[sub]Motion and the Importance of #goingwiththeflow [?]
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.
– Antonio Machado [“Proverbios y cantares,” Campos de Castilla (1912)]
[Nerja, southern Spain]: As I tread through a canyon river – cursing myself for stubbornly carrying on in flip flops (as they twice drifted away with the fast-moving current, only to be rescued by some friendly families who bemusedly responded to my desperate cries of “Mis zapatos!! Perdí mis zapatos!!”), instead of the tennis shoes I had packed in my backpack – a friend joked that my future reincarnation was to become a very slow-moving Sherpa. My love of mountains, coupled with my tendency to pack the most unnecessary – but oftentimes extremely necessary – things in my ever-expanding collection of large bags, definitely have trained me for such a life. At that point, though, I had begun to weary of the river, after wading through it for three hours, and I thought that the life of a Sherpa would be absolutely the last thing I’d want. But as we sat down for a leisurely lunch under the shade near an impromptu swimming hole, I looked around my surroundings and thanked every moment that brought me to one of the most beautiful walks I have yet experienced.[Ravenna, eastern Italy]: Coincidentally, today I received a wonderfully uplifting message from a good friend I made while financially stranded on the Thai islands. He wrote:
Creatures from earth, above and below; Today we are gathered here to honor a true legend…
… a woman whose name is widely known, from sundrenched shores to icy fjords, from dark caves to snowcapped mountains; yes, even from hell to heaven, she is known, and from the earth to the moon, and from star to star, even in the outer edges of the universe – even there, where darkness and the unknown roams – her name is celebrated…
She is known as Vidya the Unifier; Keeper of Friendships; Guardian of Solidarity; her fame is so widespread that even strange names of unknown origin, such as Talkative Turtle or Carrier of Heavy Bags, refers to her…
Last night, I met with a friend of my Valencian CouchSurfing host, who gallantly has hosted me in his beautiful childhood home and introduced me to his group of beautiful Italian friends, with whom I swam in the Adriatic, drank artisan caprioskas and multiple bottles of house wine, and ate table-sized plates of cheese and mouth-wateringly delicious pappardelle ai porcini. We head over to an adventure park for more drinks, and in my case, to watch and amusedly comment on the progress of some unsteady-footed Italians through a brightly lit obstacle course. Afterwards, we rode his scooter through throngs of Saturday night beach-goers to arrive at the empty pier, where he described the architecture of the city and the importance of the twin docks that surrounded us, all of which inspired a particularly beautiful photograph I had commented on earlier and continued our conversations of one of our favorite topics.The Voyage isn’t about the places. It’s about the people. After a year, I can confirm this. And in a larger sense, that’s what life is all about as well. When people ask how I’ve been able to travel for a year, I am inclined to respond that it’s a compulsion, a psychological need to meet as many people as I can before dementia takes over and I’ve forgotten it all again. But in reality, it’s curiosity, and while it’s killing me at times, it’s what gives me the energy to keep fording the river to find out what’s on the other side.
I said that I didn’t think this trip would change me as much as I now know it has, and I vehemently will admit at this moment that I was totally wrong. This isn’t the only thing I was wrong about, and I’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way – financially, physically, emotionally – that have left my pockets empty, my shoulders heavy, and my eyes quite wet. But the biggest and most dramatic change in the Voyage has come in waves – it’s the gradual acceptance that it’s okay to make these mistakes, to waste €25 on an noisy, crowded Arab bath that once was quite tranquil [Granada] or squeeze into a Blablacar rideshare with a two-metred Kiwi and the rare Romanian transplant [Granada to Valencia] or fall asleep at 4 AM on a bench in the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias on my last night in Spain after drinking two bottles of basement-level wine on the beach [Valencia]. If I hadn’t gone to the baths again, I know I would have regretted it; if I had taken the bus instead, I would have been out another €22 and wouldn’t have later hung out with the Kiwi; and if I hadn’t slept on that bench, protected by my new Valencian friend and our Kiwi companion, I would have prevented those two from enjoying the rest of their evening, and I wouldn’t have experienced the tranquility and sanguine freshness of the night’s companionship.Sometimes we have to struggle through the beautiful, but challenging, mountain rivers to reach a place where we can just put our bags down and rest. We might have to pick them up again and trudge onwards, but the moments of rest, and even of turning back down the river to rescue our zapatos perdidos (also known as our almas perdidas), are all part of the journey. It doesn’t mean we’re losing the race, because there is no race. And it doesn’t mean we’re being lazy, because life is tough, and sometimes a time-out is necessary. Alone, it can seem lonely, or even pointless, and without a map it’s even more difficult. But people will pop up all along the way, either forging past you at the speed of light, reminding you to kick up your heels and keep the pace, or joining you after their own rest on the shore. They’ll give you water and food and help you if your shoes break or you just need someone to talk to.
Company is the best gift one can give, but it requires a lack of expectation, selflessness, and a true desire to listen and help and inspire and support and ignite some passion in the other person. But once you have company, anything seems possible, and I’ve been lucky enough to have met some amazing company along this crazy, uncharted route I’ve taken. The Voyage is quickly wrapping up, but it’s thanks to everyone I’ve met that I’ve had one of the most interesting, meaningful, and unique years of my life.
In an unrelated note, but while I have your attention, here are some songs and bands you might like to check out:
“All Yours” by Submotion Orchestra – currently the Song on Permanent Loop in my Head, and for damn good reason. Submotion will be at Soundwave and are one of the many bands I am most looking forward to seeing. I’ve listened to this so many times that I’m pretty sure that it’s the soundtrack to my dreams now, and I don’t even question it.
“Equilibre” by Hocus Pocus featuring Oxmo Puccino – French hip hop doesn’t seem that “dragon” (or “badass,” as my Italian friends Luca and Tomasso were trying to convince me), but this is the type of music that defies genre and appeals to every listener, from lovers of rap, hip hop, jazz, blues, and everything in between. Check it out and make your own opinion!