Sunday, September 30, 2012

about how i really like jules verne

Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it. --Cesare Pavese

It is interesting: I was quite certain that I would post on this blog throughout my summer travels in Europe. I anticipated it, and I took all of the appropriate pictures, and I lugged my laptop along in my pack, and I thought of witty remarks and ways of consolidating my anecdotes and all of the essentials of writing brief-yet-notable things. Quaint things, even.

And yet, I did not. At all! And afterwards, I said that I would let time kind of... fondly slide over the moments, flatten the dogeared pages a bit, and wait to see how nostalgia colored everything.

And here--it has been two months since I got back, and I still have not posted a single story related to my time away on my cute little travel-oriented blog.

Fascinating things happened, sure. I took a tour of Amsterdam with a homeless man who claimed to be a retired acrobat and planned to sail to Australia after years of traversing the globe. I took local flamenco classes in Sevilla and listened to lectures in Spanish about Lorca and tasted the most spectacularly roasted vegetables of my life in Cadiz. I learned everything that one could conceivably want to know (and more) about Jack the Ripper in London. I spontaneously went to Belgium. I got consistently rained on in Norway. And Sweden. And Denmark. I ate fantastic Korean food in Berlin with some of my most valued friends.

It was one of the best, and least logical, two months of my entire life. The itinerary made essentially no sense. You can see this coming when the first flight path of your trip is... the Dominican Republic to England. I had no funding outside of my own pocket from working--no scholarships, no fellowships. My maximum bed cost per night, with one or two Scandinavian exceptions, was twenty dollars. My food budget was a lot less. My backpacking pack was about a third of my body weight. Including the gradual accumulation of gifts for those back in the US, that rose to closer to half. I looked completely absurd. I often traveled alone. I made strange friends in strange places. I saw sandcastle competitions and religious ceremonies and jubilees and sunflowers. I saw incredible poverty, and tragic histories, and all kinds of bizarre and inexplicable things.

I guess I was too busy catching flights and trains and buses to write, and now I am back in Washington--constantly reading and writing about places and people and notions that I have never experienced (and may never experience) at Georgetown in my grad program. Life moves, and moves, and moves.

It may not be a journey to the center of the earth, but it is definitely a journey toward the center of... something.

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