“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson
It’s 9:30 in the morning and I’m sitting at the kitchen table overlooking a lush, green English garden – complete with stone walls, 200 year old cottages, pruned hedges and a visiting pheasant. There are even a few snowdrops poking their tiny white heads up from underneath the still leafless tree further out in the garden. To this Canadian, it is a perfect British setting. Mind you, it is a cold and rainy day here in the UK Midlands (typical), but as I drink my coffee and take in all that is in front of me, I think ‘how fortunate…blessed…lucky I’ve been these past few months.
I have long been an arm chair traveler. From watching TV programs about moving to a simpler life in the English countryside to reading books about ‘chucking it all in’ to move to a little village in Italy. Hours were spent gazing at pictures of the French seaside. I’ve taken virtual tours of museums all over the world. I’ve pored over cookbooks – Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Irish – and wondered what each dish tasted with the proper ingredients or the required stone ovens. I longed for the authentic sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the world of my dreams. I’d close my eyes and breathe deeply, wondering what was wrong with me. In the words of a wise 18 year old French girl I met a few weeks ago, I found my answer… I was missing places I’d never been.
So this afternoon, among the ordinariness of sorting laundry, filling bird feeders and drinking coffee, I have been thinking about all I have done and seen over the past few months. Most importantly, I think on how it has changed me, how much richer my life is. Allow me to share a bit with you…
Waking up and falling asleep
Missing places I’ve never been
Time spent with others is time well spent
The joy has not been just about all the wonderful places I’ve seen like the Eiffel Tower, the Guggenheim, the Louvre or Pompeii. The real joy has come from everyday living with people I have befriended and have grown to love in the past few months: a beautiful mother who allowed me to hold her newborn baby until he fell asleep in my arms; my gentle, soft spoken hairdresser who used Google translate to communicate with me and whose salon visits left me breathless with laughter; our adventurous neighbours who shared their homemade wine, their abundant garden and the daily company of their doggies, but best of all – taught me to love walnuts; fellow house sitters who served us afternoon tea with perfectly ‘prinked’ Victoria sponges, played UpWords and made us feel like we’d known them forever; the serendipitous meeting of an acupuncturist who gave me back the ability to use my right hand and how he and his wife showed me the joy in living a life you were meant to live and following your true passion. The list can go on and on
The simple things that capture a moment
Joy exists in everyday living. It’s in picking fresh raspberries every morning for months to add to my morning cereal. It’s returning home late at night to find a very large hedgehog slowly making its way across the terrace , then watching two 21 years old on their hands and knees enthralled with this nocturnal creature. It’s being treated to homemade limoncello after a perfect meal at the local restaurant. It’s in exploring a city alone, eating delicious tapas and stumbling on a blues band playing in a cafe on a lazy afternoon. It’s in scooping a drowned fire salamander from the bottom of a near freezing swimming pool and watching it miraculously come back to life as its body warmed in the winter sunshine. It’s in dipping my toes into the Mediterranean for the first time as tears slide down my face. It’s in growing too many cucumbers for two people to eat and running out of ways to serve them and having neighbours say ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
It’s in scratching the hairy face of a baby piglet at the market. It is in sitting back while I sip a steaming cup of tea and look out the window – only to see the clouds break and the sunshine come pouring through.
For all the days ahead of me on this earth, I never want to take them for granted. And I hope I never lose the yearning of missing places I have never been.
So, if you don’t mind, I’ll just sit back and just watch the birds and enjoy the sound of the wind …care to join me?