By Hannah Silverman
I’m very lucky to have scratched some pretty cool cities off the scratchy map this year. I’ve brought you a handful of these adventures already, but after a little mini blogging slump in the middle of the year, there are still more stories to be told. All in good time.
As we say goodbye to 2014 we’re all in reflection, aren’t we? We’re all regretting the food pregnancies thanks to reckless dalliances with any dish worth its a calorie (by the way, is there a contraception for that?*). We’re all vowing to work harder, sleep better, lose weight, find love, stress less, exercise more and save, I don’t know, something. Or is that just me?
Anyway, over here in Camp Hannah it’s been a bit of a roller coaster of a year, and a trying one at that. Not in the theme park kind of way, either, that implies full-on fun with some souvenirs to proudly showcase on the mantel – or your Facebook Year in Review. However, while there’s been some negatives, I’ve also made like Columbus and conquered my share of exciting new destinations and had an incredible time doing so. That’s what I’m taking from the year that was. But instead of relaying the places I’ve been, I want to share the five destinations that taught me something about travel this year.
Matera, Italy – Life is like espresso, short but its enjoyment depends on how you savour it.
When I met my new friends in Matera I was astonished by their ability to achieve so much every day in cruise control. Sure they were driving their lives in all sorts of fabulous directions, but the worry was practically non-existent, at least to this traveller (who, by the way, can’t speak Italian, so that might have something to do with it). Anyway, their level of appreciation in everything from the coffee they sipped to the neighbourhoods they called home were life choices made from the heart, free of over-complication and over-analysis. It came down to the simple pleasures of life and the contentment that awaits us all if we drink from the coffee cup of life. The Italians also taught me spontaneity can take you to the most magical of places, as I learnt from the very special people who live consistently in the aforementioned mindset.
Pompeii, Italy – History is touchable, put the books down (for a little while).
You’ve read the Lonely Planet and Googled the key words and the narratives always feel like fiction. That is, until you find the places that offer tangible snapshots of the past. I’m a huge advocate for research and reading in general, but if you have an opportunity to bring it to life through travel, through courage or through sheer determination, do so. It’s even better if you make friends with locals, like these guys in Pompeii who invited me into their tour for free. You never know how new friends will enhance your experience. Smile and learn and know that education is everywhere, always, not exclusively in the books.
Pinhoa, Portugal – Discover the perfection in the imperfect.
Don’t believe for a second that you need the sparkle of a pristine building to stumble upon beauty and wow factors. When I came across this run down house/stable/warehouse/whatever I couldn’t help but marvel at its accidental colour palate and imagine what stories lie underneath the (several) coats of paint. It might be easy enough to disregard certain buildings or sites or even life experiences as insignificant if they don’t appear to have been fruitful, but that’s just the fun. Discover the stories in everything and admire the beauty underneath with curiosity and intrigue.
London, England – Travel in your own backyard, I promise you you’ve already missed something.
Like these little guys hiding in the open window at the Tower of London, no matter how many times you visit somewhere you should always look for something new that makes you smile. You’ll never see it all, so keep looking. This also rang true for me this week when I learnt about a very famous clock I pass practically every day on The Strand. Time to look up and put down the iPhone on the lunch time wander because if you’re not careful, you might miss the little things that make a big impact. This is as true to travel as it is to life as it is to fleeting moments.
New York City, America – No matter how well known a city, you will inevitably create your own narrative and that’s even better.
There might be established stories and cliches about certain destinations all over the world but until you live it and immerse yourself in the culture you won’t understand how everyone’s experiences are different. To me, that’s what makes sharing our travelling stories with each other such a fascinating conversation. New York is a sweet and sour city of contrasts with something for everyone, and finding a unique angle is inevitable. But whatever you do, do it your way. Even if your story is that you’ve spent all your money and paid a visit to debt land to reach new travelling heights just to stand here in Times Square. I’m not saying that happened to me, it’s a for instance…
*Yes, it’s called self control and it sits alongside a book called ‘How to Be Boring for Dummies’ collecting dust in my house, too.
What did travel in 2014 teach you?