I recently read an article, The Evolution of a Long Term Traveller, from one of my favorite travel bloggers, Nomadic Matt. I got me thinking about my own experiences. Travel enthralls me. My mind is constantly processing new sights, smells, and circumstances. However, all of these experiences can become overwhelming at times, especially during long-term travel. You need some way to process them or risk becoming jaded and burnt out. Over the years I’ve discovered a way that helps me center.
Every morning, whilst the city is still waking from its slumber when birds begin to chirp, stray cats hunt for scraps, and city workers sweep the streets clean of man's presence, I walk until I find a cafe. The cafe, as much as the walk, is part of the ritual. I have to find the right cafe, the one that calls to me. It may be a cafe on a broad palm-lined boulevard, like the one that I sit at now in downtown Fez, with faux wicker seats made of plastic and bright orange umbrellas that sway precariously each time a van motors passed, Or it could be a small hole in the wall on the corner of an intersection where the locals stare daggers at you as if you’ve entered a secret sanctum and concrete crumbles leaving piles of rubble that resemble the sugar cubes I put in my coffee. The only requirement I seek is a quiet table that I can watch the new day begin. I do the same thing at home. The big difference is, at home, I fall back into my routine. I venture to my local cafe, the task of searching for the perfect cafe long since accomplished.
After ordering a coffee, I write. I don’t plan what I write. I just attempt to capture my current frame of mind or process the experiences from the day before they fade from memory like ancient mosaics, cracked and incomplete. Throughout the day, I will scribble a few notes to remind me of a particular moment: the smells of the tannery, the feelings when I see a vendor hawking their wares, children playing in a dusty alley, or a quote or story told to me by a local or fellow traveler. I’ll write down anything that brings me back to that moment. Then, as I sit sipping a coffee, I scan my notes and write until I can see the scene as clearly as the view in front of me.
Eventually, both coffee and writing are complete. I swirl the coarse grains at the bottom of the cup, searching for remnants in my memory that I have missed. Finally, I sit back. There is nothing more to draw from. I’m relaxed, my mind unburdened. I've processed the prior day's experiences. For a moment, the monkeys that too often rattle in my head are silenced. Only when this sense of peace envelopes me do I know am ready to take on the day, to live in the present, and the start the adventure all over again.
I pay my bill with crumpled notes and the clink of a few coins and walk again, writing my first notes of a new day, ready to start it all over again.