SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD, July 5, 2014 — When Paul Theroux wrote in Riding the Iron Rooster that “travel writing is a minor form of autobiography,” I had no idea what he meant. After years of pursuing a goal to visit 100 countries or more in my lifetime, I now understand precisely what Theroux was saying. Travel has been a perpetual source of discovery and personal growth; an endless collage of people, places, events, architecture, art, history, cuisine, literature and personalities.
Everyone who travels escapes the daily rhythms of their lives and, since the journey of life is a continuum, so, too, is the evolution of a traveler’s soul; an eternal metamorphosis.
Each individual, no matter how often they have traveled, has his or her own favorite experiences, and each has a story to tell.
It’s all about learning how other cultures view our big blue marble as it spins through space and how different perspectives evolve. It’s a search for knowledge and a greater understanding of ourselves. It’s about the joy of sharing the stories we encounter with anyone willing to listen.
Mark Twain once wrote that, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. Throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Truer words were never spoken for someone addicted to the incurable disease known as “wanderlust.” Julie Andrews sang about her list of favorite things, but every traveler finds their own.
Here are three of my personal favorites.
Balconies — In Italian Days, the late Barbara Grizzuti Harrison described the seductiveness of balconies, especially those that are hidden so as to allow the anonymous, voyeuristic pleasure of watching the world down below. A great balcony reveals a continuous pageant of life, and it’s well worth the time to observe it.
Sidewalk Cafes — If you travel without experiencing a sidewalk café, you haven’t traveled. They have much the same appeal as a balcony, only they are viewed from street level. While anonymity is still possible, at a sidewalk café you also become an active participant in the eternal, ever-changing parade of humanity. It’s a grand stage where the curtain is always up and the drama allows you to be one of the actors. All it takes is a small table, your favorite drink and the time to enjoy.
Morning Light — So influential is travel for me, that I have come to understand how certain times of day affect my attitude. I adore the serene, soothing freshness of a new day. A cool morning in a foreign land is a time of renewal.
There is an indescribable optimism in the precious golden moments when the veil of night lifts to reveal the dewiness of daybreak; when an unblemished world beckons through a scrim of earth-clinging clouds; gentle breezes whisper through flowers and trees, nourished by tiny, clear droplets of moisture.
The time of day when a peach-colored sun is little more than a formless shape in the sky, innocent, subdued and dispersing gradations of light across the horizon. Birds are hushed silhouettes with wings, made all the more distinct by the backlit palette of a delicate pastel sky; fleeting moments that will swiftly yield to the turmoil of commerce and enterprise.
Early mornings are that slice of the day when tranquility prevails with muffled sounds unify into a single uplifting serenade that introduces the sunrise. Daybreak is a symphony for the soul.
Almost anything can become a “favorite thing” for a traveler. A corner seat on any train going anywhere. Waking up to classical music on the radio. Street markets. Down comforters on a cold rainy night. Ancient ruins. Half-timbered houses.
As Edith Wharton once expressed, “The foreground is the property of the guidebook and of its product, the mechanical sightseer; the background, that of the dawdler, the dreamer and the serious student. Dawdle…”
Travel is intoxicating. Sometimes I feel guilty in my desire for perpetual explorations and adventures. Guilty that is until I focus upon the words of Daniel Boorstin, “A traveler goes in search of people, of adventure, of experience. A tourist goes for sightseeing. Just like the question is more interesting than a statement, and a road more intriguing than a map, aspire to be a traveler. Be brave. Go through open gates.
”Travel is a never-ending quest to discover your own personal list of favorite things. The gates are open, and they are beckoning.”
When it comes to favorite things, nobody said it, or sang it, better than Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com). His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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