I’m always delighted to pass through a town years after I last visited. Mapping my memories of the old place to the present place becomes an interesting exercise in determining what has actually changed and what remains the same yet I view differently.
Damascus, Virginia, a tiny town in southwest Virginia that is a hub for hikers, cyclists, and paddlers, is at the intersection of every major adventure I’ve taken over the last decade.
In 2006, after hiking about 1,800 miles on the Appalachian Trail from Maine, I arrived in Damascus to resupply.
In 2008, after cycling about 4,000 miles from Astoria, Oregon, I pedaled into Damascus on my way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Today, with my wife and two kids, I pulled the Airstream into Damascus to spend a weekend biking the Virginia Creeper trail and trick-or-treating.
It’s clear when I walk along the main drag that the town has changed over the years. The library has moved off the main street. The Dairy Queen knockoff, the Dairy King, has closed. My favorite burrito shop is closed. A couple new outfitters have opened.
It’s also clear that I have changed. There is a large park for kids on the edge of town. The Appalachian Trail passes within a few feet of it. I’m sure I walked or biked by it half a dozen times while in Damascus in 2006 and 2008, however I never saw it. I didn’t have kids, so parks weren’t in my vision. On this visit, the park jumped caught my attention as I drove, and after spending several hours there, it’s likely something I won’t forget.
The feeling I have each time I visit Damascus is similar to the feeling that I have when I visit places from my childhood, like a playground. In my memory, the playground spaces are huge, the structures towering. Though when I return as an adult, I chuck to see the actual small size.
This is how I feel when I come to Damascus.
It’s not that I feel big and the town feels small. It’s that when I visit Damascus, I realize that I’ve changed. I realize that my travels and time have changed me. I realize that changes have taken place which I’ve yet to recognize and trace back to adventure as the catalyst. I realize how much I undervalue the changes brought on by travel and that I take that transformation for granted. And at last, I realize that I need more adventure.
I also realize that I need to broaden my horizons, traveling more outside of the States.
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