Something I have done for years, but only recently consciously noticed, is that I have certain “rituals” when I travel. These are things I like to get done in each place that I visit in order to truly immerse myself in the lives that are and have been lead. What do you do as a travel ritual?
I have a leaf collection of sorts; one picked from every place I visit for a fair amount of time. I always save a few pages at the back of my travel journal to stick them in.
To me there is something beautiful about being able to take and keep a little piece of life organically grown in a specific place. Think about it – the leaf has lived its whole life on the tree or plant from which you take it. From a little bud of potential, local elements such as water, soil, and of course air have all been utilized to develop what I ultimately pluck to take along with me. In theory, had the leaf grown anywhere else at any other time, it would not be what it is when I take it.
This is starting to feel like a metaphor for people – how what you see is not only a result of “nature” (or genetic code), but is enormously shaped by “nuture” (the environment in which it grows and can realise its potential).
I’m guessing that your first thought when reading this next ritual was along the lines of “Uhhh, what?” I would have probably thought the same of someone else before I started doing this myself. I first started doing this in Italy (2012).
I strolled through a graveyard recently in Albany, Western Australia, and was quite overwhelmed by thoughts of not so much the actual bodies that lay there, but the fact that this place has been a hometown to so many lives over time. So many stories have been created and lived, many having gone down very different paths, and yet all have ended up together underground on a hill (at least organically they are there).
So many people have consciously decided to be buried at a specific spot, often next to a loved one. When this is the case, one thing I found a little creepy is that when one partner passes on, the grave site for the other has already been chosen and “booked.” Therefore the remaining partner can visit not only the resting place of their departed loved one, but their own final resting place too!
The gravity experiencing this makes me feel that each life is so significant yet equally insignificant. It’s difficult to put into words; I’ll come back to this later. But one thing at the front of my mind was this powerful poem called Ozymandias that we studied in high school. The main idea (I think) was that no matter how powerful or great you may be/feel when alive, nature always conquers in the end, we are all mortal.
On a somewhat lighter note, I think it’s really important to get hold of a local newspaper wherever you go (if in a language you understand!) Not only does it inform you of the general news and happenings of an area, but it also highlights what the locals find particularly important, which informs of the general mindset of the people in a place (which can often be different to ones own).
I’m currently living in a suburb called Mosman in Sydney, and there is a local newspaper that comes out once a week. There’s a “crime” section and apparently all of the South Africans wait all week just to get hold of this section. It is “hilarious” because what makes it into the news here wouldn’t even make it onto someone’s Facebook status back home. For example, the other day a story was printed about how someone was working in a shoe shop in the village, and then somebody who looked suspicious walked in. She called the police (!) but when they had arrived he had left (without taking anything). End.
This. Gets. Printed. In. The Crime. News. Section. !!