The Need to Explore

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I woke up this morning yearning to explore.

To go somewhere new, get lost, be amazed, be humbled, get challenged, be excited.  Instead, of course I did the responsible thing and drank my coffee, brushed my kid’s hair, got her ready for school, sat down, and started my work day at home.  That was the right decision for today, but it won’t cure my wanderlust.  That is a condition that cannot be cured, only managed.

Many who read this site are also parents caring for little ones, or at least have “grown-up” responsibilities like jobs, dogs to feed, and bills to pay.  Most of us can’t just say to ‘heck with it’ and head to the airport this evening to catch the last flight to Europe, South America, or wherever our heart strings are pulling.  We have to take a deep breath, sit back down, and stay on track.  Most of the time.

So how do you reconcile the pull to somewhere far away, and at the anchor of happiness and the necessity of home? 

I love the routine and stability of home, and to be clear the desire to explore does not mean I want to runaway from anything at home.  In fact, it is only because I have the stability of home that my soul feels free enough to dream of more.  I’m not the type that would happily drift indefinitely at sea going wherever the current takes me.  I need a safe and happy port to return to between voyages.

I’ve written before about the elusive balance of both home and away for those of us that who are wired to explore.  And darn if it isn’t really an elusive balance.  We’ve gotten better over time at finding the right balance for us, but life and the variables at play keep changing, so the right balance for last year doesn’t fit the equation this year.  My daughter has more routines and responsibilities of her own now, but at the same time she now has been bitten by a travel bug of her own and wants to go “everywhere with you, even if you say it is boring.”


Wow, what a blessing, and a bit of a curse.  One I understand completely.  We are different, but we are the same.


As my travel bug has evolved, I have noticed that travel itself doesn’t fulfill my needs.  Sure a trip keeps me busy for a few days, but when the dust has settled and the bags are unpacked, or at least put in the corner, that travel bug can still be as hungry as ever.  It isn’t satisfied anymore simply by movement itself, but by something more complex.

IMG_1608.JPGIt is satisfied by walking down the rainy streets of London, pausing to take in each building that I pass by.  It is satisfied by the natural beauty of the emerald covered mountains on Kauai.  The snowy slopes of Norway.  The crystal clear waters of far-away islands.  The dreams of early season snow falling on the Rocky Mountains.

It is satisfied by trying new foods I’d never before tasted, by viewing sights I’d only seen in pictures.  Or by driving down roads so full of scenery that it’s all I can do to keep my eyes safely fixed on the road ahead.

I remind myself that this building desire to explore is good, just as experiencing the slight pain and discomfort of hunger before a meal is good.  You have to want something to really appreciate getting it, and I want to explore.  I need it.

Earning miles and points was born for me in large part out of needing to find a way to meet my need to drive to explore, while not jeopardizing my need for a balanced budget.  Today I work on the ‘means to an end’ and I buy gift cards at 5x, I search award availability, I research hotels, I set fare alerts, I plan.  I wait.  All of that isn’t the “why”, it isn’t the end-goal, it’s the “how”.

And my how I can’t wait to really get back out there.


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  1. Beautifully said. You echo everything those with the travel and wanderlust bug feel. Great post! And good luck to all in their future adventures!

  2. WHERE are you buying gift cards at 5x the points? I’m in Texas and I can’t seem to find anywhere outside of a local gas station and walgreens that allows me to do this? Normally I wouldn’t have an issue with this but seeing as how I use Chase CCs, and they cracking down on stuff that looks like MS, I don’t want to risk losing my points or accounts. $500 at a gas station or walgreens several times a week doesn’t exactly scream “normal”.

  3. Funny you post this now: “I have noticed that travel itself doesn’t fulfill my needs”.
    I’ve been to Europe more times than I can count, and my wife and I have gone there 6 times in the past 5 years, and are already booked for next summer.
    But I’ve never been to Asia, and yesterday I booked a mid-winter trip to Thailand, with stopovers in Singapore and Hong Kong. Excitement and challenge both, since we won’t know the ropes there, and neither speak nor read a word of either Thai nor Chinese.
    But despite all the what ifs involved, my own “building desire to explore” took over.
    Of course it doesn’t hurt that we were able to use our Chase and AMEX points to get Suites Class on Singapore Airlines on the way over. And that we have enough points and certificates to stay at very Deluxe Intercontinental and Conrad hotels while there. 🙂
    But the new sights, sounds, tastes and smells are the real draw.
    So yeah, excellent timing on this article.

