I am not going to lie – I believe I could travel for the next 10 years solid and not miss a beat!
By travel I don’t mean the “if this is Tuesday it must be Belgium” kind of travel. For me, to travel means to sit silently, to watch and listen. It means to peek behind closed doors and see what truly lies beneath.
At present I am marvelling at the checklist tourist that pervades the international landscape. I pity these poor souls who clutch their guidebooks, selfie stick in hand and pitch themselves forward through churches, museums and monuments with nary a side glance. First and foremost is the need to take a picture of everything on that list.
I admit I was one of them once; this was more borne from necessity than desire. When life is busy and you only have a limited time, this is often the only way to see other places. Thankfully, with age comes wisdom and I know now that this is not the way I seek to see the world.
I first encountered the checklist tourist in Paris years ago at the Louvre. The Mona Lisa is a small painting albeit truly worthy of more than a passing glance. Yet there they were, rushing through this magnificent museum with their checklists. Mona Lisa – click, check; Venus de Milo – click, check. Many wouldn’t realise the treasures that are to be found in this amazing place.
And so it is in Venice where I find myself surrounded yet again by the checklists. This is a city to get lost in. Many of you know that this is something I’m quite good at; my famous sense of direction, inherited from my Dad, fails me dismally when I travel. I blame the different hemisphere! That said, the great thing about getting lost, even temporarily, is the joy of discovery it brings.
I would never have had a brief yet earnest conversation about how damn hot it is with the elderly Italian lady sitting outside her front door at Burano, if I’d turned right when I should have turned left.
I would have missed the best pistachio gelato I’ve ever had near the hospital if I’d crossed the right bridge over the myriad of canals.
That shady tree I sat under as I ate my banana, accompanied by the ubiquitous Venetian pidgeon, would never have known how grateful I was, if I hadn’t missed that sign to the Rialto.
Granted we are not all afforded the chance to take the time and I feel truly blessed to have this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The challenge is learning to skip the checklist approach and to bring that sense of wonder to all our experiences.
Sometimes it’s as simple as looking up from the smart phone.
A great place to start is ditching the checklist, losing the selfie stick (argh, whoever invented this abomination should be hung from the highest beam) and really seeing the world in all its glory.