Shortly–i.e., any minute now–I’ll be heading out on a brief road trip with friends. I’m not a “full-time traveler,” like some sporty young people these days, flinging themselves across the globe to taste turgid well water from Tibetan monasteries buried in snow and silence. No, but perhaps I’m a part time traveler.
Seneca, a Stoic I mentioned in my last post, said, “To be everywhere is to be nowhere. People who spend their whole lives traveling abroad end up having plenty of places where they can find hospitality but no real friendships.”
Maybe I haven’t traveled enough, but I disagree with Seneca.
I’ve traveled alone, as when I flew to England, and the sight of travelers spilled like marbles into bus terminals and airports has troubled me. I’m lost in their anonymity. The way they feel like ghosts. And the gray impersonal walls of the terminals feel alien, smeared with the presence of people passing by but never staying.
The road, at times, has a has a lonesome murmur.
But I’ve also joined the fabric of another world, building friendships and leaving traces with the footfalls and echoes of existence we all leave behind. I know one English girl has a poem I wrote while watching boats drift down the Thames. Unless she threw it out.
But I often wonder if the people I meet–like a man named Walid who worked in a cafe at Cairo–remembers my fumbling Arabic and the daily exchanges we made over the counter.
“Brett!” he’d say, smiling.
*Insert messy attempt at Arabic
“How’s your family?” I’d ask.
I have a collection of cards gleaned from my travels: contacts that I haven’t contacted, businesses, monasteries. They’re reminders, but they fill me with joy.
…Well, my friends just arrived. Who knows where the road leads. Cheers for now.
4 thoughts on “Road Trip”
شكرا يا صديقي
Thank you, I appreciate it. Cheers.
I am currently doing the big kind of travelling and can say I still think fondly of some of the characters I’ve met during similar trips even a decade ago, but you’re right, the trips themselves were a bigger deal for me than a fumbling monoglot could possibly be to other people’s regular lives.
That said, there are some people who breezed into my life for a week or less that had a massive impact, so I guess you never know when you could be in the exact right place to say the exact right thing to someone that will make a difference to them. Often I think those are the encounters you yourself don’t remember as a big deal.
Glad I found your blog, by the way,
Thanks, Katy, I really appreciate it.
I certainly think you’re right: people and places can have a profound impact even in a very short time. That’s something so central to travel, and I feel like a lot of people miss it.