When writing about my travel highlights of 2018, I couldn’t help but recall that last year was one in which I got to experience my own town in a new light – feeling almost as an expat or long-term traveler.
Take Fundación Instituto San José, for instance, in a part of town I barely knew. From March to mid-June I traveled there regularly in order to visit my sick aunt and accompany her in preparation of her final journey.
And it was a beautiful afternoon light that would shine relentlessly on the red brick buildings which, bizarrely, reminded me of Harvard and Auschwitz at the same time. (The travel sickness, which makes you think of the weirdest allusions).
Or between the pine trees in tranquil Pinar de San José. Such a beautiful place to die, though it was far from beautiful to see my aunt wither away as the doses of morphine were increased.
She was a fantastic person – generous like there’s no tomorrow. I truly miss her.
But life happens, and that same week in early Summer afforded me an encounter which, weirdly, took me back to South East Asia. The rooftops, the wondrous sense of discovery: life is not a closed circuit, but can make you go off beautiful tangents.
The palm trees, even that. An image of love whenever I managed to park my car.
“Where’s that?” she would text.
“Kuala Lumpur”, I’d answer. “Manila”, when things got especially busy.
And love it was, as it turned out. Creeping through the cracks of mistrust of others and oneself, defeating all realism. Shining on the debris left behind by bloody wars and paradises lost with a soothing light – the sun sinking behind the oak trees of Casa de Campo- to the point of making them beautiful, almost purposeful. Tilting my city as if it were on a cline, so that roads and trains and buses would effortlessly roll west.
Now I understand all the traffic on the M-30 ring road, and feel almost forgiving.
It all goes to show. Travel is a state of spirit, quite apart from journeys in space and time. The realization that discovery may be waiting just around the corner, provided, that is, that mind and heart pack light and keep their eyes on the path.
Cheers to that.