There's a beautiful section of country in the Northwestern United States I am lucky enough to have family in. My Uncle (and Godfather) live there and when happy occasions like weddings present themselves, many members of my family make the trek out West for a visit.
This area of the country has some beautiful flora and fauna. When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is find a local park or nature preserve and just go for a walk. You see the subtleties in the terrain emerge. And, if you are like me, you like to try to learn about what you find.
I remember my first visit out West and noticing the way the houses and buildings were built. I'm from Cincinnati, OH, and we, by no means, have architectural history as old as what you'd find on the East Coast, but I noticed how 'new' the West was by comparison.
This is what travel is all about, to me. Every trip you take should allow you to make connections and draw conclusions about every other place you've been before.
Travel is about creating your own map of the world, and adding your own notations in the margins to help you find your way; and, to help you remember.
I like to take photos of the local flora and fauna. I like to learn small, historical details about a place. I love to find hole-in-the-wall 'historical sites' to see what a community chose to preserve, and then I like to wonder why they did so, and wonder about what they didn't.
Travel is about seeing a community and a sliver of a tiny culture within a larger culture within an even larger culture. Even if you are 'just visiting family' it can be so much more. Every trip we take in life can be more than what we make it.
For example, my family stopped at a park area off a main road and went for a walk. I had a discussion with my sister's boyfriend about the Ponderosa pines we were walking beneath and how they smell like butterscotch. I remembered visiting the Botanic gardens in Adelaide, Australia when I was traveling by myself in my very early 20s, and how a lot of the wild undergrowth in Idaho wasn't so different from some of the native plants I remembered that were so very far away.
Small travel, little trips we often take to celebrate weddings or to visit relatives and friends over a weekend, perhaps offers bigger opportunities to really see our world at a smaller level. Small travel lets you tie little threads between your day-to-day wherever your home may be and places your loved ones reside. Big travel, like my 2 week trip to Israel last year, is altogether different. That was more like falling in love at 16—really intense. Small travel is more like sleeping in on a Saturday, making tea and heading to the grocery store. Small travel gives you a chance to really see a place without its fancy clothes.
My wish for you is that you do some small travel this year.