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Monday, January 20, 2014

Living versus Touring

We are just back from what is becoming our annual vacation trip to Ogunquit, Maine.   We went the first time on our honeymoon in June 1972.  We had stopped in Boston to visit friends (who treated us to a memorable Bloomsday tour of Boston and surrounds) and then started for what we thought would be a trip up the coast of Maine.  Our first stop was Ogunquit, where we found a nice bed and breakfast for the night.  The next day, we decided to stay the week.  On our last night, our host introduced us to another honeymoon couple from Quebec and sent us out for dinner and a show.  While they spoke only French and we mostly English, we had a great time.  It was a memorable stay.  We had not been back since then, but in 2011 we drove up for another June visit and then went back again in September. We missed last year because we had just moved into our new house, but we couldn't wait to get back this past week.  Ogunquit has grown, but it has kept the spirit of an artists' retreat and high-end resort town.  But the real draw is the ocean, the Marginal Way path along the rocky coast, and the little restaurants, galleries, and museums that dot it and the surrounding area--the Yorks, Wells, and Kennebunkport.  No sooner had we returned than we booked another four nights in September.  I am sure we will do it again every year as long as we can handle the 9-hour drive.

Of course, we've already heard the complaint:  Why do you always go back to the same places?  There is a big world out there. Why not try something new?  It is a question worth exploring a bit.

Sure, the world is big.  But what is better, to skim the surface of many places or to get to know a few places that speak to you and, at whatever level you can, become a part of them and find within them whatever reflection they may have of the universal?  I've been to a lot of places over the years--every continent except Antarctica--and while I have enjoyed new sights and sounds, I much prefer when I can to linger, to get to know a place, to become familiar with it and to enjoy its essence.  Touring is interesting, but not satisfying.

This is true in other areas of life.  For instance, I've pretty much stayed with one area in my career--changing with technology, but keeping to the vision of how we use technology to connect people and ideas.  As a result, I think--or at the very least, I hope--that I've been able to make a greater contribution because I came, over time and by dealing with change within the field, to understand the underlying realities of the field.  I also became part of an ongoing and vibrant professional community and developed both professional relationships and friendships with colleagues from many places around the world who are connected by our shared commitment to the profession.

The world is a big place.  While we need to be reminded of its diversity, we also need to understand what holds us together.  We can best understand it, perhaps, not by trying to see it all, but by trying to experience a few parts of it as deeply as possible.