18 September 2015
We are on the top deck of a ferry that will supposedly take us to the small and relaxing Greek isle of Tinos. The result of a five thirty in the morning wake up call, Laura and I are now sitting here rather despondently, listening to music, drawing, journaling, participating in the ever-amusing sport of people watching. Athens is barely behind us and now, poking out all around us are tiny bits of land emerging from the stubbornly blue sea. It would be picturesque if the man next to us wasn’t chain-smoking his way through a pack of cigarettes and I wasn’t now gazing at a huge cargo ship pumping out black steam into the innocently blue sky. But other than that, it is as though it were from a scene in a movie.
After a mere day in Athens, it feels strange to move on so quickly. The settled and unperturbed lifestyle that I have been living for the past couple of weeks has now been given its first shock, the first of many in the string of short-term destinations that we have lined up for the next month. It seems funny: I have always been the traveller to claim to enjoy really getting to know a place, feeling the distinct culture, connecting with its people – you know, all that crap we travellers like to say to try and relieve the guilt we feel for doing something deliciously selfish. And, truthfully, I do like to do those things.
But I do also greatly enjoy the thrill of the life of a wandering voyager.
Pack. Unpack. Pack. All in the span of twenty-four hours. Wander. See. Do. All in the time in takes for the sun to come up then go down again. Laugh. Eat. Laugh some more. Eat some more. And now it’s time to go all over again. Pack. Unpack. Pack.
Though it seems unstable, there is a sense of balance to it all, a routine amidst the chaotic mess, a certain type of creativity that makes me feel alive and like a true trekking troubadour. It brings a kind of urgency to my travels, a sense of see-it-before-it’s-gone! Kind of mentality. It keeps me on my feet – literally – as I venture out into the as-yet-unknown city to explore as much as I can in the small amount of time that I have. It’s like a scavenger hunt, ticking off landmarks and ice cream stops, where the ultimate prize is a bursting suitcase, a lukewarm cappuccino and two inches of legroom on a crowded plane.
A prize I’ll take any day.
The oddity of this kind of travel, personally, is to find a way to make it compatible with the other kind that I love so dearly. How does one find culture, reality, truth in two days? Can one find culture, reality, truth in two days?
I can’t pretend that I have the answers to those questions – hell, I don’t even know if I can speak to the truth of American culture wholly. These things are so multi-faceted and intersectional that it seems wild to think that anyone can gain actual knowledge of things such as truth or culture in two decades, two years, two days.
So how does the respectful traveller move forward – how does one pay homage to each particular place and all of their magnificent intricacies, beautiful differences, startling similarities?
Humbly. And with an ever inquisitive mind.
Indeed, I am starting to think that this is how we should approach nearly everything that we encounter in our lives, perennially sprinkled with difference and change. We must always question what we are seeing and hearing and doing – and do so with the knowledge that we may never receive any sort of answer.