Very often in my quest for “place-making” I find myself taking on a lone-ranger identity as I meander the back roads across New York or elsewhere in search for those communities, history, and places that will become memorable. There are aspects to this approach that I genuinely like, I slow down the pace of a very busy and often chaotic schedule with Graduate school and working outside of it. I enjoy having the time to really think and clear my head as the scenery transforms before me, and sometimes I just like the fact that I’m out there doing this on my own in the spirit of exploration and adventure.. I’m well aware at this point that this trend will continue because it’s something I’ve found that brings me a great deal of purpose and satisfaction and is something that is so signature to who I am.
I greatly enjoy getting to meet people along my journey’s as well, strangers who become somewhat known as they introduce their places to me. Recently however I’ve been really dwelling on how much I enjoy sharing new experiences with people and so recently I decided to plan out a road trip with me and six friends who interact with my life in very different and separate circles at times.
The destination was obvious for me, it was a place I hadn’t been in quite sometime but have always loved and I knew it was time to return. The city of Ithaca, NY is one of my favorites cities in the entire state of New York, and it often reminds me of my time spent out in the Pacific Northwest where I lived for a summer back in 2008. The city is surrounded by serene natural beauty, gorges, waterfalls, and the Lake Cayuga waterfront with no major city nearby and reflects its cultural identity in this way as an island amongst the finger lakes, and in an area surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and farmland with communities that make up the Amish, Ithaca acts as a solid dose of counter-culture to all that surrounds it.
I have been a sort of travel ambassador to Ithaca over the years ever since I was captivated by the place from an early trip there with my best friend (which I believe was back in 2004). Since then I have encouraged many people to come visit with me to experience the natural beauty, great restaurants and pubs, and wealth of eclectic locally based shops that encompass everything from old books to music stores, to vintage clothing and more. Ithaca is a place I have grown to love and to encourage others to experience.
There is much that I can go on to talk about regarding the destination of Ithaca, but it is the spirit of moving away from purely destination based thinking when it comes to the travel that I want to discuss. So much of what made this trip memorable was about sharing the experience with others and the tremendous joy I find in introducing people to new and exciting things.
It’s this idea of “community travel” that I want to focus on and how unorthodox this concept really is when we begin to realize how linear we can become when we think about tourism and travel. At times we put an enormous amount of pressure on the idea that the place (destination) is what must “make” our trip, instead of considering that it is the journey itself, this notion of transformation, is what helps us to extend into new perspectives and added value. I believe that this “transformative value” can only be compounded when we realize that it can be shared.
It’s this concept of continual and perpetual added value that fascinates me, what becomes obvious with any given travel exploration is that we are seeking value in our lives in a way that is traditionally unfamiliar to our routines and is something that can somehow engage us in a way that becomes memorable (as observed in previous posts). At the end of the day do we plan accordingly to reach these ideals though? Is it even a conscious thought in our minds that we are looking to add value in our lives when we travel? I want to suggest and hypothesize that perhaps we are not looking as much for “place” as we are for “belonging” and this ability to feel connected to each other and to community( even while traveling).
In introducing the Ithaca trip with six friends from Rochester I want to emphasize that what I believe made this trip valuable and rewarding was the fact that we were able to share the experience with one another, and we were able to find connection with one another. One other major point I would like to illustrate is my belief that something like travel, (especially when it is a first time shared experience) can emphasize these connections more than ever. Perhaps travel could even be one of the ideal vehicles to enable relationship and connection to one another. This could emphasize the importance or potential benefit of “community travel.”
One of the beautiful things about the trip to Ithaca was that many of the people who came didn’t know each other well or at all before we embarked on this winter journey from Rochester, and yet a bond and connection was made over the simple concept that we were experiencing something together for the first time. It is those interactions, those discussions, those moments of light-hearted laughter, singing along to music in the car, and pointing out things on the horizon that we all believed we might find mutually valuable and engaging that made for the most memorable, satisfying, and entertaining experiences.
As beautiful as Ithaca was at the end of the day what I remember was the people and personality of those I traveled with that made it such an incredible trip and more importantly the ability to introduce friends into this world I knew existed, for the first time.
Above: Playing around with some stop motion burst mode shots by dancing in Ithaca Commons (these are just a few entertaining shots taken from the bunch
All Photos by Paul Stanley Beinetti
I encourage you to explore the photos posted in this blog and look at them through the lens of connection and these ideas of “community travel” do they change how you perceive travel, do you feel that the ideology of “community travel” could be branded as an added value or relationship building experience?