As cliche as it sounds my heart flickered when I saw it. It was perfect, just like I had always imagined it would be. Turning the corner, gazing upwards, I stopped to take a breath in. Everything was different – the air felt cleaner, sweeter, somehow more romantic. Perhaps it was just the movies that created this branded image of perfection in my mind, but the Eiffel Tower, Paris and France sure felt that way, even on a cold snowy day.
I was relatively new to the photography world while traveling in January 2010, and as a result I didn’t know how to manipulate the lighting as well to my advantage. Unfortunately this meant that our late night trek to the Louvre would end in plenty of blurry pictures, or attempts to shoot with my flash. However I still managed to capture alot of the essence I felt during my stay in France.
The fact that we climbed the Eiffel tower in the freezing cold only to learn at the second level that it was closed for renovations, was a clear calling that I needed to return. Although I’m not sure when I’ll be back – for now, as I reminisce about my days gallivanting around Europe I wanted to share these and let you relive mon voyage magnifique momentarily avec moi.
Track spinning|Quando, Quando, Quando Michael Buble ft Nelly Furtado
The amount of times I have attempted to write this particular entry is countless. For the last seventy seven days I’ve spent in Europe I have continuously thought in the back of my head about how my experiences would fit into my writing. Often the perfect words and phrases would even come to me during late nights while strolling around the streets of Spain or learning salsa. I vowed week after week to my family and friends at home to write and update them with all my extraordinary traveling adventures, and yet each time the moment my fingers hit the keys: failure.
It was never that I didn’t have enough material; it was almost as if there was such a huge overflow of emotions and experiences that trying to capture one particular part seemed nearly impossible. Every moment was canon snap/wordpress worthy and I spent hours attempting to perfectly orchestrate my story from beginning to end; planning and carefully thinking through my every word. But each time it sounded forced and awkward; nothing that represented the true flavours of my vida Española.
It wasn’t making any sense. I was in a different city or country almost every weekend, meeting new people, trying new foods, learning new languages, experiencing different cultures; I had enough material to write a novel and yet no words came out with ease. I refused to publish anything that even slightly misrepresented my journey of a lifetime until the moment of fluidity arrived. And so I lingered on and on and on.
And then, it finally dawned on me the other night. It was after leaving my first gay and lesbian club in Alicante’s El Barrio district at 5am with my partner in crime. Deciding to leave our apartment at 3:30am on a whim without so much as a phone or a camera to document our first nocturnal partying experience, we were feeling at a loss. As we passed through large crowds of people hopping from one bar to the next we kept thinking about how great it would be to capture and share this stark contrast of culture moment with everyone. Everything we witnessed that night was picture worthy and yet we had no form of technology to remedy the situation. And so we did what people do at 5am in Spain, move to the next party.
“After the party, there was the after, after and after party” never seemed more true. We wondered how everyone functioned on this nocturnal schedule every weekend and actually managed to accomplish anything in life. And these people weren’t just the leftover barf faced drunk waddling around the streets crowd; these were the shake your booty, twist and turn sort. The clubs were bumping with individuals that ranged from under aged teenagers to broads and balding men well past their forties. We watched and participated in amazement. Those ending their nights were quickly being replaced by others just beginning; people continued to flow in out of the district like a gushing waterfall from every corner.
We continued to dance and sip terrible drinks, determined to stay awake and alive through Alicante’s entire night life culture. But at 7:00am, the alcohol continued to flow, the girls still touched up their make up in the bathroom, and the men were still chasing after the women. Groups of friends were relaxing on patios enjoying a smoke and a kebab. No one was concerned about rushing home or where they had to be the next day. We stared in fascination; the capability of time having no affect on this culture was beyond belief. It was that moment as we called it quits and began to walk home without a phone or a camera that that I realized something.
I realized what one of the most beautiful things about traveling is. It’s not the stunning monuments I saw, or the countless churches I visited or even the numerous pictures I took. Sure those things are wonderful aspects, but they’re not what drive that fire in people’s bellies to travel.
It’s those intimate embarrassing scary pee in your pants funny uncomfortable disgustingly amazing moments; the ones that no camera or writing will ever capture. Those moments that will live exclusively in the memories and hearts of you and the ones you shared them with. It is these experiences that shape you in ways that no one will ever understand and remember better than you and it is this autonomous ownership of personal thoughts and emotions that will go with you wherever you go, continuing to strengthen the relationship you have with yourself. This alone is one of the greatest gifts of traveling.
This eye opening feeling isn’t to say I won’t be doing any sharing or that I won’t include the intimate and ridiculously wild details of my European escapades with you, (because really what’s any story worth if it isn’t the cream of the crop) but it is to account for why the well ran dry for such a long period of time. The fact is no story will ever perfectly embody my feelings of being followed by a creepy stranger in Morocco, drip drying in every bar across Spain, not showering for over 3 days or even fleeing a shady hostel in fear of my life in France. But I accept this and it’s a privilege, not a reason to refuse to share my surreal life in these past couple months.
And now that you have a preview of my euro escapades to come, I’m off to road trip around Italy for the next two weeks continuing to live out the dream for as long as I still can… until then,