Often, I drift away from my backyard into an exotic place as Istanbul or French countryside with tall minarets, green slopes and colorful flowers growing in baskets, on sidewalks and just about everywhere. I envision a hammock – white and crisp swaying against the blinding sun with a filter of palm trees on one side and crashing ocean waves on the other. Or perhaps a cottage in Aspen – towering Rockies, log cabins, hand-made exotic and sturdy frames everywhere – glowing in amber of fireplace with luxurious darkness of a forest around. The insects crawl in grass watching me curled up with a hot cuppa of coffee and a mind-bending book.
Then there is real travel – the time when we had to stay overnight in Austria because we missed a connection or when we were stuck in the plane for several hours because its gate was jammed. Once we landed in a small town in the middle of no where because of shortage of fuel. Several times, the weather lost its temper and held us back in a place where language and food were alien to us. Albeit numerous inconveniences – we met new people, saw places that were not highlighted as tourist destinations and tested our limits as a traveler.
How can I forget the aristocratic, old woman who dueled her mind in chess with astronauts in space stations? Or the oral surgeon, who offered me his noise cancellation headsets after mine were labelled as faulty and the air hostess had none to replace them? Or the modestly dressed gentleman whom I could have never guessed as a business tycoon? Then there were train and bus rides in India – amidst drought and floods with bathrooms out of service; sharing food with strangers, listening and delving into their conversations and never seeing them again but always remembering the tiring but soulful expedition.
And finally, there are destinations. I associate each one of them a smell, taste and a vision. I recall Banff as the place where I tasted one of the best pastries in spite of its stupendous surroundings. I remember watching my young kids slumbering in the comfortable trains while returning from Benn – tired of walking and sight-seeing during the day. I still reminisce an old Swiss couple, on our way to St. Moritz, offering exchange for US dollars because we forgot to do that before embarking the train. Picturesque sheets of virgin snow and cottages were in the background, but I kept looking at the serenity of the duo who helped out strange tourists like us to ensure that we carry the best impression of their country. I remember Vermont as the spicy smell of wood that we experienced throughout when we stayed at a local cottage in Stowe. I can still sniff the delicious pasta served at ten thousand feet on Mt. Titlis or feel the butterflies somersault in my stomach while looking down the glass floors from the top most spot in CN Tower, Toronto. Finally, the crisp smell of linen in the air and the glorious vision of Mt. Matterhorn and its timberline, as I walked past the 2300 meter high cliff in Zermatt into thin air, paragliding for almost an hour.
I think the purpose of travel is to leave a part of yourself and to bring back a bite of the visited place. It is to connect with people and stay in their recollection and recall them fondly on a winter evening, sitting by a fireplace of memories. It is to weave a forgotten taste between the familiar food of home. It is to live again the magic that is imprisoned in dusty albums and lapsed souvenirs. It is to open yourself to fresh and unique experiences. It is to discover yourself.