I read an article in the Globe and Mail today about a woman who hates to travel but does it regularly. She talked about her love for her living room couch, and how the notion of getting up at oh-my-god-o-clock to catch a plane was not her idea of fun.
But then she goes on to say that travel, in its reality of turbulence, disquiet and foreign-ness, allows her ideas to percolate, to leave behind routine and see life in a different way.
I had just come back from 2 ½ weeks of travel in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. When people ask me how my trip was, my first reaction is to say “Amazing, wonderful, loved it all”. But in truth, there were parts of it that were hard and unpleasant and caused serious soul searching. There were other parts that were amazing, had me laughing till the tears poured down my face, and left me in a puddle of giggles. Both parts made me hyper-aware of all that was going on around me. And I appreciated both.
A difficult part? One morning in Prague, Jaime, Marlene and I agreed to meet at 9:00 am to go to the most incredible coffee shop, Ebel Coffee (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Ebel/130374673704957) for yet another wonderful latté and cappuccino. At least Jaime and I thought it was 9:00 am. Marlene, a high school geography teacher, is known for her promptness and at 9:05 am, Jaime and I started to wonder where she was. At 9:15 am, we were getting a bit anxious so we walked out to the square to look for her. 9:30 am, still no sign, and mild panic was starting to set in. By 9:50 am, I was on the phone with the Prague police, who were checking hospitals and ambulances for her. At 10:00 am, she calmly strolls around and finds us, unaware of our combined panic. Since Ebel didn’t open till 10:00 am, she had assumed we really meant 10:00 am.
A morning of hyper-awareness that I will remember and appreciate for a long time.
A glorious part? I could tell you about a run along the Rhine in Vienna, seeing a Picasso in the Albertina Museum, or hiking up the mountain behind Jaime’s house to have a wondrous lunch of meat, cheese, bread and icy cold Radler. There were many, many glorious parts. But the best was lunch. Yup, lunch. One day in Prague, Marlene headed one way and Jaime and I ended up doing some shopping, then wandered around looking for somewhere to eat lunch. We found a fish and chip spot, ordered cold beers and sat and enjoyed each other’s company without any other interruptions. I was also hyper-aware because Jaime and I rarely spend time together, just the two of us. I soaked up each part of the conversation, each silence and each burst of laughter. Every moment was remarkable and the subtle nuance of our togetherness was worth the entire trip.
When you travel, the trappings of your regular life are left behind, and you discover that the incredible chemistry that travels brings (as described by Ellen Himelfarb, the Globe and Mail writer) is worth it. When you travel, you are living out of a suitcase or a pack, stripped down to only what you really need to get through your days. You feel and experience things in a clearer, more focused way, without taking anything for granted.
Makes me think about how I might incorporate that kind of hyper-awareness or clear and simple approach to my every day life…to keep it from being an every day life. Pico Iyer tells us that travel is all about transformation. He’s fascinated by people who come back from a trip unrecognizable to themselves, and perhaps open to the same possibilities they’d have written off not a month before. I will strive to be open to whatever possibilities arise. Can you do the same?