I woke up this morning to sunshine and chirping birds, a pair of them, chattering away happily in the palm tree outside my window. Dressed unhurriedly, soft black leggings and a faded tee, made my way a sleepy fifty meters down the street to an eight am yoga class. Stretched, breathed, relaxed so much that I nearly fell back asleep before the class finished. I left the gym and the city began its slow morning; the usual crowd of elderly breakfasters greeted me as I ordered a coffee at my favorite cafe, mothers herded their shouting and skipping young children off to school, and more and more mopeds came zooming down the street as I waited, their well-dressed riders heading downtown for another day at work.
This is the scene that I have come to know, every morning, every day. I walk the same fifty meters and stand in the same exact spot ordering the same exact coffee every day of the week, watching the same people start their day the same way, week after week. And on every single one of these days, as I sit outside in my old tee-shirt, sipping my perfectly strong coffee and sitting on a bench that is already warming under the unfailing sun, the same question drifts through my tired mind: How, really how, how the hell did I end up here?
Because travel is really quite easy. With some money in your pocket and a plane ticket you can cross countries and oceans, sit in a seat watching the clouds go by for twelve hours and then take ten steps out a door and emerge into a completely foreign land. Excepting the occasional dead-sprint to catch a last minute flight, 90% of getting from point A to point B is a rather dull cycle of Walk. Sit. Walk. Sit. Check watch. Sigh with boredom. Walk. Flying will still always hold some excitement for me; it’s hard not to be a little amazed and wonder at the world when you’re looking down on it from 38,000 feet. But as I’ve spent the past year racking up passport stamps and frequent flyer miles, the wonderment has been reduced to some eager anticipation at takeoff and landing, and replaced in most cases by a strange sensation of timelessness.
I’ve learned that time flows differently when you’re miles in the sky. Sometimes too quickly, and others slower than you ever thought possible. Then you land and the door opens and you take those ten steps outside to Wherever and you breathe the air that always smells different, and you collect your bags and walk away.
I walked away with my stuffed suitcase and oversized backpack, and ended up sipping coffee on a sunny bench in Sevilla.
I’ve also ended up on sunny benches in Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Costa Rica, a large handful of states back in the US, and one rather unfortunately cold and wet bench in Ireland. It’s another slow symptom of becoming a traveler, to become so familiar and so comfortable with the picking up and moving on. You get used to walking away. And you’ll notice it when your trips stop being characterized by the fantastic thing you did that one time, and start being remembered by the feelings, the sensations: the smell of the most incredible fresh bread you’ve ever tasted and the sight of the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen, or the way the sun felt and the coffee tasted and the city sounded as you sat on a bench one slow morning in Seville. It’s the morning that old question will float across your mind, and the answer will come to you readily: Because here is where you wanted to be.