“Not all journeys are measured in miles.”[i] This journey — this journey is measured in confidence and tranquility, in exploration and delight, and in friendship. This journey is measured less by movement or miles and more by the ability to stop and nurture self.
I don’t stop moving much. My thoughts are not quiet— much to do, figure out, connect and solve. Quiet began with traveling solo in a new place where I know nothing and no one. It began with the relearning that comes with a journey – move differently, go or stop as the moment strikes, let go of connecting constantly, allow myself to be.
To travel by one’s self is glorious and quiet, unsettling and quiet, revealing and quiet. It is only me to field the bombardment of exhilaration and uncertainties, to converse on whatever. To answer the questions: Where to start? How to go? What to leave behind – and can I force that along? To give permission — feel no pressure to see this, that or everything — simply do what feels right. A reminder: there is no one way.
First night in a new city. It’s early evening and the sun shines brightly. I’ve just arrived and am blissfully anonymous. I set out to wander and find food, instead stumbling upon a magical space of old and new, brimming with inspiring art. The next evening, an ad points to the ballet – streamed live on an outdoor screen. I pull up a cobblestone seat in a courtyard of Danish-speaking strangers and, I write and watch the drama of the ballet, the people, and start of my journey.
To travel is to crave novelty and adventure, and recognize that they most often appear in small yet notable moments. Co-opting a London hotel, lobby and a waiter for forbidden sweets with a friend to practice a speech, Torah witnessed by strangers, the posh, unexpected locale and breaking of rules adding flavor. Wandering a beloved rambling museum, greeting the pinched waists and embroidered frocks like long-lost neighbors while catching new glimpses, remembering with today’s eyes a decades-ago first date with this treasure-box of a place and the freedom that came with it. A reminder: there is always a next.
A perfect meal, perchance in a private room. We eat in a sparsely elegant new restaurant, lighting entering gently from street-level windows above. Tranquility reigns even with speakers sharing soothing vocals. Walls decorated with green moss and spices in jelly jars, ready to be called upon for cooking foreshadow a proud chef who appears humbly with each course marked by fresh greens of summer. I catch up on life with a friend who requires no explanation, picking up from whenever it was, the meal tastier because we stumbled on this place.
To travel is to encounter the mundane that enchants and transforms. The ease of finding bracing coffee and with it claiming that table for one, because, well, I can. Riding a bus out of the way, then turning down a wrong street, just to find that that place or thing. Talking to that artist whose work is just so. A chance conversation or set of directions that elevates. Taking pleasure in… a walk, a stumble, a wrong turn, a book read on a park bench. No schedule, no demands. A reminder: sit, look.
It was a tall yellow crane, elegant if that is possible for a piece of industrial equipment. At the end in a small basket two men floated atop the huge red and white flat-topped mountain of barrels, disappearing momentarily, returning to the ground, and then floating again. For a mesmerizing eternity I sat on a Hyde Park bench watching construction crews in fluorescent orange suits and hard hats install Christo’s art, their presence on the ground and in trucks as intriguing as the red, white, purple and blue barrels afloat Serpentine Lake, all of it piquing wonder in the what and how of creativity.
This journey? This journey goes to sacred ground. Yes, ground touched by hands and feet. But sacred because of discovery that touches the soul. A reminder: the journey to that place is not measured in miles.[ii]
[i] HSBC ad at Heathrow airport, 2018.
[ii]With gratitude to the friends across miles for presence, experience and turns of phrase.