5.24.2009

Travels, party of 1.

We were sitting in Union Square park yesterday, the Sarahs and I, and I mentioned that NY has become a city of a million kinds of memories for me. From high school friends at a conference on the west side, to comic book shops with an ex, to several apartments and neighborhoods that I know well now. And the Brooklyn Bridge, which has been the site of a romantic walk, a struggling run and then, this weekend, a slightly coaxing activity with a nervous friend.

Yesterday, sitting in that park, I realized that I'll miss New York when I eventually leave it.

I won't miss it for the things that people typically cite: diverse nightlife, constant activity, innumerable opportunities for meeting people. I'll miss it because, like Paris, it's become a living artifact of someplace I knew people and they knew me.

Skersh and I talked the other night about her upcoming trip to London, the first time she'll travel outside the country alone. I was encouraging to her, explaining that she would be completely free to explore a place without a single regard for someone else's touristic desires. Later that afternoon, I re-found something I'd written in the little Moleskin I keep in my bag. I wrote this one afternoon in San Francisco, when I was spending the afternoon in Sausalito:

I have all the bread in the basket to myself and all of the butter too. This is the joy of traveling alone. I've been to so many places alone- or with moments alone. I'm my own best company. "What does this remind me of?" I think and I already know. Ireland. Or Italy. Or London.

... the bench I sat on in the park, the table at this restaurant, they are both part of my memory. But what of myself stays here? How does one find them again, how do you feel as though you are not just a visitor, but a change, a tiny speck of influence, however small?

In this way, traveling alone is the most intimate activity you can do with yourself. I think that's why it's easier for people to "find" themselves when they go spend time alone away from the norm. They have the quiet and space to not need to explain the connection between this place and their grandma's garden, to not search for why the smell reminds them of another memory; in these moments alone, you can sit in it and appreciate it without translating the moment into words for the benefit of conversation with another.

Chris and I are working out summer plans at the moment, trying to figure out how and when to go to France and if I'll be stopping by Wisconsin to visit his family. I've been thinking about how it will be to visit France with someone else; for the first time, I'm looking into hotel prices instead of crashing on someone's couch. It's thrilling to imagine sharing this special place with someone I love; it can be equally anxiety-inducing to balance time together with the necessary time I know I'll need for in a city that holds so many memories for me as well.

On a separate note, I saw one of my old roomies, Tejal, last week in Boston and talked about plans to head to Bombay for her wedding in December. The prospect of traveling so far and attending an Indian wedding, soaking in the culture alone with myself, is too fantastic for words. Plus, Christmas presents for the family from India? No-brainer awesome!

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