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Viewpoint: Stepping away from manufactured drama

As I see it, the goal of travel is to reframe our lives. The goal is that, when we get back, we see things differently.

As I grew up in the small town of Aberdeen, South Dakota, I didn’t really get that. In large part, I think, it’s because my idea of traveling at the time was spending a long weekend in Sioux Falls. Or Fargo. That didn’t do much to reframe things for me.

Nor did a trip or two to Mexico where all I saw was a buffet line and an ever-flowing line of cheap tap beer.

This summer, though, I finally succeeded in having my life reframed. I spent two weeks traveling through much of Thailand. We didn’t go to any beaches. We didn’t go to any glittering resorts. Instead, we traveled north and got away from everything. I was able to stay in touch with my family here and there and was even able to send photos most days so that they could see what I was seeing.

Beyond that, though, we were unplugged. We drifted around, having some reservations set in advance but many other things just left to chance. Eventually, my friend and I boarded flights home and begrudgingly returned.

I realized while away that the one thing that lacked in my trip was drama. There was none.

When I returned here, I was able to see all the ways drama was manufactured.

It’s manufactured at work. At home. On TV. Because of the neighbors. Because of our family. All over the place. And it’s consuming so many lives.

I’m left convinced that people are doing this in an effort to make their lives seem more interesting than they really are. Truth is, many of us lead really boring lives. We punch in. We punch out. We go home. We drive the kids to practice. We come home. We watch that show. We go to bed. We do it all over again tomorrow. So, why not invent something a bit salacious to break up that monotony?

Soon, our drives home are filled with crazy and dramatic conversations about what he said and about what she said. Our nights at home are filled with “can you believe this” conversations.

Meanwhile, life slips by. Opportunities are lost. Opportunities to repair issues slip by — instead of talking to that co-worker and having a meaningful conversation about what can be done to fix problems, we complain about the symptoms to people who can do nothing to fix them. Opportunities to grow our relationships slip by — instead of spending quality time together, time is spent rehashing all the drama from work.

Our digital age has done nothing but add gas to the drama fire, unfortunately.

My Thailand trip was filled with great food, awesome adventures and beautiful sights. It’s impact, though, is still being felt in my day-to-day life. While the memories of those adventures have started to fade, the lessons of that travel remain fresh.

Drama is optional.

Chad Richardson is the news director of RiverTown Multimedia. He lives in Hastings.