When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Mary Poppins. Obsessed in the can-actually-recite-it-verbatim kind of way that only kids can be. If you’d asked why I liked it at the time, I’m sure I would have simply assured you because it was “cool.” Luckily, my vocabulary has improved since then….
In retrospect, I see that my fascination came from the same place as my budding wanderlust. At that tender age, it offered a glimpse into a world that was simultaneously ordinary, yet extraordinary. It was a world in which one still had to clean their room, yet umbrellas had powers of flight, tea parties took place on the ceiling and chimneys doubled as elevators.
Fast forward a few decades and that same dichotomy of extra/ordinariness still held me in its sway, propelling me farther and farther from home in constant fascination of the foreign and the heart of familiarity always lurking within it. I ventured to Rome, discovering that the contradiction of familiarity and difference extended not only through space but also time. I moved to Bulgaria and learned the language from a wonderful tutor that didn’t speak a word of English—yet somehow our common humanity propelled us into friendship and understanding. I studied anthropology, archaeology, classics and languages, traveled across Europe, backpacked through the Balkans and fell head over heels for India, all while trying to put my finger on just what it was that made cultures different from one another, when so much was universal.
…I never figured it out. But I’ve realized it doesn’t much matter—that the art of travel lies not in comprehension but in simply experiencing the unfamiliar. That the way your senses gain an extra dimension in the realm of the unexplored is the most wondrous feeling. And that seeking out those adventures is an end unto itself.
Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.
– Ray Bradbury