To Begin Again

Sometime in 2019 while in Tuscany, I wrote about sitting in the path of an oscillating fan with a glass of homemade red wine as I tried to put pen to paper. Two years later, I find the scene repeating itself. What comes to mind is something I vaguely remember being said during an episode of Parts Unknown: “Everything changes, nothing changes at all.” 

I couldn’t think of a better way to describe the current state of things. 

Enjoying some “champs” at 13 au Jardin in Paris.

For a year and a half, I didn’t stray beyond Phoenix city limits. Funny enough, I was writing about travel professionally the whole time, but I couldn’t justify going more than 45 minutes from my house. This isn’t to say that this time was uneventful. Moving, changing employment, and unfortunately, the loss of a loved one to terminal illness, were all in the cards. There was happiness and sadness, but mostly monotony—which I couldn’t be more grateful for when I know how others have suffered. 

After getting a new passport, a couple vaccines and a tempting invitation from my parents, I am back across the ocean once again. And it’s funny because when I stay inside the safety of our familiar places, it feels as though nothing has changed. I know it couldn’t be further from the truth, but after being removed from the outside world for so long, it somehow doesn’t seem different enough. It’s downright incredible how adaptable the human mind can be. 

In a way, I feel guilty that I so readily get to enjoy the gift of travel, especially when the world is still very broken. Yet, I know that if I get too caught up in the details, I’ll be paralyzed. I recognize my privilege, but I’m also here to talk about something I love with humility, respect and a good dose of passion. 

After being gone for so long, I’m rediscovering the details that made me fall in love with the places I have spent a large part of the past 15 years—the stopped clock on rue de l’Exposition in Paris, visiting my favorite bubble tea place near Notre Dame, sour candies shaped like bottles of Orangina from the local G20, passing the same abandoned houses on the Via Pesciatina in Tuscany growing evermore choked with ivy, and that final turn on the bumpy road to our farmhouse where it looks like the world drops off into the sky. 

Enjoying the familiar scenery in Arezzo, Italy.

Together and apart they are insignificant details, but each floods my chest with the overwhelming feeling of being home. They’re things I think only I know, and I let that grant my foreign heart a little bit of ownership where I really deserve none. 

I’ve found I’ve collected these kinds of details from everywhere I visit. It’s kind of like saying you know an artist when you’ve only heard one song, or gazed upon a single painting. It’s a cheap kind of knowledge, and I use it to say, that in a way, I belong. But isn’t that the heart of a traveler? At peace in the places you shouldn’t be?

I recently reread the epilogue of Anthony Bourdain’s breakout novel, “Kitchen Confidential.” He ends the book with saying he is at his most content in an airport lounge journeying from one beautiful place to another. He concludes, “I’m free, as it were, of the complications of normal human entanglements, un-tormented by the beauty, complexity and challenge of a big, magnificent and often painful world.”

I couldn’t have said it better. For years, I’ve asked myself time and again where I want to settle down—at least for a little while. The trouble is, I still don’t quite have an answer. It isn’t here. It isn’t there. It’s somewhere in-between. 

Yet, I’m tempted to think it’s in that same airport lounge, but closer to the big windows that look out over the tarmac with a pen in my hand. I can watch the planes crisscross the cement and the ground crews congregating beneath them like swarms of ants—suspended somewhere between coming and going. 

In short, let’s begin again. 

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