Tumultuous times in my head. I am almost six weeks into this travel adventure and it feels like a shakedown for my next chapter. Living on the move like this leads me every day to evaluate what still works for me, what I am done with, and what my priorities are.
Yesterday was lovely in the ways a well chosen day in Europe is lovely. I took a day trip to Montreux and Vevey, two must-see spots on Lake Geneva (Lac Leman to locals). My first reaction to the lakefront promenade in Montreux was “I want to stay here forever!” Things didn’t stay perfect, and I won’t explain because that’s not the point here. I then went the short distance to Vevey, and thought the same thing. Indeed Charlie Chaplin thought exactly that and lived his last 25 years in a villa above the town. He is buried nearby.
I hate to put this in writing, but I am noticing I am getting older. This was illustrated in Ljubljana a while back (it’s a blur now exactly how much time has passed), when after a full day tour, I practically fell out of the van from exhaustion and another younger couple on the tour went off to keep their day going with time in town. That used to be me. Today’s version of me is usually done by 4PM. In Montreux yesterday I planned to walk the 45 minutes to the castle of Chillon, but my hips and legs protested so loudly, (after 70 miles on foot in the last two weeks), that I turned around
I didn’t really know, as I set out with enthusiasm yesterday morning, how drained I really am. Add to this the sad news yesterday that I have lost another age mate to cancer. The day felt heavy with thoughts of her. Our relationship had been fraught with tension and conflict when we worked together decades ago now, and only resolved in the way it can when people have time to reflect and grow, appreciate and reconnect. I am sorry we didnt have longer to enjoy our genuine affection. We both became better people than we were then.
Montreux and Vevey offered me all their charms, but I brought only part of myself to them yesterday. I think maybe I peaked ( no pun intended) with the Matterhorn, and now it is all denouement. But that’s not exactly right. I’m feeling more of a zig, wnen I was zagging. Now I need to figure out what that zig is calling me to do.
When I decided to structure this trip around public transportation, I knew I would be staying in cities for the most part. I used them as a base, and went out to see the natural beauty and smaller towns, but with the exception of Zermatt, since I left Montenegro it has been an urban experience overall. And I’ll be blunt here: there is a sameness about cities, even charming European ones, more so now with global commercialism. At this point I am feeling as if I don’t really need to see any more. I know that may sound like a problem born of extreme privilege, and indeed I am very spoiled. That’s my reality, though, and thus my starting point in reevaluation.
One of the pivotal insights in Hinduism, Samsara, is that we can’t get over cravings by ignoring them or willing them away. We get over cravings by getting what we think we want, then discovering that we were wrong about what would make us truly happy. I have known for a long time that travel wouldn’t plug any holes in my psyche. I wasn’t looking for thiat. It was fun, and stimulating, providing new opportunities to learn and do new things. I still need life to be all that, but I recognize now that maybe I need to find new sources for continued reinvention
So was seven weeks on the road too long? Not at all. This has been an awesome, incredible six weeks, and even the disappointments have been instructive, but I won’t end up wishing it could have been longer. That is a first for me. I got exactly what I asked for, and It had to be a bit more than I really wanted, because I couldn’t otherwise have had the insights that came with piling it on a little too thick.
The good thing about being on my own is that insights can be acted upon. I have changed the plan once again for my last week, deciding that I really should visit Avignon and Perpignan when I am not tired of cities. It took a while to figure out how to make another plan work out because I had gotten my thinking locked in to using public transportation. Then the simplest of thoughts occurred to me: I could rent a car and spend my remaining time in the countryside. What I really need now is a walk on a rural road, and vantage points that are not rushing by as I travel by train or bus.
So I cancelled everything for next week. Tomorrow, I take a train to Montpellier, where I will immediately rent a car and head out for a few days into the beautiful hill towns in that region of France. I really don’t know yet where exactly I will go, and I think I may try the experiment of not having a plan at all except to see and do what moves me as I go. I will slow down, rejuvenate, and then move on refreshed after a restorative dose of rural autumn and country air.
Yes. Sounds like a good way to keep the growth going.