    • I believe you will find those 3 countries very easy to navigate without knowledge of Thai and Chinese. To this day, one of the clearest PAs in English was at a railway station in southern Thailand back in 1999. Much clearer than the public announcements on the Boston T. 😉

  4. One – Thanks to the miles and points, I travel so much that I yearn for routine more than for exploration. I’ve 13 trips on the calendar for 2014. I enjoy the trips (super excited about going to Miami soon), but my balance is swinging towards exploration and I’d like to re balance in the other direction.

    Two – Travel local! I strongly recommend exploring your own back yard. Ethnic neighborhoods, old homes, museums. It amazes me how much I enjoy my own area, and whenever I get home from a day trip, I try to calendar another one. Activities I’ve enjoyed: finding the Sri Lankan neighborhood and going there for dinner, hunting down ingredients to cook Thai food on my own, visiting mansions in my area, renting a mountain bike and biking on trails in a local state park. Local travel isn’t a trip to Vietnam – but it scratches that itch. And it’s possible to fit into a schedule. You can explore a new neighborhood in an afternoon. It also makes me feel more rooted in my own community, and helps me appreciate all I have in my own hometown.

  5. Great post, this is the stuff that drew me to start reading MommyPoints when I was a brand-new dad 3 years ago.

    I appreciate the deals and hacks you post, and I even also understand that you have to “pay the bills” yourself — sometimes I skip your posts altogether when I know that’s all it is for the day. But stuff like this is what makes your blog unique in this space.

    Please keep writing more like this, and I, for one, will keep reading!

    • CopperHog, glad you liked it! Crazy you were reading as a new dad and now your kid is three….time flies! The stats are clear that most people come here looking for info on a deal, but posts like this sure are fun to write, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for sticking around. Hope to keep a good mix going forward.

  6. Parenthood is a huge gift and they grow up too fast. Mine are still under my roof, but it seems like yesterday they were little. The greatest journeys in life we take aren’t to foreign countries and seeing beautiful scenery; it is in the people we love. There is much beauty and heartache in living. There are probably people who read this that can’t go anywhere because they have aging parents they take care of or handicapped kids or whatever. I love the portrayal at the beginning of the movie UP, it is so accurate and beautiful. A life of responsibility has great dignity. My many times over divorced and financially successful relative once commented on her sister with 7 kids and a happy family about how sad it was that she’d never been “anywhere” before. ie. can’t afford Disney, Caribbean cruise, trip to Europe. I just thought to myself with disgust: She has a beautiful and happy family and her daughter was valedictorian of a major US university. I think she is living just fine.

    • Jo, totally agree that the greatest part of life is the people. Family is priceless. The beginning of Up is fantastic – and a tear jerker! I wouldn’t be anywhere near as happy and complete if I was single with no kids and able to fly around the world at the drop of a hat. Some people may be happier that way, but I am not one of them. That said, for some of us, that drive to explore will always be there no matter how full things are at home. Kind of like eating a balanced diet…you need some from different food groups. Best of all is when you can explore with your family, though if we had 7 kids that would be much tougher! 😉

  7. I hear you! It’s crazy. This Monday, we leave for a 24 day trip RTW trip in First Class to New Zealand via Shanghai and Bangkok. (Thank you, US Airways miles sharing!) I am running around like crazy trying to get ready for the trip–final trip planning, bill paying, thinking about packing–you know the drill.

    So yesterday morning, I get an email confirming a time share condo on Kauai. We’ve had a request in for over 6 months and nothing was happening–we were almost ready to give up on going. So, I drop all things New Zealand and spend all of yesterday planning almost a month in Kauai and Maui in January! By the end of the day, all of the trip is booked except 3 hotel nights and the rental car. Today, it’s back to New Zealand preparation. (And I have trips to Hong Kong and Spain/Munich between New Zealand and Kauai.) Crazy, crazy, crazy!

  8. Thank you for a great post! This and a post you wrote March 29 (Six Tips to Begin Your Miles and Points Journey) are posts that inspire me. I have only been collecting points for a year, with a healthy stockpile, posts like these help me stretch and figure out how my new hobby is going to develop!

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