half an hour from where I live in Santa Rosa, California. Situated near the mouth of Russian River, Goat Rock is something of an iconic outcrop to the locals. The beach itself is generally uncrowded and rather pleasant, with a small, protected area where seals and sealions come to mate and rest. What makes Goat Rock spectacular, however, is the approach to the beach. As you leave Route 1, the coastal road for much of California, a panoramic landscape spreads out before you. Green hillsides, blue water, steep cliffs. Unlike America’s East Coast, where the coastline tends to be gentle and fairly flat, the Northern California coast is characterized by steep, dramatic cliffs plunging down to the wind-swept ocean below. That’s the kind of scenery you see in spades at Goat Rock. A drive to the beach here reminds you of the dramatic landscapes of Hawaii or Scotland, without the humidity (or the sheep). And best of all, at least for me, it’s available pretty much anytime of the year, whenever I want it. Although I wouldn’t being foregoing my international travel jaunts anytime soon, a place like Goat Rock beach reminds me of the truth of Dorothy’s final remark in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

(What are you overlooking that’s right in front of you, right at the tip of your nose? We live in a macro world, where we’re constantly looking outward for pleasure and validation. But there’s an inner world of wonder as well: the world of meditation, the world of small, subtle joys within hand’s reach. By all means plan that trip to Timbuktu! But don’t forget to expand your gaze to what’s happening right here, right now.)