the travel-self

September 25, 2014 § 1 Comment

Malaga at night

I was hanging halfway out the window in the dark, dimly aware of the sea in the distance as I watched the C-1 line trains rattling past on the way to Malaga, when I realized that I would’ve been doing the same thing in any number of places. I’d actually been there before three times this year alone, and this is my first time in Spain. Not only that, but it was possibly my favourite part of traveling.

How extraordinary, I thought, and promptly forgot about it.

Three hours and too much food later, I circled back to the idea of routines on the long walk up the hill to my hotel. I remembered other nomads telling me that they travel in search of new experiences and then explaining their rituals in the same breath, even the most scatterbrained and last-minute of them; I thought about people who need checklists when they leave for work but, as frequent travelers, know exactly how their days abroad will go. Was it possible that those of us who find ourselves when we’re the only familiar thing around stumble upon patterns when we’re adrift, patterns we can’t find when we’re surrounded by constant familiarity? Is our travel-self our favourite self? Is that why we’re so often on the road? And if that’s the case, is it necessarily a bad thing?

My ritual is taking time to enjoy being transient. It’s isolation that I crave – an unfamiliar view I can’t retrace from memory, somewhere I won’t leave a mark. I could be watching trains or the sea, a busy restaurant or clouds beneath an airplane: there’s a thrill in being a stranger with nothing to fall back on but myself. There’s an even bigger thrill in stillness and silence, being alone with the knowledge that I only need to reemerge and act upon the world on my own terms.

There are worse things than being a creature of habit – mine brought me to the Mediterranean coast to figure this out, then kept me up late to write it down before a day trip to Seville.

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