Hi Over There…
I hear about your travels. I see an Instagram or a FB post now and then. But how are you REALLY doing? And what? And where?
Privileged young people have been heading across The Pond for their growing up adventures for as long there has been passage, I suppose. I didn’t make it until my late 40’s, but I took my turn then at vagabonding in Europe. Although I’m still an experience junkie, I travel differently now – by choice. Still, the urge is understandable. How many things can you see in this short bit of time? Where all can you go?
You and I have spent time together in Italy so you know that ultimately I have a different vision for you. My definition of “broadening” has changed to include comprehension of culture and people. Travel helped me change my view of “others” forever. It hope it changes yours.
I want you to see the Eiffel Tower, but also to immerse yourself in having a coffee at a table on the streets of Paris while watching the people, the traffic, the pace of an artistic city that treasures its history. Use your fluency in French to speak to a child on the street or to reassure an older woman as you help her with her packages. You’ll relive it when you are back home waiting in line at a kiosk to get your coffee in a paper cup on the way work.
When you are overwhelmed by the walls of art and artifacts in the museums of the great cities, I hope you can zero in and recognize a landscape or a street that you have seen in your travels. Maybe you’ll recognize facial characteristics of a man you saw with his children in Florence. Or, you’ll see a ring on a local friend’s hand that is a reproduction of one from the museum. When you’re home watching a movie you’ll jump back under the dripping umbrella in London and recall the friendly cab driver who found your hostel for you.
As you walk through the hubbub of Amsterdam please take a deep breath and let the walls of the buildings talk to you. Or the hedgerows along a road near a village. In the small squares read the memorials to soldiers. Feel the tension and fear that once filled those streets as the Nazis pounded their rhythm into the hearts and souls of a country that resisted.
When you are running with the bulls in Pamplona look beyond the partying tourists to catch a glimpse of the Basque culture of the area. With your ear for languages, listen for sounds interspersed with the French and Spanish to hear the ancient language and spare a bit of sadness that its use is receding even there, the land of its origins.
Or stop and listen to music anywhere – in metros, on street corners, at festivals, at sidewalk cafes – and watch who is touched by it. Feel the stories it is telling and look around at the people whose lives resonate with it.
I don’t know how many countries your are visiting. But, when you return I hope that in addition to the historical monuments you will be able to tell me a story of at least one connection in each of those. Maybe you met people on the train who were visiting their children in another city. Or you talked to a lovely young man or woman your age who cared about the life you live and was willing to share insights into their own.
Let your travels create change in who you are. Let them heighten your senses.Let them deepen your understanding. Remember the kindnesses and from them learn how to treat strangers in your own land. If you are gathering experiences rather than stamps on your passport the memories will last a lifetime.