How can I be more like a tourist?

When I’m on vacation the simplest things appeal to me: the sounds of crickets in the trees, a breeze coming through the window, even the skyline over another town’s mall can look exotic. Whatever book is in my backpack, whatever drink I order sitting in whichever restaurant, all of it has the power to make me smile.

Why don’t I feel that same kind of satisfaction at home? When I’m home, I am surrounded by my favorite things: my CD collection, favorite books, and the foods I like fill the fridge. How is it that, more often than not, I take all of this for granted?

I am always rushing around with to-do lists, always improving and cleaning. Will there come a time when I have accomplished everything on my lists and everything around me starts to gleam? Will it fill me with an overwhelming sense of joy? Will I smile like I have never smiled before?

For the most part, I am like the fish that doesn’t notice the water it’s swimming in. I have the ability to entirely miss the life I am living, even while it surrounds me. How long will I go on taking my accomplishments for granted? If it seems like I am forever doomed to appreciate things only by their absence, hold on.

It is true. That is largely how I appreciate things. But I was thinking about one of my favorite poets the other day and a new thought came to me, one that might change how I approach everyday life.

The poet I was thinking about was New Jersey’s own William Carlos Williams. Many of his friends, like H.D., Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and Marcel Duchamp, were movers and shakers in the art world. They split their time between London, Paris, and New York City. Not Williams. He stayed put in Rutherford.

Williams seemed happier with his lot in life than many of his globe-trotting friends. He found fulfillment in his hometown. He had the skill I seek. He knew how to take in his surroundings and appreciate them.

I love this Williams quote: "I have discovered that most of the beauties of travel are due to the strange hours we keep to see them." And that quote was the source of my realization. Would living my life more like a tourist help me find contentment? How should I go about doing that?

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