Once, while visiting Ostia Antica outside of Rome, I watched the sun glinting off a single spider web strand suspended in the breeze. I don’t know how long I stood, watching that web in the wind, the scent of fresh mint hanging in the air; I lost track of time.
Ostia Antica is an incredible place, but a spider web blowing in the breeze is utterly ordinary. On hundreds of prior and subsequently occasions, the only time I noticed similar webs was when, annoyingly, they hit me in the face.
But travel heightens the senses. Strip away the familiar, the pedestrian stresses of everyday life, the comfort of home, and suddenly a ribbon of light woven with a strand of silk becomes a thing of beauty. These scenes are always playing out, but traveling foregrounds them. In fact, I wonder if the definition of “travel” has less to do with location than mindset.
Which brings me to my point: is it possible to live like a traveler even if you’re not on a “trip”? I think it is, though of course it can be difficult. Here is a video arguing something similar:
My own life is littered with missed opportunities to live like a traveler on home turf. Sometimes I’m just too tired, stressed, or busy to process the world the way I might in, say, Ostia Antica. But I did succeed at least once recently.
Laura and I were riding our scooter down from the Hollywood hills when we saw Wattles Garden Park. The entrance was dark and the gate half shut; it barely looked open. And I was tired.
I planned on passing the park by, but Laura suggested we check it out. Inside, we found a grassy area and a few rundown paths. Nothing particularly interesting.
Soon, however, we arrived at what looked like a rundown Japanese gate. After hesitating, we stepped over the threshold and found a toppled column. Nearby, a decorative piece of stone jutted from the hillside like the tip of an iceberg.
As we continued up a dirt path — which looked like it had been destroyed by past flooding — we soon found a half-buried gate leading to a small Buddha statue. I was especially surprised to see recently-placed money lying on the statue, undisturbed.
Exploring further, we found more ruined and buried remains of an apparent Japanese garden, mixed with very recent graffiti.
We later read that this area was once the property of a wealthy easterner who summered in Los Angeles during the early 20th Century. The garden predate Southern California’s film era and harks back to a time when the area was filed with farms and oil derricks.
The point, however, is that this was a fascinating experience that nearly didn’t happen. As we rode by the entrance to the park, I really just wanted to go home and relax on the couch. It took a while for that feeling to be replaced with a more travel-like sense of wonder and discovery.
Ultimately, this sort of thing doesn’t happen everyday. But, maybe, it could.
— Jim Dalrymple II
h/t Traveller Soul for the video.