mardi, février 13


A friend of mine had been troubling me for a while for my snail mail address. Actually, he'd asked all of his friends to give him their addresses, he had "something planned"... of which I couldn't decline, "Sign me up for the stalker list!" said I. A few days later a shiny postcard found its way to my mailbox...le sigh. The joys of receiving hand-written postcards & letters feels like looking at old photographs from your record players, or Sunday morning cartoons, or the ice cream truck, something romantic & archaic from the past that you long for and remember with bittersweet nostalgia as you silently weep to Rush or Straight Up by Paula Abdul. (Seriously, those songs defined my childhood.) I think it's fair to place letter writing among the endangered species list of art forms in the age of emotionless emails & generic text messages. (Technology be damned! Yes I realize I'm writing this blog from a computer...) But revenons à nos moutons (let's return to our sheep, as les Français would say) this postcard I received was an invigorating memory of the past. However, initially I couldn't tell what the postcard was a picture of. The deeply saturated hues left me to believe it was a tropical setting and indeed leaves were distinguishable as well as a pool of water or some sorts. It read,

"A four hour hike to the nearest village, which has a
population of 500. Pure mountain fresh water,
Howler monkeys swinging in the treetops.
That's why I travel. Why do you travel?"

Looking at the picture on the front of the postcard I can now discern the trees from the water, a scene so incredibly serene it's hard to imagine it existing of this world. My response, longer than a postcard, was this:

I didn't know his name, how old he was, where he came from, or what language he spoke, but something about him was captivating. I was alone taking the train from city to city along the French Riviera when I saw this old man, also sitting alone, in the seat diagonally across from me. There wasn't anything particularly interesting about him; he had a calm demeanor, easily missable. However, what caught my eye was the worn red backpack he held delicately in his lap, as if it were a small child. The name "Adriana" was embroidered on the backpack. Suddenly my mind was off and running...who was Adriana? Did this bag belong to Adriana? Perhaps Adriana was his granddaughter and she had forgotten her bag with him or maybe it was his daughter's--she'd outgrown it and given it to him. Something about him seemed to express a quiet sadness, maybe this bag was a reminder or token of someone he loved, of someone who had died. Then again I could be completely wrong, maybe he stole the backpack or found it or maybe he's homeless and someone gave it to him and the name Adriana means nothing at all. Nevertheless it was a problem that I continued to search for the answer to. All scenarios aside, this story isn't about who Adriana was or where this old man came from or was going to. The point is that traveling makes my mind active. Everything around me is new or different or special. Like the photograph on the front of the postcard, it is sometimes impossible to discern top from bottom, right from left. Displacing oneself in a foreign country, or traveling in general, heightens my senses and makes small differences ever more apparent. I find that I approach my travels with curiosity and excitement--always eager to know & learn more. The possibilities are endless, it makes me examine and question the world and my place in it. Do I really know as much as I think I know? Are there other ways in which I should examine or question the world, my place in it, my reality, my experiences, etc.? Traveling makes me actively question what I know and who I am. This isn't to say that when I travel I'm searching for answers, only that I have a lot of questions.

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