Virtues of Travel: Part 5
I often contemplate the concept of sliding doors … in a religious context we might discuss it as fate or destiny … what I’m after is how we understand all the decisions, all the small moments, all the twists that brought us to life as we now know it. This is an age-old discussion, and maybe a tired one at that. But when it comes to travel, it’s a necessary subject to consider.
I remember a train station in Italy: a rural stop without infrastructure, maps, or indication of where we needed to go. Our destination was a lesser-known hill town, one of those beautiful castle-like cities posed with such grace above the rolling vineyards and olive orchards in the Tuscan countryside. The picturesque. You might argue heavenly. Another profoundly perfect cliche.
But we probably weren’t going to get there. Without taxis, shuttle buses, or even tuk-tuks (those are of Southeast Asia, not Central Europe anyway), the town would be a seven-mile trek. It seemed like a nice day for a walk. We set out.
Within a mile, one of our travel partners stuck out her thumb. “Let’s just get there,” she exclaimed. And though we hesitated at first, it only took two tries for a car to pullover. I thought a blonde from New England might struggle a bit more to hitch a ride.
Through our broken Italian, and the driver’s broken English, he assumed that we were headed to the much more popular Sienna, a few miles back the other direction. We didn’t realize that until we arrived at the city gates. And by then it seemed unnecessary to force the destination … the comical miscommunication had brought us to a stunning place.
So I suppose we could have ended up just about anywhere that day. But we ended up there, in Sienna. And that evening, as I stood gazing at the giant Piazza del Campo, the red brick glistening in the moonlight, the laughter of the last patrons leaving the sidewalk cafes, the night sweeper with his fine bristle broom brushing the ancient dust back and forth, I knew I was where I was supposed to be. All other forks in the road, diverging highways, turns the other direction, missed trips to some unknown hill town, faded away.