Dreaming about travel. Savoring travel. Remembering travel.
Decent and kind people who you don’t share a common language with. Unexpected challenges. A smile. Patience. A comfortable seat at the window on a long train ride deep into the Alps. Curiosity with rewards. Quiet narrow country roads. Wind rustling the leaves of trees along a river whose name you can’t pronounce. Sheep bells in the Pyrénées. A muddy river in spring flood flowing out of a Mexican jungle. Birds with impossible colors.
Menus, mysterious and stressful. The enjoyment of getting what you thought were ordering and discovering that it is so much better than you dared imagine. How do they make it taste so good? Not sure exactly what was in that, but wow. A walk along the beach after sunset in the safety of rural Brittany.
Villages with two names. Road signs. Changing trains, reading the departure board, making the next train with only seven minutes between arrival and departure, trains that are on time, deciphering conductor announcements. Returning the rental car without damage, whew. Base jumpers landing in wildflowers at the base of the canyon wall. Hundreds of football and volleyball games mixed in with the Sunday crowds stretching for miles on Copacabana Beach. Soft white sand, gentle waves, warm humid air. The music of Portuguese or French or … conversations.
Glaciers, waterfalls, stone houses, slate roofs, startling soaring cathedrals, ancient art, life-like sculptures, bigger than life, lines for tickets, listening to animated but unknown languages on the Eiffel Tower observation deck. Watching out for pick pockets and keeping a hand on your luggage in the train station. Trying to tell the taxi driver the location of your hotel. Favelas and community refuse burning piles. Riding the bus to the beach. Riding the tram to the Mediterranean. Riding the bus from the airport, bleary-eyed, tired, disoriented, not understanding the conversations around you.
The Metro stations. Long walks across Paris. TGV. Beach vendors trying to sell horrible looking fish on a stick. Authentic fajitas in a beach restaurant. Traveling by cable car and electric train in the Bernese Oberland. Walking up the hill from the train station through the village to your hotel. Learning about Austria and The Netherlands from the hotel staff. Trying to figure out the street map in Nantes. Failing. Trying the hard cider of Brittany, but not the ‘moules et frits’. Sorry.
Looking down through three floors from a balcony watching samba dancers on a crowded floor. Watching (in person) the televised sheep-shearing contest during the celebration of the return of the sheep from the high mountain pastures in Luz-Saint-Saveur. Seeing the streets lined with piles of plastic wine cups the next morning. The marching group with giant bells on their backs. The brass band marching through town and into a living room and playing inside a tiny stone house. Running for cover from a downpour in Rennes and finding shelter in a brasserie with other storm refugees. Seeing the evil but intact German blockhouses built on the rocky shoreline of Brittany.
Arriving at the Swiss border at Geneva on the train from Chamonix and finding out we had to get off and find our way to another station across town. The end of the line. Looking in vain for art in Geneva, but stumbling onto a choir performance inside the cathedral. Discovering that those white kitchen garbage bags that we packed fit perfectly over our rolling luggage while waiting in the rain for the ferry across Lac Léman. The banners and flags in Bern during the Euro 2008 football competition. The fiddle player and guitarist standing in the bank doorway below our hotel window waiting for customers to emerge with refreshed funding. Their three songs never got tiresome. The organ grinder and his cat who played there in the mornings. Far Breton breakfast treat and espresso. And all that new music and those weird movies.
Trying for a record-breaking long café lunch in Paris but only making it to 52 minutes. Must learn to savor more. An awkward semi-French/semi-English conversation with the family who owned the Gite that we rented at the beach in Brittany. We and they understood each other enough to know that we liked each other and had a lot in common. They had a loving family with two daughters and had a sense of humor. They were kind to us and tried to help us feel at home. We did.
History, geography, literature, art, and humanity are all enriched with travel. They are given context and life. Days are filled with planning and anticipation, then adventure and new experience, then memories and a new outlook and broader view of the world where you are-because of the world that you saw, the people, and the culture that made sense to the families you met. Their culture may be different but they built it because of their history and resources. It works for them.
The challenges of travel encourage growth and reflection. I know that is not an original thought. But it sums up how I am feeling today. I have reduced my travel and use a bicycle for local transportation. But when I do travel I intend to learn as much as I can. I look forward to the next trip with excitement. Although, I probably wouldn’t have the nerve to wear the propeller beany cap.