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I lived many lives. All true, all mine. Each one had its own identity dictated by the country or state I've lived in, school I went to, job I had, people that surrounded me. I saw myself slipping in and out of them, a still silhouette, while flashy background images moved behind me at a faster and faster pace, always fighting not to loose that primordial sense of self, of how it felt the first time I discovered the world. What remains when everything is stripped down? The bite into a tomato just ripped from my grandmother's garden, in a dusty village close to the Danube, the perfume of linden flowers covering the streets after a spring rain in the neighborhood I grew up in Bucharest, the wind blowing my hair all over my face, on a hiking trip in my beloved Carpathians and a gentle hand moving it away. Random bits. Just to relive the wonder. It is not death that I fear, but numbness that comes when you stop feeling at all.
Travel has been one of my ways to fight numbness because it makes you move, it makes you interact, and eventually it makes you feel. It has also been very healing. When you are an immigrant, there is a part of your heart that is never unpacked, still in waiting. You are asked on a regular basis where are you from because of your accent or how you look, forced to re-examine that answer. You were born somewhere, lived in many places, you're from everywhere and nowhere. Travel allows you to recognize pieces of yourself in places you go and people you meet, and it's in the reassurance that we are all so different and so the same that you gain more acceptance of yourself and others.
My memories about places I've lived in or visited are not so much about how they looked like, but about how they made me feel. A house in the Village of Walpi on Hopi reservation in northern Arizona was my comfort blanket, it smelled like my grandmother's house, the place that left me in awe as a college student first time out of my home country was Venice, as a more travelled and living abroad professor, was Hong Kong; for all the beauty of Provence I was moved the most by the music from a classical guitar in Palais des Papes Square in Avignon; Greece was blue, Utah was red, Scotland was green, Stockholm was water, Alaska was wild, and the list goes on. Then, there is New Mexico where I go back over and over again, as if it holds some secret about myself that I am still to discover.
It is through travel that I learned that to be alive is to accept the pain that comes with failing and unpleasant experiences while continuing the fight to rediscover wonder and joy, but mostly, that there are no guarantees, and there is nothing more human than the fear and excitement of not knowing what comes next.
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