My youngest is not content with dinner table silence. She got it from her grandmother I am sure, but there is a need to fill every pause in conversation with chatter. She will not tolerate one word answers, so forget responding to “how was your day?” with “Good”. You will be asked to elaborate. On Easter Sunday she decided that we should tell funny stories about our life adventures which is how I came to recount my return to the US after having spent 7 months abroad. The train in Zurich that never was, the overnight in the station, a harried Swiss Air flight to Milan and then a sprint from one Milan airport to another with a pitstop at the train station in the center of Milan to pick up all my luggage which had been strategically stored there to be picked up following my hiking trip to the Swiss Alps. My best laid plans had turned into a nightmare but in the larger scheme of things, all went well and I made it home safely. It made for a great story and I’ve got hundreds more from years of travel. Some I will share with my daughter over dinner and others perhaps will stay in the vault for a while.
Why do we travel? Let’s be honest. We go so we have stories to tell. Yes, we are bragging a little. We take pictures so we can have proof. We love to bring souvenirs home that remind us of our trip but also so people notice our new trinket and we have an entree into retelling a tale from our journey. The Instagram/Facebook selfie has become the modern day “wish you were here” postcard. Wish you were here but since you aren’t, please make sure you notice that I am and make the appropriate jealous comments for all to see.
But telling stories never quite captures the true essence of travel. To see, smell, hear and taste in real time. In our virtual world, there is still nothing as satisfying as being able to stand in front of Michelangelo’s David or to enjoy a cappuccino while admiring the architectural masterpiece Bernini in Piazza Navona. Complete sensory immersion. Will we ever get to the point when we won’t need to go? Will smell-a-vision, 3d goggles, 4d experiences make tourism obsolete? Can you ever capture the smell of the streets of Rome? That combination of pollution, espresso, pizza and God knows what else? It’s intoxicating and irreplicable in my opinion and I hope that it never goes away.