The Joys of Traveling

Since this blog is going to be about travel experiences and related subjects, I want to quote these three paragraphs from the first chapter in Frances Mayes book A Year in the World:

“The urge to travel feels magnetic. Two of my favorite words are linked: departure time. And travel whets the emotions, turns upside down the memory bank, and the golden coins scatter. How my mother would have loved the mansard apartment we borrowed from a friend in Paris. Will I be lucky enough to show pieces of the great world to my grandchild? I’m longing to hold his hand when he first steps into a gondola. I’ve seen his freedom burst upon him on hikes in California. Arms out, he runs forward. I recognize the surge.”…

“Travel pushes my boundaries. Seemingly self-indulgent, travel paradoxically obliterates me-me-me, because very quickly—prestissimo—the own-little-self is unlocked from the present and released to move through layers of time. It is not 2006 all over the world. So who are you in a place where 1950 or 1920 is about to arrive? Or where the guide says, “We’re not talking about A.D. today. Everything from now on is B.C.” I remember the child who came out of a thatched shack deep in the back roads of Nicaragua. She ran to touch the car, her arms thrown up in wonder. She would have looked at the headlights turn on and off all night.  You are released also because you are insignificant to the life of the new place. When you travel, you become invisible, if you want. I do want. I like to be the observer. What makes these people who they are? Could I feel at home here? No one expects you to have the stack of papers back by Tuesday, or to check messages, or to fertilize the geraniums, or to sit full of dread in the waiting room at the proctologist’s office. When travelling, you have the delectable possibility of not understanding a word of what is said to you. Language becomes simply a musical background for watching bicycles zoom along a canal, calling for nothing from you. Even better, if you speak the language, you catch nuances and make more contact with people”…

“The need to travel is a mysterious force. A desire to go runs through me equally with an intense desire to stay at home. An equal and opposite thermodynamic principle. When I travel, I think of home and what it means. At home I’m dreaming of catching trains at night in the gray light of Old Europe, or pushing open shutters to see Florence awaken. The balance just slightly tips in the direction of the airport.  I’m looking out my study window at the San Francisco Bay, the blue framed by stands of eucalyptus trees. The wind, I imagine, blew across Asia, then across Hawaii, bringing—if I could smell deeply enough—a trace of plumeria perfume. The western sun makes a grandiose exit in the smeared lavender-pink sky—a Mrs. Gotrocks gold orb sinking behind sacred Mount Tamalpais. The bay water, running into the ocean! Washing all the miraculous places. With the force of an earthquake, a wild certainty forms in the center of my forehead. Time. To go. Time. Just go.  I asked an impulsive question, What if we did not go home, what if we kept travelling? Should you not listen well to the questions you ask out of nowhere? Only in looking back do you find those crumbs you dropped that marked your way forward.”

Mayes, Frances. A Year in the World . Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition. 


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