Humans, we were born to be on the move(at least this one was), so that we can sense with every part of our being our surroundings and the sights, sounds, smells, temperature, nuances, tastes that accompany where we are at any given moment. That’s why we travel, not just to see the world but to know it. To know it in the intimate way you know a friend, or your child, or even yourself. To know it’s people, and see them for who they are, their beauty and their imperfections. Whether it’s down the road or around the world, stepping away from your home and immersing yourself into someone else’s home is a leap of faith, an expectation to be met with acceptance, courtesy and yes even being welcomed. I thought about that on this most recent excursion; what a comfort it is, when you are away from home, that there is a friendly face, a welcome gesture, a kind word in your own language. And you know what, we found all of those things many times over, in fact that’s most of what we found.
I’m not a scaredy cat, but neither am I the most adventuresome person, in the absolute truest sense of the word. Yes, I’ll go lots of places, and try many things, but I’m a bit of a controlling person, I like a plan, I like to know where I’m going, I like an idea of what is going to happen next….so my travels are not the backpack, no road map, no idea of where I’m headed type of travel and I still feel a little uncertainty, a little excitement, a little discomfort. Those are the moments I grow. When I find a friendly train conductor that smiles and shakes his head at my american sized luggage, or a waitress that accepts my attempt at speaking her language, or a stranger on the street that points me in the right direction. I get through those temporary moments of anxiety, then I settle into the wanderlust of seeing clearly the human connection and I love it. The knowledge that you could probably go anywhere in the world and find someone who will take away your fear of being alone is a great bit of insight to put in your back pocket. This feeling, or actually belief, grows every time I travel; I get more comfortable in my own skin by going somewhere unfamiliar.
For a mother, being anywhere with your grown children is special, but all of us experiencing a new view for the first time together is bonding in a unique way. We are our own little band of travelers, being brought together by some miraculous fortune, and stepping out together uncertainly certain that seeing the world is a good thing. I treasure these moments. We are fortunate to take these excursions in the way we do, we’ve eaten at some stunning restaurants and slept in some special places, but honestly the best and most salient memories are the ones that are simple and somewhat unplanned. I admire the travelers that are brave enough to go without a map, or a plan, because its always the unexpected moments that stick. I think travelers without a map must be the true believers in the benevolence of mankind, and I think they are rewarded with revelations of beauty and kindness. Like when we sat in a vineyard with some fellow travelers, some had been backpacking through the vines. We looked out on lake Geneva and drank wine together made from the special Chasselsas grape. I’ll never forget that little porch with the simple building housing the restaurant and the wines, and the two brothers carrying on a tradition for 4 generations. The day before we were caught in the rain and found a lakeside outdoor restaurant with umbrellas and snuck under one. We ate two bowls of the best french fries, perhaps in the world. We dipped them in mayonnaise and ketchup and listened to the people surrounding us as they joined each other on a friday night after work. It’s the same celebration everywhere, just in different languages. We sat on train after train, watching the country side and wondering what living in the beautiful villages of Switzerland and Italy would feel like. We saw fields of sunflowers and graffiti on walls, teal blue lakes from glacier melt and villages with sheep grazing. We swam in the cold waters of Lake Lucerne and sat on a funky deck with no one speaking english in ear shot. We discovered a department store dishing up every imaginable type of fresh food and helped ourselves to all of it’s goodness. We made our way up the hills beside Lake Como to find ourselves in the presence of the 5th generation proprietor of a restaurant named Navedano. She was short and sweet and gracious. We met her daughter and saw the original rooftop preserved through the generations. She only wanted us to love our time there.
Unplanned, unexpected, precious experiences where we see the world and know it. And through those moments it becomes smaller. It becomes less frightening and filled with light. It convinces me to have faith.