In a new country, exploration occurs pretty much constantly. You are exploring the sidewalks you walk on, the people you encounter, the culture around you. Sometimes, you even go out and intentionally explore, taking the unusual path and getting lost on purpose, for the sake a wholly individualized experience. For me, exploring like this was so much fun. I could describe it with prettier words; it was exhilarating, inspirational, exciting. But really, the best phrase for it is just pure, unadulterated fun.
During the early part of my visit, I wandered away from the classrooms and dormitory on a rare occasion when it wasn't raining. It wasn't sunny, but the lack of rain was good enough for me. Taking along my camera, I drifted towards some unspecific direction, with really no purpose in mind except to look at whatever there was to see. Although I was familiar with the buildings in the center of campus, I had no idea what was behind them or what the mysterious section of woods off to the side contained. So I decided to just walk around. I kept my camera on to record what I saw and my random musings, for posterity's sake, or something like that.
What I discovered was a street lined with cherry trees; a cute, little convenience store a short block away; a couple picturesque farm plots; a bike rental company; and a large, beautiful garden behind the campus. This garden contained a myriad of unfamiliar plants, trees, and flowers. I was fascinated by the lack of grass, which usually covers American garden-parks. Instead, there was soft, fragrant moss everywhere—even on the pathways.
And then, I found a bridge.
The experience was so impressive, that I think I have been chasing after it since I've returned, like searching for the sensation of a first high. Curiosity and exploration gets lost in the bustle of the every day. Responsibilities or even just weariness keep us from opening ourselves up to experiences that have no purpose; they stop us from indulging or perhaps even noticing our natural curiosity. In light of my experiences abroad, I am trying to change this in my life. It's not easy. I have classes and homework and regular work and chores just like everyone else. Not to mention, my boyfriend is currently less mobile due to a hip injury, and my desire to include him in my adventures often prevents me from having them at all. But I forget that curiosity doesn't always mean going out and finding some unknown path in the woods. It can mean turning on my computer and reading about some new fact, then following that interest and learning more. For example, I just finished reading an National Geographic article about the leading theory on how the statues of Easter Island were transported from miles away. I realized I really don't know anything about Easter Island. Instead of just letting my interest end with the article, later I'm going to do some reading about the island and learn more about the culture and its history. Following a curiosity, no matter whether its in concrete or digital form, is always stimulating; and for me, often has the added bonus of inspiring stories I can write.
There may be no point to indulging in curiosity. It doesn't always provide any rewards except perhaps as a conversation piece. It doesn't make money; it doesn't get anything done. However, I really believe curiosity is the most defining and basic characteristic of the human species. Humans love to learn, which is something we often forget when looking at education and homework, but it's true. We want to know things just for the sake of knowing them; because they're interesting, because they're fun. Perhaps that is a goal and a reward enough in itself. So go out and explore, even if it's just from your couch.