I travel big but I travel small, gradually expanding my boundaries once I arrive. Acclimating. I adore and absorb the details that create for me a sense of wholeness. I can only travel with those who understand that I don’t necessarily want to pack an itinerary from morning to night and accept my quirk of wanting to stop and take photos of interesting sewer grates.
I woke this morning in Cape Town, a view of Table Mountain from my breakfast window, groggy, adjusting from a day and a half of travel, knowing that I have to take it slow. The evidence is clear: Last night I ventured out for dinner and left my wallet in my room. This morning, I dressed with both my bra and t-shirt on backwards.
So I order coffee from a kind woman who asks if I want a cooked breakfast. She brings me French-pressed coffee, strong. I sip the bitter coffee and notice the way whoever renovated the dining room left a square in the wall so you could see the original brick. The way the air smells bright with flowered trees that I’ve never known. How purple hangs heavy over the streets.
The sunflower seeds crusting a slice of bread. The square of butter in a round dish. How the waitress asks a couple sitting nearby whether they want brown toast or white toast. The man, who was white, ordered white. The woman, who was brown, ordered brown. They laughed and laughed.
A scratchy recording of “La Vie en Rose” plays in this quiet breakfast room, decorated with fertility goddesses and mirrors, and I am struck by connections: Remembering this song played by a street accordionist in Florence, the notes echoing agains medieval walls; my friend and I being serenaded on Duval Street in Key West by a singer that looked like this guy:
One thing I’ve learned this year from returning to places I’ve already been: Experiencing places this way, by moments and by details, rather than by tour bus, doesn’t detract from the whole. Not once have I felt like I missed something big. In fact, each time I’ve felt like I was returning to a very familiar place, like revisiting someplace I never really left.