Long ago, I read a science fiction story about someone going to a strange, alien place in his town by take an odd succession of turns through familiar streets. Last week, I flew to a funeral in Cedar City, Utah. I had gone there often with my family over the years, driving across the plains of the Dakotas and Montana or Wyoming to get to Utah. This time, I came quickly from Minnesota to mountains, and the mountains seemed richer than they had before. I could understand why my mother misses the mountains, living in the flat land of central Minnesota. It's a simple point: before, I had come to the mountains tired and with my capacity for seeing landscape exhausted and disappointed. This time, it was fresh.
In a similar way: on Friday, I was part of a bus trip through wooded areas an hour north of Minneapolis -- country I had driven through. This time we stopped to listen to proud farmers show off their land and their cows to an appreciative audience. I got a whiff of what it would feel like to be at home in this place and also to be responsible for it. And again, the landscape shifted.
Travel agents help one to move among points on a two dimensional map. They are less and less needed; one can plan such trips oneself, with the internet to help. But there is somewhere in Plato's heaven the real travel agent, who helps people move from where they are, in many dimensional space, to some other place they they long for but can't quite name, to some new way of being at home, by taking odd turnings on familiar streets.