I arrived in Prague, yesterday afternoon. My feet throb. My body aches. I’m exhausted, but I haven’t been this happy, in a long time. As I sit in my hostel room, I look around me and see different parts of the world represented. One woman, like myself, is from Canada. She was there for a yoga course. Two are from Brazil. One is doing the marathon, tomorrow. The other attended a conference. The last woman is from the Philippines. She tells me she regularly does these longish trips. I didn’t realize citizens of her country needed visas to many of the places in Eastern Europe and The Balkans. Even Croatia.
As I discussed things with them, in the process of writing, I realized how different the words ‘travelling’ and ‘getting away’ were. They both mean time away from home, but the essence of their meaning is entirely different. I don’t view my trips as a holiday. During these times, the world is my classroom. I must pay attention to learn. Always it is viewed through my perspectives, my limited knowledge and my powers of observation, but it is impossible that it be otherwise.
I cannot experience the world as a blind person does. Nor am I able to absorb in the same way as a person from another culture. All I can do is stay open and take from the events and surroundings what I can. In the process of learning of, and from, others, I understand myself, a bit more. At home, I practise a certain routine. I present a certain social mask to those around me. I’ve learned to decrease the appearance of my flaws and the negative parts of my personality. I stay away from experiences not conducive to how my world sees me.
On the road, there is no time to create a persona of any kind. Interactions are often brief. If an opportunity presents itself, it must be grasped. These are not on display for the traveller to come back and get them, at a different time. And every morning, everywhere I go, I must deal with my flaws, weaknesses and inadequacies. Made brutally aware of them now that I’m out of my comfort zone of home, I can say the list is long. I venture into unfamiliar areas, and my sense of direction is poor. I get lost. All the time. I sometimes forget to look in the mirror when I leave the hostel or hotel, in the morning. It’s not that I don’t care how I look. There is just so much more that takes precedence. My nearsightedness causes problems. Especially when trying to read signs. At home, I know my way around, by heart.
Homeless people are attracted to me. This is not my imagination. My oldest also has this affliction. This vibe I give off unsettles me, especially when I can’t understand what they’re saying. I love good food. A lot. I’ll walk a long way – I prefer to walk everywhere – for a great vegetarian meal. At home, I might not willingly admit this.
I’ll end my rant here and say I have much to work on and understand. Travelling always reminds me that I need to strive to become someone better. It makes me aware of who I and who I’m not. It changes your perspective of the world and broadens the horizon from which you view it. It is not getting away. It is running to yourself and all the world has to offer.
Copyright 2014. Monique Martel. All rights reserved.