Maybe it’s sacrilegious, but tonight I dine on alpaca meat–or, is it llama?–while the passion plays out for us below, Graham and I comfortably peering at the trailing procession from up high as it enters the final act with a play of Ring-Around-the-Cathedral.
Locals and tourists alike line up to watch this once-a-year show, certain that next year, Jesus will rise again, and between bites of rubbery, so-so tasting steak and sweet white wine, we pause to take in Easter’s equivalent of the Christmas pagent.
Interestingly, tonight’s magic show unleashes a flurry of insights, starting with the curious ponder of how many processions this Cathedral must have witnessed through the centuries, curious to know how they evolve over the years, if at all, curious to know what it must be like to live in a place on the tourist circuit, which coincidentally, is completely happenstance, accidental.
Because, you see, to a large extent, the tourist circuit is really just another facet of transportation, intimately intertwined with the roads and buses and planes and what-not whisking us from place to place, somewhat held hostage by how quickly asphalt and concrete make a certain destination available, some destinations available simply because they happen to be at crossroads, the unwilling or undeserved oasis at the end of a journeyman’s pilgrimage.
Which, then, segues us into a rather transcendental inquiry, that is–we enclose ourselves in metal capsules and trust that they teleport us from place to place, new coordinates, new theoretical location on the globe, but if you sleep through the transport, do you really travel? I mean, essentially, you wake up in a new destination, it feels a little different, iPhone says it’s 1000 km away, but really, is it? Sometimes, we traverse massive expanses and feel like we could be in an Asian Gemerica; othertimes, next door is light year’s away.
And, then, just because Graham and I now circle back to where we are, the act of actually being in a place, taking it in, transforms it. To live here is not the same as to travel here, which, in the scope of travel, breaks down between the vacationer, the voyager, the backpacker, the tourer, the vagabond, the list is endless. Clearly, one cannot be both in the same location, at least, not readily, for living versus touring is akin to what they say about nascent love and decades of intimacy–yeah, that first dance might be exhilarating, but to really be in step with your partner takes years of practice.
Now, we are caught in the conundrum of knowing that for most destinations and cities, we’ll never offer anything beyond a handshake, a one-night stand of intimacy, if you will, and for that, we are momentarily regretful, for to live in a place is to know it profoundly.
That is not to say that scratching the surface is without merit–on the contrary, this survey of cities around the globe surprises and enthralls, delights and perturbs, reinforces what we appreciate, turns us onto new considerations. Graham brings to light a study that compares the average walking pace of a host of cities, concluding that simply based on speed of walk, we discern health, vitality, psychology, commerce, quality of life, and so on.
Fascinating, especially since we are conditioned to travel with checklist in hand–main church, check; museum, check; historical monument, check; strange beasts, check; ceremony or ritual, check. Often, this is a history book thrown up on walls, riveting in its own right, but caught in the past, bottled up into easy, printable narrative, the complexity and color of life contained into a stack of A4s and 8.5 x 11s. Educational, sure, but sometimes, the marathon of ticking off a maximum amount of tourist to-do’s to prove we were there! exhausts more than it instructs, especially in long-term travel.
Instead, Graham and I revel in unraveling a city’s magic and understory by listening to a different drum, one that stands outside and compliments what the guide books prescribe. Simply put, being here and matching the local pace, literally, we get a sense of what it’s like to walk a mile here, to slow down and wind down throughout the day for siesta, to dine late and awaken even later, to slow down enough to remark how people hold their bodies, how they place one foot in front of the next–do they duck walk? sashay? shimmy? stride?
So, here we are, deposited somewhere in Peru, sitting on the second story overlooking a newly-vacated Plaza de las Armas, sharing a crêpe for desert, personal rhythm slow and deliberate and gracious to match that of our entourage, slow steps forcing a slower, more intentional, less cluttered mind.
So simple, this mirroring effect, yet so telling, for how people live in their bodies is how they live in their heads which is how they build their country and how they carry their past, and these insights priceless, almost more descriptive than the miles tallied on my OneWorld frequent mile card or the PDFs I collect in my travel app.