Take a walk

By Matt Payne

Sometimes I don’t like the delete button. I want to write about my day yesterday and were I just using a pen jotting down thoughts in a journal, I’d just ramble on until some kind of idea hit but when I’m using a computer, if I don’t like the way a first sentence reads, I just delete it and I’m not entirely sure that is a good thing all the time. Sometimes I look for a story where one doesn’t seem to shape and right now, I’m too beat to carve one out. Maybe it’s lack of conflict because the day was too good… Whatever.

Yesterday was genuinely fantastic. Even on absolutely no sleep in the kind of fog that previously I associated with three day party weekends, it managed to be one of the most inspiring, beautiful days I’ve had in ages, and while I’d love to write a play by play of the twenty course dinner I had, the traditional Korean village I visited, or the “Iron Chef meets Stomp” musical I got to see last night, what I liked best was my morning walk right after I arrived.

In South Korea on my first walk, I noticed the speed limit signs tell you how fast you are going. If you are going the speed limit, they make a happy face. If you are speeding, they make a frown. The sidewalks around the parks are green. Everyone wears suits. There is an indoor driving range about every hundred yards, and between each indoor golfing facility are at least three coffee shops. There isn’t a piece of trash on the ground anywhere as far as I can tell. Everything feels electric. Elevators don’t go to the forth floor.. But enough on that. These were jut a few observations, but it got me really thinking about the broader motivation for travel.

There is something about those first moments walking around alone in a new city. Everything is amazing. Every corner is electric. Every street sign is fascinating. The smells coming from every café are intoxicating. The fleeting glance of a stranger is captivating. The old folks seem wiser. The parks are quieter. Mundane birds seem exotic. Modest alleyways are worthy of a photograph. Mediocre art is inspired. Flavors explode. The band at the pub has an album worth buying. The crying baby is no longer intrusive, nor is her publicly breastfeeding mother. The homeless guy hitting you up for change seems worth the cause. His story worth the listen… In fact, when you travel, everyone’s story is worth the listen.

The lousy local beer tastes so good you want to save the bottle cap. Trinkets, no matter how cheap, have appeal. Houses of worship conjure a deeper sense of stillness. People holding hands are more love. Money becomes and ceases to be an object at the same time. Some kid sells you a crappy bracelet and you swear to yourself you will wear it forever to remember the moment. You want to say yes and keep walking. Sleep matters and doesn’t. If there are fruits growing on trees, you notice them. When you meet someone from your own country, you become friends even if at home, they’d drive you out of your mind.

When you spill it doesn’t matter. When you are hungry you eat. When you pass a bookstore, you are more inclined to go in and if you buy a book, the chances are higher that you’ll finish it, and more importantly, remember what you read and how it affected you.  It is easier to be honest with other people. It is easier to be honest with yourself. It is easier to remember. It is easier to fall in love, it is easier to let things go, and it is easier to discover things about yourself that you had no idea existed in you. It makes you want to call your family and friends and tell them you love them. It makes you want to say you’re sorry. It makes you want to be a better person and it reminds you of the good person who you really were all along. It is the only thing in the world that you can do that reminds you that the most important place is not on the road, but actually home.

That is paradox of the traveler. The more you travel, the more you know home. Sure. Every city has a top ten list. Do it all. But there’s nothing like leaving a hotel for your first time in Paris and just taking a walk until that Eiffel Tower pops up off of the Seine River. When it happens that way; when you stumble upon it, it means you found it, and then that moment and all the beautiful things that happen along the way are entirely yours.