Monday, April 18, 2011

Parts Undiscovered

You're looking at a snapshot from my collection of old maps.  To me, one of the most captivating things about this 1769 map of North America is the notation "Parts Undiscovered" over our modern day Pacific Northwest region.

For 18th century explorers, the  Pacific Northwest coastline and interior were unmapped and unknown.  But even today, "Parts Undiscovered" is a mighty notion.  For me, it conjures Crater Lake, a jewel I've miraculously never been to, but finally have on this summer's plan.  It also suggests "parts" I've never traveled to intellectually and emotionally, like letting our teenagers make more and more of their own choices (as is the case these days for me and Suzanne).

Life is short, and we'll never see it all.  That's a wonderful thing.  There's also beauty in the fact that no matter where you go, there's always someone around who does know the place.  How to visit it, how to "do" the trip and get the most out of it.  What you should leave at home, and what to absolutely not forget, the best fishin' holes, the bad restaurants, the washed out roads, the dangerous places...  Sure, some of the locals are clueless, rude, or outright abusive.  But finding one of the good locals is priceless, is it not???

On a trip, a good local guide is priceless  

Good guides charge a fee, but beware thinking of guides as costly.  If a guide cost you $500, but reminded you about sunscreen, preventing a sunburn that would have ruined 3 days of your trip, helped you connect for a lifetime with people along the way, then saved you from losing your $500 camera...  How do you see the guide's $500 fee then?  Maybe your best-spent dollars.

You don't pay the guide for the boat ticket, the meal, or the fish you caught.  You pay them for their knowledge of the land, the water, the people, the language.  You pay them for keeping you out of trouble, stacking the deck in your favor, improving your odds for a great result.

True, no?  Really...if you're going out for dinner and you make a mistake (other than food poisoning), the consequences are small.  It's no biggie if you blow a few bucks on a disappointing meal.  But not so if you're planning a month in the Amazon, where the investment and consequences are huge.  In that case, you'd better get some good local help.  And the same is true when you're undertaking the other rare journeys in life...

"Parts Undiscovered" is also a place on the map of mortgage lending.  Even if you've done it a dozen times, I assure you that the path gets overgrown in time, changed and unrecognizable.  With every trip, the path is changed and new obstacles are present...even for the guide!  And like the Amazon, the stakes of this journey are high.  It's time to hire a guide, the best local you can find...and trust them to make a difference.

When the trip is done, we look back and ask, was that guide costly, or a bargain?  Could we have known at the outset specifically how they'd make a difference?  Nope.  Maybe we just have to know that great guides are always worth it, and commit to make our life's journey a guided trip.  

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