A simple fork and spoon. But in them I find continuity with anyone, and everyone, who have has travelled.
On the surface I have very little in common with an 18 year old Canadian girl. Ah… but life is not about the superficial details: life is about the intricacies and details that make living possible; it’s about the muscles that bring oxygen into our lungs, about the chemicals that digest our food; and the experiences we take away from our travels. On such a level I have a great deal in common with one 18 year old Canadian girl!
You see, I was reading a new (to me) blog: les Voyages du Monde. It is written by… guess what…. Yup! In an article entitled The Fears of an Empowered Traveler she talks about bringing home a napkin from France. And that little tidbit shared reminded me of a thousand other takeaways from innumerable trips: including a single fork and spoon.
It was 2003. I was on a solo photo trip in France. I took about 6 weeks to travel and shoot; expanding my library of images, adjusting my world view, and improving my technical skills. Two weeks in Paris at the end of the trip preceded by 4 weeks making a grand tour of France. Not long enough to see the entire country but long enough to see things I’d researched and decided were interesting to me during three previous visits.
I rented a car for the first weeks, then turned in the car before settling into the last 2 weeks in Paris. Even though I had a car I was still traveling light: 1 suitcase and 1 camera case with a single camera body and only 2 lenses.
I was also traveling on the cheap. I ate out about once a day and usually took advantage of free Petite de Jeuner offers at my hotels, but I also planned on buying from bakeries, cheese shops, and groceries as opportunity afforded. So, to avoid eating with my hands, shortly after arriving in France I stopped at one of the hypermarche’s that have sprung up along so many French highways — One of them, Carrefour is sort of the Fred Meyer of France on steroids. I didn’t go to the posh silver service section. I don’t think the hypermarché even had such a section! On that first day I looked around in the store for a cheap fork and spoon. I was looking simply for function, and what I found was a simple elegance that I have been unable to equal in the U.S. even in higher priced products. Lightweight, well balanced, fitting the hand nicely. I bought one of each thinking no further than the 6 weeks of my trip. And yet on reflection those two pieces of flatware are not only reminders of the trip, but also of a different way of life, a different way of thinking. And every time I pick them up I’m transported, and changed all over again.
I’m sure you do the same… bring things home from your travels. sometimes it’s just a jar of …. something: maybe a jam we don’t have in Milwaukee, or a jar of sauce, a tin of foie gras, or perhaps a can of instant English custard powder. I have a regular relationship with some of them. For example Keiller’s Dundee Marmalade — which used to be sold in a crock pot with nothing more than a piece of paper on top held in place by a piece of yarn (before the days of product adulteration) and in later days by a plastic open-topped cap over the paper.
My point simply is this… When we travel we return home with things we experienced along the way. Sometimes they are tangible. Other times they are experiential. Travel changes us. And it changes ALL of us. The 18 year old Canadian girl, the 65 year old American photographer, the old man who wants to go skydiving for the first time on their 100th birthday (I knew one of those!). Revel in the changes travel brings about in you; and in the souvenirs you bring back with you — or carry forward with you! Whether it’s a napkin, or a spoon and fork, a whirlwind weekend, or a hero met and hands shaken. As Mark Twain said, “Travel is Broadening.”
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.