I’m often prone to taking off and going on a random trip whenever the mood strikes.
Lately, I’ve been traveling to Italy a lot. I find the Cinque Terre region fascinating, in particular Manarola, which is located in the province of La Spezia. The first time I became aware of the region, it was via a travel catalog I received from Backroads. The company is one through which you can sign up for a walking tour of a particular area, biking tour, hiking tour or multi-sport tour (think kayaking in Bali) in practically any part of the world. Their trips aren’t cheap, but when you’re traveling to Europe and you need gear on the other end, rest assured your accommodations are first-rate, and there’s a bicycle waiting for you.
For about a year, I’ve had my desktop wallpaper set to a nighttime shot of the Cinque Terre part of Italy. It’s a photo that captures an aerial shot of the coast and the water crashing against the rocks, with a combination of vibrantly colored buildings alongside ones of a more pastel nature — all of which seem to glow against the dark sky. I have it centered as a small photo set against a black background, so the colors pop off the screen and slap me across the face each time I turn the computer on — and each time the picture asks if I have my trip booked yet. I do not.
I decided that in the interim, I’d travel travel to the town the next best way, so I fired up Google Maps one evening and headed out. I made my way through the twisting pathways and boats that clutter the alleys and walkways — in a good way, the same way an orange tree can be cluttered by an abundance of fruit.
As you ‘walk’ along the streets of Via di this and Via di that, gelaterias and bars pop out immediately. When I see them, I add them to my mental list of places to go when I finally visit. I can only imagine what it would be like to have no Blackberry buzzing next to me, but instead to have a plate of fresh calamari and perhaps some limoncello by my side. I dream of this often.
I imagine what it would be like to stay in a hotel mere feet above those same crashing waves with the windows open at night. I wonder if there are birds that come out at night which are audible over the sound of the ocean, or if there are stray cats that wander and let out the occasional mew as they walk the alleyways.
On some occasions, I picture myself staying only a few days and leaving the town in the same manner as which I arrived — not knowing anybody, and with no mark made on the nightlife. Other times, I picture myself staying for a few months at a time — perhaps during the summer to finish a novel or stageplay, and making friends with many (while leaving a substantial mark on the bars and area establishments — at least with my money).
I visit many places, but Italy is my favorite — perhaps only to be replaced by Greece or Ireland. I think because Cinque Terre is my desktop wallpaper I happen to go there most often. Maybe I’ll change it to an Irish or Greek photo and set out on those adventures more regularly.
Tonight I am thankful for the wonders of Google Maps, as well as for the inspiration it gives me to carve out a life that inspires me — and enables — to one day go there, and go there often.