I am a happy traveler, but I always find the experience deeply meaningful. Long train rides and the isolation of foreign cities provide the perfect environment to lapse into a contemplative mood. I couldn’t help but relate to Well Heeled’s recent post, What’s all this planning FOR??. This was amplified by events that occurred back home while I’ve been abroad.
First, a shooting at my alma mater and present place of employment. I am disturbed both by the nature of the crime and that it happened where I’ve spent at least 5 days per week for the past six years. Watching it unfold live via twitter while I had breakfast in Amsterdam was particularly chilling. Furthermore, I feel that uncomfortable sensation we all do when someone dies way too young: the confrontation with our own mortality. One of the victims was only 26, which is the same age I am. What if 26 years was all you were given?
Second, a friend of mine passed away a few days ago. While we were not close, I can’t help but feel the world is worse off without him. He was going to design a tattoo for me (he was an extraordinary artist), and I am bothered with regret for not rushing the project — actually, not even rushing, since I’ve gone back and forth about it for over a year now. I always chickened out or put other things first (“I don’t have money for a tattoo!”). I thought the opportunity would be there forever. I always think all my friends will be there forever.
Anyway, I missed the touristy parts of Munich in favour of hanging out with locals. I didn’t make it to any castles or visit many monuments. I did frequent beer gardens, go on dates with beautiful German men, and found things like the best Italian pizza restaurant in Germany. Many people seem to travel with a sense of urgency I don’t share. They say things like, “when will you be here again?” or “this is your only chance!”. Honestly it’s never occurred to me that I will only be somewhere once. If I like a city, I will go back. Heck, even if I don’t really like a city (aka. Brussels), I will probably go back just to give it another chance. Every first-trip to a new destination is a test run, like a first date. You don’t have to do everything right away, you should take some time to get to know each other.
Furthermore, travel is different with age. The castles and war memorials will probably be still standing when I am 50, but it’s unlikely I will stumble out of a German dance club in a lace dress and high heels at 3am when I am 50 (and if I do, please see that I receive immediate psychological attention). Likewise, Versailles sucked last year, but drunken midnight bike riding in Paris streets did not. I am young now, I will not be young forever, and that is where the sense of urgency should come from: it’s not that you will not get another chance with a place, but that you will not get another chance with a moment, and perhaps most importantly, that you will not get another chance with a person.
So I apologize for waxing philosophical, I know it’s not my usual style. Munich was special to me, for so many reasons, none of which have anything to do with history or architecture.
I am too deeply in love with the world, I will never get out of it.