It was a long flight to the West Coast, and I had planned to spend it engrossed in a novel, but the book lay forgotten on my lap. I was entranced by the view.
The US unfurled beneath me under a brilliant blue sky. Looking across the miles, I saw the indelible marks we’ve left, and the places that don’t look much different now than they did at the end of the last ice age. All those people, all those dreams, all those tears, all that striving… from my seat high above it all, I didn’t feel “above it” at all. Instead, I felt connected, just as the endless roads and rivers connect us all across this huge continent.
I love traveling to a new city. The unfamiliarity bends time and fills up my senses. New names roll luxuriously or bounce jarringly across the tongue. (Escuela. Metairie. Schenectady.) The light is different in other places. The sun is extra gold here – even in the middle of the day. And twilight lasts longer because I’m just a little bit closer to the equator than I am at home.
Pico Iyer perhaps said it best: Travel, for me, is a little bit like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are at the setting marked “on.”
Of course, not every city feels like this. Visiting a home town can feel scratchy, tight and uncomfortable for some of us. Some places are so relentlessly suburban that any trace of civic personality has been crushed under the weight of strip malls and conformity.
And, like any lover, with time the delight fades, sometimes mellowing into sweet satisfaction, sometimes hardening into frustrated disappointment. It can’t last. But for those first sweet days, time is stretched, possibilities multiply, and everything, everything is beautiful.
*Photos by me, with a little help from Instagram.