Virtues of Travel: Part 9
On a cold January evening, I stood on a bridge over looking a Venetian canal. The low fog wrapped around my feet as it whispered down Venice’s narrow streets. A sole gondolier navigated his boat to a dock beneath the bridge, emerging from the cold night like a ghost, of course. Instead of unloading the usual passengers, he carried a series of boxes into a near-by store … the non-motorized gondolas are not just a tourist attraction.
Lights glowed from near-by windows that overlooked the canal, and even a few street lanterns illuminated the fog and the lapping water and the Gondolier’s movements. A stillness washed over me in that moment, a sense of full contentment, a sense that I had arrived. I had arrived at a place in which I belonged in that moment, in that time of my life. And even as I write these words more than a decade later, that same feeling of calmness returns. I belonged there.
As travelers, both in unfamiliar lands and right in our hometowns, I think we seek connection to the places through which we wander and live. That feeling of belonging is an indicator of such connection. And I don’t think connection is restricted to just one or two places at any given time, or even only a handful of places during our entire life. We can connect to multitudes if we walk with awareness and openness.
The paths to such connection are many … we connect because of the aesthetic of a city or the spiritual energy of open space and the natural world. Or we connect through cuisine and culinary delights, or we build relationships with important people at pertinent times in specific places, or we connect to a culture, possibly one deeply rooted in our blood. Maybe we connect because our family was there before us, because we touch the same earth upon which our ancestors walked. It’s also possible that connection just happens to us through the experiences that occur while we’re in a certain place … our time spent there, the reasons we’re there, the reasons we stay, lead us to connection.
And as we return to a place again and again, whether physically or through our nostalgic imaginations, that connection roots deeper into our lives. We understand places more intimately, we’re aware of more nuanced details, and that stillness returns with even greater ease when we arrive.
Like many other places I’ve been privileged to travel to and enjoy, my time in Venice reminds me of how critical stillness and connection are, especially in our fast-paced world that seems to be growing more virtual everyday. In fact, I think it’s time to log-off and head there right now.