Wednesday, June 26, 2019

My Balcony on Alonissos is Magic but The Floor of My Closet Kinda Rocks Too—What Matters Most

At the end of the book Me Before You by JoJo Moyes the main character goes to Paris to sit at a table in an outdoor cafe and experience something profound. I'd tell you what it was, but aside from her acquiring the resources to do it I didn't get it. 

It's not that sitting in an outdoor cafe in a foreign country can't be great, it's a lot of fun. It's not that you can't experience personal growth there, because I think travel is great that way. You see another culture, you get a bigger perspective of the world, you endure the humiliation of air travel. Travel is a great growth experience.

Until 2015 the bulk of my travel was engineering or writing conferences. There was the rare trip across the border into Mexico, and many times I got dragged to Canada to watch my family fish. I usually sat in a cabin under a mosquito net and wrote. But in 2015 I started exploring places I'd read about and always wanted to go see.

It is super cool to sleep on a houseboat in Amsterdam, take a train in Germany, climb inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, or visit Stonehenge. But the ugly truth is sometimes travel is boxed and shallow like a mega mall or amusement park. The same trinkets made in China are sold to tourists in many places. The same photos show up on Instagram—with fast food places, ugly buildings, and tons of tourists carefully cropped out of the shot. The same McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken are nearly everywhere. 

As Mr. Brady so profoundly put it, "Wherever you go there you are." It's not about the place. It's about you. From my point of view a great many tourists don't even care what they're looking at. I've found that if I wait patiently, like an entire ten minutes, that the latest ferry-load or bus-load or ship-load of tourists will clear out of a site, heading for snacks or the next big thing and I can take some epic photos without zillions of people milling about.

That's not always the case. Sometimes those ship-loads of tourists are timed exactly ten minutes apart.

The point is if you're not at a place in your life when you CAN travel, I'm going to go against the crowd here and tell you that you might not be missing as much as rumored. In this day and age you can research a place in-depth and learn about it. I did that old school for places like the Colosseum, The Forum, The Pyramids, and the Acropolis long before the opportunity to go there came along.

Wait for it. Make sure you want it. 

Sure June isn't summer without the Strawberry Moon and sitting beneath a starry sky writing on my balcony in Alonissos, but I think it's fifty years of longing that make Greece so magical for me. 

When I started writing with true intention to get my work published, I did it sitting on a bench with a pencil and paper in my bedroom with the door shut. When I want absolute quiet I like to find a spot on the rim of the Grand Canyon and sit there, somewhere away from the crowds. Sometimes I find that quiet walking in the woods at night. Often it's simply when I'm writing in my messy office.

On busy days before I wrote full-time, my breaks came about when I slid to the floor of my closet. I'd hide there and listen to my own breath as long as I could get away from it.

For me, a person who is interested in most everything, it's the quiet that I cherish.

Many times people in Greece have asked me what the heck I do on the quiet island of Alonissos for a month. I could see Santorini, Crete, or Mykonos! they say.

They don't get it. I know what I long for and I wonder, do they? Do you? Therein lies your magic. 

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