travelling sweetness

I’ve always thought of myself as a lonesome traveller; some of my best trips were when I was by myself, getting lost in side-streets, making friends in student hostels, smiling at strangers, headphones and camera and book my only companions for train and bus and plane journeys. However some moments, especially when enduring difficulties, are nice to share with someone close. Some words by Banana Yoshimoto I read on the train last night hovered in the back of my head until this morning when, waking up alone, I realised just the impact her writing can have on me. In the novel “Amrita”, a tiny passage is about travelling; the awkward excitement on the way back from a trip, the laughter that ensues from bonds that were created from being with each other constantly. And then, the strange feeling when waking up in an empty house when, just hours before, you were in company.

Some years ago, I was on a somewhat disastrous trip with my best friend hedgehog, my back-then boyfriend R and K, a moody and loud friends of ours. It started off with the car breaking down halfway, train-hopping but arriving way too late for a show we’d planned to see in Ferrara, no sleep and no showering and absolutely unbearable heat, headaches, bad moods and quiet arguments, tragic almost-break-ups, the boys not speaking to us and the relief of finally getting home in one piece after four days walking barefoot on asphalt. That’s when I promised to myself that I wouldn’t be going on a trip with anyone for a long time, just to make sure that friendship or relationship wouldn’t suffer the highs and lows of spontaneous travel. Obviously I lied to myself, as soon enough I was on the road again, accompanied here and there by friends. Tiny explosions that some friendships survive, shaky but fine. (last year’s roadtrip to stalk the Get Up Kids and see some of my home country is a good example – always with K)

I’ve just gotten back from Munich. The (primary) reason were Angus and Julia Stone, the secondary reason was love, a well-needed couple of days away from everything, and, maybe, the childish need to test “this” and ask myself, “Is this where I’m at?” Yes, this is where I’m at. Altering my very annoying attitude when in a city that doesn’t belong to me – getting up early, wanting to see everything, walking everywhere. Making lists and plans. Forgetting to treat it like a holiday. Often, people get annoyed by this: Hedgehog would mumble “let me sleep”, I’d pace restlessly waiting for her to get ready, we’d get cross. But strangely enough, here there was nothing to compromise with. There was little meeting halfway, either because he was too accommodating (were you?) or because of the mysterious way in which feelings work. Jigsaw perfection and touching without breaking. Either way, it was easy-going and so much fun. I wanted to get up like a child in the audience of a circus show, clapping my hands eagerly and shouting “More! More!”

Saturday morning, 6am. We get off the train still sleepy, a little high with happiness from being somewhere other than Vienna. “I need coffee”, I say. In the shop there is warmth and a smile from the lady behind the counter who hands us paper cups. In front of the station there is a Japanese girl, a little lost, who asks for directions. All around us, there is a city’s heart, starting to beat faster as the night fades into day. We put our hands up into the air, “now what?” We have no place to stay, but settle into the first thing we find. In the room, with my finger on the map and frowning from concentration, I fail to notice he’s fallen asleep. And I could go on like this: every second documented as if I’d filmed it all. The bright blue skies, the smiles and laughter. The things we ate and the kilometers we walked. The constant being with each other and the absolute tenderness, the speaking a hundred miles an hour for me and being quiet and just staring amusingly for him. The little details – “oh, look, a bird in the window” – “it says first kiss on this bench” – “this girl has the same sunglasses as mine!” pointing fingers like a kid who is discovering the world, rushing past crowds, but also, with eyes closed, rediscovering what sunshine in your face feels like. Taking the time to appreciate a lake and ducks, colors of winter being pinned to lamp posts and hung from windows, the smell of roasted chestnuts, the glow of candles in a church. The quiet after the storm: both exhausted falling asleep facing each other, a table in-between us with a couple of books and a red Styrofoam cup, the slight rocking of the train, eyes closed, chattering all around, trying to make the minutes last longer, the trip last more, purposely taking the longer way home, pretending this isn’t Vienna, not now, not yet. The last cigarette fading into the night.

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