Lose the Fear. Keep the Love
It’s easy when it’s like this. A perfect day under a perfect sun in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo, my favourite place in the world. Even the puffy clouds are only there to provide a welcome break from the heat, and tourists gasp with pleasure at their tables as the light dims. They applaud when the sun comes out, as though it can hear them.
Palermo, That's All
I don't tell those kinds of stories. You know the ones. The Three Drunk Norwegians. The Narcotrafficantes Who Chased Me Through The Jungle That Time. The Multigenerational Balinese Family Who Taught Me How To Love. Is there any greater bore than a travel bore? I can see myself even now, desperately checking my phone for messages while some pompous narcissist drones on about how in Mongolia, like, everything was like, four-dimensional. They talk about travel broadening the mind, but I see people's focus narrowing constantly, shrinking with every border they cross until every country merges into the others, and all that remains in the bright bare circle of focus is themselves.
The Albanian Maneuver
“Too much.” “Too much?” The gas station attendant thumbed through the crumpled bills stuffed into an envelope he held and shrugged. More lek. The last thing we needed was more Albanian currency. We were leaving the country in an hour. The car didn’t need much gas, but the rental agreement demanded it be returned with a full tank. The €50 note I had given him glowed red in the midst of the pale blue Albanian money.
You Can Never Go Home
Sparrows live here. It stays warm all year, of course, and the crumbs of overpriced food dropped by passing travelers who eat from boredom more than hunger are enough to raise a family on. I know that the birds live here, raising chicks in the steel rafters and shitting on the polished floor, rather than it being a case of a few unlucky individuals getting trapped and lost inside the cavernous space of the airport. Because I’ve seen them before. I’ve been here before. I almost live here myself.
Monaco: All the Money in the World
Even the toilet has a beautiful view. The window is open, and the smell of the bright sea drifts in to mingle with the faint tang of ancient piss. Down below, the Rock, the old citadel of the Grimaldi family, juts out into the Mediterranean. Red roofs glow above the white walls. The sun shines on the sheer cliff face on which the old city of Monaco sits, turning the bare rock a blinding white. I finish and zip up and step out with dripping hands, back into the sun.
His father built this boat. With tools worn by time and help from his uncle, he bent the planks around the frame and hammered them into place and sealed the joints with hot pitch, while the summer light bent and warped in the haze of heat that rose from the metal can. Every year afterwards, in July heat, he rowed the boat from the village to the island to heave rocks into the bay and keep the church afloat.
Prague: Fear and Beauty
We came late to Prague. By the time we made our way to the red-roofed city, the path to the east had already been well beaten by hordes of budget travelers and lairy British stag parties. An influx of foreign tourists has pushed Prague close to the top of the list of Europe's most visited cities, with all the opportunities and problems that kind of popularity creates for the local residents.
It’s not that I didn’t want to go to Warsaw. It’s just that I’d heard Krakow was better. But we go where the budget airlines will take us. We go where we can afford to go. And any new place has its appeal. I generally find something to like about every European city I’ve visited. So we went to Warsaw anyhow.