Malawian Rice Vendor

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Two Tortugas

Taking it slow…One of the first things I learned about traveling (aside from the realization that people may speak English in the UK that doesn’t necessarily mean we from the USA have a clue what they are saying), is to take things at a leisurely pace. My first solo venture out of the states was to travel from one of America’s most picturesque cities, San Francisco, to London and the surrounding areas west of there. I spent about a week hanging about England trying to get my bearings before jumping on to the continent… Europe… From there it was a mad dash down towards the Greek Islands. I made it down to the islands in less than three weeks not only missing out on a ton of real estate in between but I went so fast that when I look back at old photos from that journey I have a very hard time recalling if the picture in question is in Munich, Brussels or Rome. I went through only big cities and much too quickly. Fortunately since that memorable journey I have learned albeit the hard way to SLOW down. I forget who it was that said “you can’t see it all” but how true that statement is. Even though the world is small it is quite massive just the same. Seeing various famous sights and landmarks around this wonderful globe is truly an amazing privilege. Being able to talk to local people, and even better, being fortunate enough to share a meal learning a little about their culture and to teach a bit about ours is priceless. The two of us have come to realize that having some flexibility in traveling is a great asset. Being able to change course in mid-stream. I once met a kid while I was hustling backpackers in Amsterdam many centuries ago.He had his one month Euro-rail pass, tucked inside the plastic pouch that they hand out to hold ones pass, he had written his whole one month itinerary. Every single train departure time, arrival times and train numbers. He was arriving in Amsterdam in the afternoon catching the early morning train the next day. For anybody that has been there and for those that have not, Amsterdam is worth a bit more than 15 hours. He was off to Where-ever, I remember asking him if he were to meet the girl of his dreams would have stayed. ..........Thank goodness he was able to go get his picture in front of the Heineken Brewery. This is not to say that we do not want to see famous landmarks and historic sights though, we do, but we have found over the years that being stationery in one place affords us the opportunity to get to know a place more intimately. We are able to befriend a few people. Whether it be street food vendors, t-shirt hawks, taxi or tuk tuk drivers or just someone from off the street, they all offer a little bit of local flare and more importantly knowledge to whichever place we happen to be. Sometimes after people have seen us a few times, they realize that we are just not whizzing through. Then they generally set aside the pretense of trying to make a sale and open up a small glimpse into their world. We have been truly blessed to be able to travel our fair share.Yet have only seen but a minute bit of this big blue sphere. In all that time we have learned that by not going too fast, we have been able to relax much more, take things as they present themselves, and enjoy ourselves. All without ever being held to a rigid itinerary. I am certain that we have missed many of the some more famous local landmarks or historic places in countries we have visited. However, if we were to have tried to see all that we could/should have, we would have spent most of our travel time on the various modes of transportation just going to and from the places, and not being able to stop and just enjoy the sights and sounds and most importantly tastes (current area notwithstanding) of the places we landed. There are choices we all have to make no doubt. We have both been fortunate to be able to take longer periods of time “off” to travel but even on our journeys that were shorter periods in duration we have tended to limit our scope of traveling to one or two areas being able to explore them in depth and discover little nooks and crannies well off the beaten path. Every single day seems to bring on a new adventure discovering fascinating places of interest maybe an obscure church or a locals only restaurant and café. I can not tell you how many times we have walked into a place and we were the only "tourists" any where in sight. It is like out of a movie sometimes as we enter and everything comes to a complete halt as everyone looks our way, mouths open in stunned silence. Sometimes we will just park ourselves at a sidewalk café or just on some random curb watching life pass by. To me these are some of the best travel moments unscripted and impromptu. The daily dramas that we have witnessed are indescribable. We may not understand a word that is spoken, however, we comprehend fully the context of the discussions. More often than not, a local will stop and engage us in conversation, sometimes in halting English, but just the same. Often this will lead to some sort of invitation this person’s village or home. When this first happened we were very skeptical needless to say. People in the US do not invite random strangers into their homes. If they did we would automatically wonder what the motive behind the invitation was. Here in Malawi like many other places we have visited many people just want to have contact with Westerners to find out a little bit about far away places that they will probably never, ever have the opportunity to visit. It is absolutely gripping. We find ourselves constantly [pinching ourselves at how amazing this world can be. We have learned so much about other lands, other cultures but most importantly about ourselves. The best thing is that we still have so much more to absorb......

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