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Backyard Travel in Baton Rouge

So often in life, we overlook what’s right in front of us. We take our backyard for granted. We’re so steeped in day-to-day minutiae that our habits and every day surroundings start to feel tedious – even boring.

Many of us move away from our birthplaces. Sometimes we go back for visits. Other times, no  connections remain to bring us back there. The point is, you have the unique opportunity to take a step away from what you could be taking for granted.

It’s like parenting.

Sometimes we need a little vacation away from our kids in order to miss and appreciate them. We return refreshed and rejuvenated, our patience threshold reset, feeling like an even better parent than before.

If you have the opportunity to step away – and come back to – your home, whether it’s where you live now, or where you grew up, a deep sense of self – in relation to your local culture or heritage -starts to emerge.

It’s like having context.

You can’t have context until you know something different exists. Let’s say I was born and raised in Alaska, and all I knew was 23 hour summer days and 23 hour winter nights. Then I moved somewhere like Houston TX, where daylight was fairly even throughout the seasons.

Then there’s the additional physical environmental shift, from the rugged wilderness to concrete jungle. That’s just the tip of the iceburg.

I would be willing to bet that when you returned to Alaska for a visit, seeing a grizzly on the side of the road would catch you off guard and make you think, “Huh…. This is what was normal for me, for so long. It’s like living in a National Geographic spread! How did I miss that?”

backyard travel

Beautiful spring flowers beneath the sultry Louisiana live oaks

Catching inspiration

All too often we think of the place we live, or where we’re born, from a state of mind that is complacent and uninspired. Some people have a natural proclivity to be passionate – daily – about life and their environment. But the rest of us need a little push (or pull) to feel that inspiration that already exists – under the surface – just waiting to be unearthed and unleashed.

My subject might be a little easier to re-embrace and appreciate than most. Louisiana is SO rich in culture, heritage, and fun things like delicious food and amazing music festivals.

So, if you’re trying to re-embrace Fargo, North Dakota (not picking on Fargo, I just thought of the movie is all), you might have a more challenging time peeling back the layers to love and appreciate.

It’s pretty natural for anyone who lives anywhere, even a place that is seemingly coveted by others, to feel like life where they live is – or can be – very, well – ordinary!

We all have the ability to challenge ourselves – to find the beauty – the SPECTACULAR and extraordinary in each and every day, no matter where we are. It can be found in the people we interact with at the grocery store, the flowers blooming on our street, the quirky way people walk their dogs, anything. Everything.

Fortunately, I have two easy places from which to manifest these daily nuggets of appreciation: where I live now – Nashville, and where I’m from – Louisiana (Baton Rouge – New Orleans area).

Beautiful Baton Rouge

Growing up, Baton Rouge was fun. I enjoyed living here. But I definitely noticed the deficiencies when I visited other quaint towns or big metropolitan cities after returning from a trip.

When I talked about where I was from with strangers, they often didn’t know anything about the city (if they even knew where it was in the first place).

I had mixed feelings about my hometown, which ranged from being a proud Louisiana girl to a tiny bit embarrassed that I didn’t hail from some great, sophisticated city like New York or a place everyone buzzed about like Charleston or Miami.

Or even New Orleans. It was kind of considered selling out to tell people you were from New Orleans if you were raised in some other town near the Big Easy. I know plenty of people who did, though! No judgement. Sometimes it’s just easier (and more impressive) to give a stranger a point of reference they’ll recognize.

Now, as an adult who has lived away from Baton Rouge, LA for 13 years, it’s much easier for me to spot – and appreciate – the nuances of the specific, southern culture here.

Backyard travel

Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge

 

Take this morning, for instance.

I went for a jog – on a route that I have done many times – and truly saw my neighborhood through the lens of a visitor, and as a fascinating place – a destination worth a visit.

My jog path. Not too shabby (or just downright inspiring).

My jog path. Not too shabby (or perhaps just downright inspiring).

 

Louisiana Culture

As my feet pounded the gravel, I involuntarily stopped every few minutes to snap some shots with my iPhone. So much beauty, and so meaningful, I thought to myself.

The majestic oak trees draped in Spanish moss are a romantic image in almost anyone’s eye. And this is in my backyard – practically! The azaleas bloomed in candy-colored pinks and purples, those quintessential Easter bushes that kick off spring each year. Cypress trees dotted the marshy ponds with their “knees” sticking up, a tell-tale Louisiana swamp characteristics.

Beautiful, swampy Baton Rouge

Beautiful, swampy Baton Rouge

All of these scenes made me think of everything it means to be from – and in – southern Louisiana. People here are very friendly. We say “Hi” to each other when passing. That’s something that didn’t really exist in Washington (DC) – where I lived for 8 years.

There’s an unusually strong pride in culinary pursuits and presentations. I can say, with completely honest and shameless lack of humility, that the food in Louisiana is some of the best on the planet. (And I’ve tasted a lot of food, from lots of places!) This isn’t my ego talking here; I’m just stating a fact.

I stopped and took in the scene of the Rural Life Museum (called one of the top 10 outdoor museums in the world by the British Museum) where I was jogging this morning and absorbed the setting of old slave houses lined up in a mock-plantation community setting. The buildings had been relocated from other plantations.

School classes, a mix of Caucasians and African Americans, were filing in and out of the museum buildings. It’s all an important part of history that shouldn’t be hidden – or not discussed – or forgotten about, no matter how painful the past.

Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge

Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge

Then, as I rounded the corner and trotted through a palm-lined path, I was instantly transported to the Estancia my family stayed in outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina two years ago. There were striking visual similarities that stopped me in my tracks.

Argentina look-alike...

Argentina look-alike…

I chewed on this thought. Sometimes we travel great distances to see amazing, beautiful, really impressive things. (And I am all about that!) But often times we have equally amazing, beautiful, really impressive things in our own back yard!!

Estancia Villa Maria

Estancia Villa Maria in Argentina. Well, maybe it’s not exactly the same…

So my point is this. I think travel is crucial, yes. It’s the most important form of experiential education you can receive. It’s the best use (in my opinion) of “disposable” income.

However, adventures are there for the taking, in your own backyard, in ways that you might not have ever considered.

Traveling and living in different cities has helped me to more easily see what might have been otherwise shrouded, invisible to the naked, unappreciative eye.

Pretend that you are a visitor for a day. What would you want to see, do, and experience in your city? Do some research. Maybe there’s a cool art museum you’ve overlooked or a local festival you haven’t been to yet. Change your perspective to one of “This place is {fill in the blank}!” (cool . . . fun . . . exciting . . . beautiful . . . different).

Like so many things in life, it’s largely about perspective and mindset.

So go out. Explore your own backyard!!!

 

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