A few months ago, I was walking down a street in some small southern Spanish town with a friend. We were remarking on the quiet streets, stone buildings, and rather deserted squares. My friend turned to me and said something about how this town could be any of a vast number of small foreign villages in foreign non-American countries and how he couldn’t understand my stated desire from the previous night of ‘wanting to go everywhere’. At the time of the walk, I agreed with him, said ‘oh yes, this village is like alot of other villages in alot of other places and all old (by american standards) towns and cities are very similar so why bother going ‘everywhere’.’
I’ve thought of this conversation quite often since then. I realized pretty much the minute the words left my month that I didn’t agree with what my friend was saying – and definitely not with what I had just said – but I wasn’t sure how to verbalize it. All I knew was that he, my friend, was missing something – was missing some vital point – that makes travel amazing and nourishing and oh so necessary. He’s a very well traveled person – by anyone’s standards – but he’d lost the joy, the wide eyed child wonderment of it all. Or maybe he never had it. I don’t know. I suspect most of his travel has been done for very different reasons than mine.
I want to walk the same streets that people did 1000s of years ago. I want to put my feet where their feet were. I wander through foreign cities; walking and walking and looking and seeing. I watch the people. I marvel at the buildings and the cobblestones and the winding narrow streets. I am sometimes stopped dead in my tracks by the knowledge of how many boot heels have clicked against the same cobblestones as mine. I find it humbling and moving and still, still, amazing. It doesn’t matter how many streets I walk, how many little villages I see, how many stone buildings with cute terraces – they are beautiful and unique and they all have their own story. To not care about that story, to not try to hear that story – and most especially – to not even realized that there is a story to be heard – is to miss out on – well, on everything. I don’t know how else to put it. There are stories and history all around is. everything breathes. And maybe I’m crazy but, the bricks, cobblestones, trees themselves talk to me. They breath life into me when my own tiny little world becomes so small I can no longer move.
One of my favorite quotes is one by Walt Whitman ‘I am large. I contain multitudes.” I think of it when I walk unfamiliar streets, board lumbering trains across Serbia, gaze over clay roofs, dip my toes into the most beautiful blue ever of the Mediterranean…I think of all the people before me who did the same and I imagine that I can hear their stories in the clomp of footsteps on cobblestones, in the wind, in the steady chugging of a train…and I take those stories in – all of them – because they remind me of what an amazing, vast, diverse world we live filled with so many stories that we could never hear them all – we could never think that one place was exactly like another….
I am large. I contain multitudes.