State of the Savage: November 2014

by Keith Savage · 7 comments


Cave Point, Door County, Wisconsin

It may come as a surprise to learn I am not Scottish nor do I live in Scotland. I am of Scottish descent (and also German and Italian), but I spend the vast majority of my time at home in Wisconsin where I was born and raised. Most people who contact me assume I’m a Scot living in Scotland, and many are downright shocked to learn I’m an American. I get it – those reactions make sense. After all, it makes sense logistically, financially, and, well, by default to be living in and from the place one passionately writes about.

But travel shows us otherwise. How else can we explain the deep desire to go elsewhere and the ease with which so many of us fall in love with new places? The sameness of home grows boring and we tire of its familiarity, but sometimes a view of home pierces the haze of our preconceptions and we see it in a new light. This State of the Savage quite literally is about my state: Wisconsin.

On a recent trip to one of Wisconsin’s more beautiful and well-known regions, Door County, I saw the landscape in just such a new light. Door County is a great thumb of land that juts far into Lake Michigan filled with tiny towns at its furthest point. Fish Creek, Ephraim, Sister Bay, Egg Harbor, Bailey’s Harbor – the names are evocative of the area, the cold freshwater of the lake carving out bays and rocky beaches from the limestone. This area has a long history among the Native American tribes, with French fur-trappers and other European settlers arriving only recently in the scheme of time, and these days it is known as one of the prime vacation spots in the upper Midwest. Door County can be overrun in the summer, but in late fall, when winter is just around the corner, the peninsula slows down and its natural beauty shines through.

I was stunned to see the similarity between this part of Wisconsin and much of Scotland. The mossy limestone, towering trees with the patina of age, and uneven ground covered by a layer of fallen leaves and shot through with thick roots. It was wonderful to essentially find this in my backyard. So much of life is spent thinking about other places, the future, and hypothetical outcomes — that exciting vacation to Spain, when the book is finished, when the house is built, when the money avalanche finally buries us — that we’re sort of fast-forwarding through the bulk of the movie. You know, life.

When life is tough, mindfulness is generally something to avoid, but when life is good it ought not be allowed to slip past in a blur. I’ve been guilty of this, lost in the wormhole to those imagined futures, simply wanting to get there. The fact is that I’ve been very lucky — if I was a religious man I’d say blessed — to have the opportunity to pursue a dream/passion/goal these past four years.

It has not been easy. I have not made a living at it, the book is far from finished, and the ultimate purpose and future of Traveling Savage is unknown. But it has been good. Really good. Sometimes you need a trip near home to realize the grass isn’t necessarily greener elsewhere, you just haven’t looked at your grass recently.

I realize now that this is my Thanksgiving post, so let me be clear. Thank you Sarah for supporting my dreams and giving me the chance to actualize them. Your turn will come. Thank you to both sides of my family and all my friends for never once saying a negative thing about this venture that clearly seems mad. Thank you, dear readers, for reading Traveling Savage and seeking my help planning your trip to Scotland.

Finally, thank you Scotland for being that enigmatic beauty that will forever wander at the edge of my ability to truly know you. Lord knows I haven’t given up trying.


AlexNo Gravatar December 11, 2014 at 7:19 AM

The grass is always greener my friend, gotta remember to stop and think about where you are and what you are doing there!

Lynn PorterNo Gravatar November 26, 2014 at 3:16 PM

Perfect timing for the perfect post – it’s what has earned my eagerness for each new post and respect for the content the Traveling Savage so graciously shares. I am thankful I found your website and have had your help to plan my upcoming trip.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 27, 2014 at 12:28 AM

It is my pleasure to help you, Lynn. Thanks for the kind words about Traveling Savage!

AndyNo Gravatar November 25, 2014 at 11:39 PM

Ah gratitude. Such a wonderful sentiment that pulls us back into the now. Something I can never be mindful enough of.

Thanks for the reminder.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 26, 2014 at 10:53 AM

Cheers Andy.

Suzanne SnyderNo Gravatar November 25, 2014 at 6:13 PM

Happy Thanksgiving to a fellow Wisconsonite

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 26, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Happy thanksgiving to you, too.

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