Oct 11th, 2017, 04:18 PM

Ode to the Reticent Traveler

By Beth Grannis
Image Credit: Flickr/JukaiFujiki
Championing those who take their time in new surroundings.

You start slowly. Leave passionate love affairs disguised as unconditional, lasting feelings to the foolhardy. This isn’t an Atlantic City bachelorette party or a boastful excuse to cross Iceland off the list because you had a four-hour layover in Reykjavik. You dare not lose yourself in lustful love, or even worse, misplace your presence by disengaging down the spiral of mindless photo-snapping, allowing the ever-unconcluded selfie game to overshadow your ability to make actual memories. Don’t worry, even if you didn’t get the pics it still happened.

This is an investment in your identity and a dedication to the vow you made to yourself to forever continue to evolve as a human being. And in addition to not giving yourself up too easily or fawning over those undeserving of your time, you forbid yourself to spill your innermost secrets too suddenly. But when serenaded by smaller moments, the rhythmic whoosh of the passing cars or the twisting ivy affectionately clinging to the aged, red brick, sometimes you can’t help but bend your rules and succumb to the woo of the city.

Image Credit: Flickr/Simon Corrò

You first acquaint yourself with a new city by walking its terrain. You make note to learn the way in which your feet must swiftly negotiate the different micro-topographies of the ground. Smooth concrete, cobblestones, uneven, broken slabs of cement disrupted by forceful roots, even secret, craggy steps off a side street alley leading to uncharted neighborhoods. Sometimes, you might even need to dodge the city’s cheeky attempts by evading traffic, fending off mobbing, bobbing pigeons, and even shuffling around someone else’s upturned spew from the night before. Keep in mind your shoes might show the beat and brunt of their mileage differently than most. We tend to grind down the outside of the heel first and take a little longer to soften the sole.

You’ll soon learn the ebbs and flows of each others personalities. At times, you’ll just want to sleep through your routines but the city will intervene and wring your soggy mind dry of the week’s heaviness and lure you out to play. After all, it knows best. So, your seasoned sneakers steer themselves about town and you oblige. Tracing a map of urban constellations with your steps, you’ve suddenly arrived at an afternoon, retro-showing of Manhattan, and for one hour and thrity-six minutes, you blissfully relish in the cliché. You emerge from the theater, popcorn-stained and plump with the prospect of opportunity and carry on along the sidewalk. The clouds have since seeped over the sun like the melancholy fog you feel when recalling someone’s arms around you. Arms that are now a memory. But the city supports your heavy head, asking nothing in return.

Image Credit: "Manhattan"/United Artists

“Don’t you let me down,” you plead with the sunrise. You’re most vulnerable in the early morning. The night has been rinsed off, your persona has yet to be caffeinated and although a tinge wiser than the day before, you still youthfully embrace the anticipation of the day ahead. Shoes laced and standing with the stirring dawn, you start across a bridge and run your fingers along the smooth, steel body as if to caress a clean shaven, once-stubbled chin. The dew licks your palm. The sky winks juicy pinks and apricot oranges and you are contented for a moment, enough for the sun’s warmth to lap your cheeks. You rest and surrender yourself a little more to the unknown, just as the city wakes. It bears your tendencies. It draws open the curtains and makes light what once was dark and dimly moonlit.

Traveler, be mindful with your interactions. Make them meaningful and pure-hearted. Gently navigate your surroundings, engage your senses and be there, fully there, as your pledge commits. It’s okay if it takes time for you to shed the shyness that others so effortlessly slip off. And like any lasting relationship, once you’ve recovered from quarreling over a downpour when you’ve forgotten your umbrella or have disagreed on where your keys were last spotted at 2 a.m. outside of your house, the city is yours and yours is the city.

Image Credit: Flickr/Estevam Cesar