Health and wellbeing articles are always banging on about getting incidental exercise – like taking the stairs, gardening, getting off the bus one stop earlier, or sending your document to the work printer on the other side of the building so you have to walk to get it.
Then there are those pelvic floor exercises you’re supposed to do while you iron (who does that? Ironing, I mean).
If incidental means ‘accompanying but not a major part of something’, then incidental travel is the trip you have when you’re not really travelling.
For me, it’s sitting on the beach looking out to sea when suddenly a hump back whale cracks through the surface and tosses itself into the air over and over again.
It’s walking along a familiar bush track when a koala, completely zoned-out on eucalyptus juice, comes toddling towards you. It senses you (or hears your dog panting and drooling) and stares myopically in your general direction before taking to the nearest tree, climbing a metre up and hiding its face. A bit like a two year old kid thinking if they cover their eyes you won’t see them.
It’s those snatches of conversation you hear that transport you back to favourite places, like the tres chic french woman and her elderly mother chatting over coffee. Or make you laugh hysterically (on the inside) like the loud mobile phone conversation on the bus that finally ends with: “Well, I haven’t got time to sit around drinking tai chi all day you know”.
It’s when that huge golden moon hangs close to the horizon, or you just happen to wake in the middle of the night to see Orion perfectly framed in your bedroom window…
It’s not always possible to head off to another part of the world, even when you’re busting to. Which makes incidental travel a bit of a sanity saver.
Marcel Proust puts it best: The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
There’s a lot to be said for fresh eyes…