And she starts telling me about her eight mile trek from a "nearby" village to Machu Pichu in tennis shoes. And I'm thinking, this girl is far too intelligent to do that on purpose. Well, as it turns out, the trek was unexpected and it was you know, like a whole new experience that was well worth the relative pain she had to endure to get to one of the world's truly magical places. Just listening to her describe it made me ever more determined to get there in the near future. It has been on my Bucket List since Professor Gettle described the daily sacrifice of virgins to the gods way back when I was a lowly and unknowing architecture student.
And as we continued our discussion about travel, we concluded that the unexpected must be embraced while traveling. It's those things that are not on an itinerary or in a brochure that will make travel meaningful and may even change your way of thinking.
Travel Like You Give A Damn!
This time of year people start talking seriously about vacation. Most serious nomads start getting those "gotta' move" jitters around the middle of April. Tax season is over. The kids will be out of school soon. Winter will finally blast its last gasp, even up north and millions of travelers will take to the roads, the rails, the seas or the air to places familiar and unknown. For us traveling is not really a leisure activity. I consider travel one of life's opportunities to change, sometimes profoundly, my world view. When I heard my young friend explain, with unfettered enthusiasm, the joy she felt upon arriving at the high mountain Estate of The Ancient Incas, it further convinced me that travel, to be truly appreciated, must have those experiences that come from somewhere or someone that we did not think about before we hit the trail.
I once heard a barkeep in Montepulciano singing an aria at the top of his tenor voice late in the day while lost and looking for the 700 year old house we had booked for the night. With this sound floating down the narrow streets of this magnificent hill town, I walked into the café to ask directions. Like all Italians, he was ever so polite, stopped singing and explained how to get to our destination. As I left the café he resumed his magnificent singing, picking up right where he had left off. This simple encounter and experience was, dare I say, quite profound. Watching aggressive old men play an intense match of bachi ball in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower will let you know for sure that people the world over have their priorities very much in order.
In the fifties, as the son of a hardworking, entrepreneurial business man father and a classic homemaker mom, I always assumed that everyone went to Daytona Beach in early summer, followed by a two week camping trip, in late August, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and The Great Smoky Mountains. I learned to pack a trunk from my obsessively organized father. My first memories of driving are the times I spent in my dad's lap behind the wheel of the big Caddie as we headed south to the beach or north to the mountains. I also have Technicolor memories of stopping at a roadside somewhere south of Ocala and eating ice cold watermelon that had been submerged in freezing water all day. Your teeth hurt, but, the sweet taste of that summer delicacy was pure heaven.
And, with the freedom of summer at The World's Most Famous Beach, I enjoyed eating a hot dog with a real six ounce coke that brought tears to my eyes. If you are under fifty you have no idea what that means. It was something quite exotic and worldly for a ten year old from Tallahassee. Then it was on to camping in the Great Smoky Mountains with all of the latest gadgets one could attain in 1957. It was a very "American" experience that I utterly loved. My brother, however wasn't quite so sure. Actually, he was quite sure. He loathed camping then and now. Yes siree, my brother is of the certain opinion that there is absolutely no reason for a normal thinking, sane person to EVER sleep outside.
The point here is that travel means different things to different people. Some find extreme comfort in that favorite place on a lake. Others relish the extreme adventure involved in setting out on a little used fork in the road. I think there is actually room for both. On occasion, we visit one of our favorite cousins who lives on Lake Blackshear in Warwick, Georgia. It never fails to take me to a place of sentient peace and tranquility, not to mention insane food. The simple pleasure of sitting and having a morning coffee on a porch on a lake is - well - one of life's good things. You don't need to read The Art of Doing Nothing at this place. That fine art has long been perfected in that beautiful house on that simple porch looking out onto that peaceful water where nothing is demanded and everyone seems to laugh a lot.
However, I have also been on the receiving end of some of the most unexpected pleasures that seemingly came from nowhere. From the debauchery and beauty of Venice to the art show of Ocean Trash in Southern Oregon, to the old man who gave us directions in Wales in his native tongue, which has nothing to do with American English. My journals are full of those things, great and small, that make you want to keep moving. But, remember, where you sleep does matter. The castle in Provence or the smallest hotel room on earth in Venice - it all makes the heart grown fonder of things yet unknown.
And one last thing that can assist you in getting off the couch and on the road to nirvana? Grab a book, that one book that spoke to you about a place, a time or a people. We have been planning a Bucket List Trip to the land of Don Quixote, bullfights, tapas and Tempranillo for a long time. All of that thinking about, talking about and planning for our visit to the land of conquistadors made me re-read one of the truly great novels of the twentieth century, Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, which I mentioned in a post, Now I Know Why Hemingway Always Wrote Standing Up , a few weeks back. His detailed descriptions of every tree, pebble strewn path, river and the people that visit and inhabit the exotic locales of Pamplona, the running of the bulls - well, you know the story - have helped me to prepare mentally and yes, spiritually, for what I hope will be the trip of a life time
It is my fervent hope that you will find yourself completely lost in some ancient place and look up and see something that will make you see life better in this world that increasingly makes less sense! My one and only says that traveling with me is one U-turn after another. Remember, half the fun is getting there. And the other half is sleeping in a place you could only dream of.
Happy Trails - Felici Percorsi - Bonne Route -llwybrau hapus - Buenos Caminos - Head Suusarajad,
Travel Quote of The Week - “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
Video Artist of The Week - Who better to celebrate the life of the vacationista than The Beach Boys. With the sounds and lyrics of Summer, one of the greatest pop/rock groups in history makes us all appreciate life's simple pleasures. And they are on tour, after fifty plus years. The last time I saw them, they were still worth the price of the ticket.