but not a Traveler. What in the world does that mean? I’m not talking specifically about the Romany Traveler but much of the psyche is the same.
I go places to sense and pretend and fantasize what its like to live there. In Paris, I skipped the Louvre to sit in sidewalk cafes, awkwardly ordering moules off the menu and watching the sidewalk traffic as I slurped them down. Yes, I think they’re better in Paris. Unless you eat them in Amsterdam in the heart of mussel season, standing shoulder to shoulder with others in a small crowd and throwing empty shells into a growing pile on a nearby table. In silence, you too could be Dutch.
Eating local; having local experiences. Like taking a bus to the North Sea to participate in a local radio station’s Splash Day. But really, who were they kidding!!!! You gotta admit,only a local would put North Sea and Splash Day into the same sentence.
Often traveling involves visiting farmer’s markets to see what can be bought and eaten for the season that you’re there. My mother remained a Traveler all her life. My father with memories of being a Traveler gave me a portable steamer to take with me after I told them of the piles of wild mushrooms at the market one trip. Piles that screamed to be bought but then couldn’t be eaten. I’ve met other Travelers as well but mostly I read about them on their blogs, those who travel for life if not for a living.
That’s the value of a local guide, more local than guide, who will direct the taxi off the road to buy a bag of peeled sugar cane from a wheelbarrow, explaining that chewing the fibers strengthens the teeth. Yes, I’ll believe it for the duration of the bag.
The little t travelers is a lot about suspending judgement and relying on the experience.
I admit, that there are times when you absolutely MUST see what MUST be seen. Sometimes, when you are invited as a tourist to jump with the Massai you sort of have an obligation.
So who is a Traveler then? Little t plus.
It’s someone who immediately puts aside their normal behavior to embrace their current environment, who rises early if that’s what’s called for, even if the flight was 12+ hours long. Who eats later than they would have thought possible because that’s how its done here. Who can turn a packaged tour into a series of surprising experiences merely by turning a different corner. Who is comfortable asking for directions and recommendations in stumbling English. . . and then follows them. Who takes local transportation and hopes for the best. Who becomes a temporary local and finds comfort and delight outside their comfort zone. Who can pack in a heartbeat and never look back. Who keeps a bag in the trunk of the car or the front of the closet filled with layering, practical, lightweight, warm and cool clothing and a single pair of shoes.
And that’s the thing that holds me back mostly. Shoes. How can a single pair be right for all occasions???!!!
As a traveler in-transit, I settle in to the journey, armed with the reading material that can get me through an eternal plane flight, with enough battery life to power back up when necessary and paper for take off and landing. As the hero, Anthony Adverse, put it, it’s one of the very few occasions when we can be fully in the present. (Incidentally, if you need a novel that will last you all the way to Africa, that’s a good one.) I don’t worry about getting sleep or timing because normal rules are suspended.
You see us little ts as we cocoon in our seats, comfortable in the limbo of between, where time is only ours and no one can reach us and even if they can, we can pretend they can’t.