Pico Iyer: How to travel more without going anywhere Traveling lets us take in the awe of new places. But author and travel writer Pico Iyer realized he could bring an adventurous spirit to familiar spaces and see local beauty that he had overlooked.

How to travel more without going anywhere

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On the show today, resolved. And one of the most common resolutions that we make is to travel more. Especially right now, people want to get out, to see the world. But it can be tough with crowds, limited budgets, maybe worries about contributing to climate change. Well, travel writer, author and TED speaker Pico Iyer globetrots for a living, and he has some counterintuitive advice for us on how to see the world. Here's Pico.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hey, ladies and gentlemen. (Inaudible).

PICO IYER: This last spring, two two-hour flights took me all of 27 hours to complete.


IYER: Just one week earlier, I'd shown up at my local small-town airport at 5 a.m. to find a line snaking out of the terminal onto the street. All the TSA machines were down.

AUTOMATED VOICE: The next stop is bus stop 14.

IYER: A little later, sitting on an airport bus, I saw 10 people at a lonely, rural stop barred from entering, though all had tickets, because the bus was already full. As many of us have learned the hard way, travel has never been so crazy or so crowded as over the past few months, as millions of us try to cram two years of lockdown dreams into a mere two weeks. So maybe the best New Year's resolution I can make is to travel less or at least to remember that I don't have to travel far to be transformed. That was one of the first lessons I learned during lockdown.

I was staying in my mother's house in the hills of California for months on end. I couldn't travel as much as I usually might, so I and my wife started taking walks up the road behind the house. It was often early when we set out, so the sun was just showing up behind a ridge. Parts of the mountains were flooded with golden light. Other parts were enshrouded in thickest fog. Halfway up, we turned around and saw the Pacific Ocean in the distance, glistening, the Channel Islands so sharp in the clean air that we felt we could count every ridge.


IYER: Here was a sight as beautiful as any I travel halfway across the world to see in Cape Town or Rio de Janeiro, and there it was in my backyard. My parents have lived on their property for more than 50 years now, and I had never thought to walk to the end of the road 20 minutes away till lockdown.


IYER: Naturally, I was as eager as anyone to get back on the road as soon as the pandemic began to ease. But every day, I'm reminded that what you see is never so important as how attentively you look. And the travel, deep down, is not about movement so much as about being moved.


IYER: As one of my favorite travelers, Henry David Thoreau, had it, it matters not how far you go - the further, commonly the worse. What matters is how alive you are. And aliveness is just what those of us still standing most want to celebrate.


IYER: All of us know, often painfully, that the environment will be much healthier if we become a little more restrained in our travels. As will our discombobulated, jetlagged systems. And instead of trying to make up for lost time, maybe we can reflect on what we gained when time stood still.

Even as airports and freeways are ever more jampacked, walking remains as easy as ever. As does the simple art of looking. One day, suddenly, I started noticing hummingbirds in our garden. Stuck close to home, my wife and I discovered a silent golden beach only 10 minutes from the house by car. Across the lagoon beside the beach, we watched egrets and cormorants and pelicans gliding across rich blue skies.


IYER: When it began to rain one winter day, we turned around and saw a double rainbow arcing over the hills.


IYER: As a wise friend of mine reminded me, sending me a sentence from the great explorer and naturalist John Burroughs, to learn something new, take the same path you took yesterday.


IYER: I'm so glad that we can be out and about again now and see the world in ways that my grandparents could not have dreamed of. I happened to be in Antarctica when the pandemic broke out, and nothing I had seen or imagined had prepared me for the majestic silences above those icy spaces, the penguins bustling over the slippery black rocks, the thousand shades of silver. But if the last two years have taught us anything, it's that distance has nothing to do with depth. And one place seen deeply yields many more treasures than a dozen glimpsed from a fast-moving window.


IYER: Beauties are blooming right here, right now, if only I have eyes to see them - a dozen cultures, too, in a world in which much of the globe has arrived on our doorstep.


IYER: In the unhurried quiet of staying in one place, I wrote a whole book on paradise, which for me can be found only in the midst of real life. I'm sure I'll still often be found on planes. My work and keeping up with friends and family demand it. I consider myself deeply blessed to get to see the world at a time when so many of my global neighbors lack the means or the freedom to do so. But still, very often, you'll see me stepping out of my mother's house and walking towards a site as radiant as any I can imagine as the sun rises above the ridge and floods the whole area with golden light.


ZOMORODI: That's writer Pico Iyer. His latest book is "The Half Known Life: In Search Of Paradise." And you can see his many talks at ted.com.

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