Spring is in full effect, which means, where I live, the grey clouds are heavy, and their payload crashes down like waves against a cliff. It’s wet, muddy, and I could take a bath in the puddles. Would it be unreasonable to take a bottle of shampoo outside, wash, rinse, and repeat for the best results? The neighbours won’t approve, but it would save on water.
It sounds like I’m complaining, but I promise you, I’m not. Well, not entirely because there’s a nice payoff. The bare trees are starting to bud. Bright flowers are poking through the soil, and their colourful petals are brilliant. The air smells a little sweeter, and the deep chill is starting to thaw. There’s an overall feeling of new beginnings offsets the dampness.
I love spring!
I’m slowly shedding the layers of my winter cocoon and stretching my weather-locked limbs. My back cracks, and I yawn in a satisfied yet weary way. It’s been a long slog through snow, freezing rain, and dark days. We’ve walked uphill both ways, but we’re finally walking a little easier.
I stare out the window, a cup of tea in one hand (so on brand), and watch the rain work its magic. The cherry blossoms will arrive soon and add a splash colour to our monotone lives. The birds are already singing loudly in the early hours, and more will come soon. The days are longer, the nights are warmer, and for the moment, it feels like nature is balancing life out.
Today is grey and wet, but it’s laying the foundation for a new, brighter tomorrow or next week. It feels like anything is possible if we dare to wander off the path just a little. That’s why I love spring so much. It’s one of my favourite seasons. It turns this hermit into a would-be adventurer. At the very least, it makes me want to buy a fedora, strap on my hiking boots, and venture off into parts unknown.
And I desperately want to go somewhere, anywhere. I don’t care where it is, but I have a long list of places I want to see. Take a road trip through New Zealand. Kiss a fish in Newfoundland. Go back to the city of my birth and stand on Table Mountain, reconnect with family, and revisit my roots.
Will I? Can I? I don’t know if it’s safe enough yet. The risk is still too high. You know, with the bothersome thing floating in the air. The thing I shall not name, but I’ll give you a wink, a nudge, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The world is opening up, and for most of you, that’s brilliant. You can get back to your normal lives if you feel safe. Me? With my weak, puny immune system and chronic illnesses? I don’t know when it will be safe to go into the world again.
Poor thing, how will she survive? Oo, that’s a little self-indulgent. Let me take a sip of tea, and calm down. It is what it is for the time being. There’s hope on the horizon! It’s only a matter of time before it makes landfall. Soon enough, the world will be open for everyone and not just the physically able.
Until then, I’m going to use my one and only superpower. It’s not one of the cool ones. I can’t fly or leap over buildings in a single hop. I can’t read minds or walk through walls. My superpower won’t save the world or get a kitten out of a tree. I’ll never look good in tights, but I’m not opposed to the cape.
Alas, my power is self-serving. It benefits me on days like this when I’m in an adventurous mood, but I remember I’m crippled. Will it help you? No, not at all. Unless you want to live vicariously?
My power is in my mind. I have a very active and vivid imagination. I can zone out and mentally transport myself anywhere in the world. I can create new adventures or relive old ones. I can do it for hours or days, and I have to be careful not to get too caught up.
But right now, as I trace my finger over the rim of my teacup, it’s very tempting. I’ve stored some adventures in the memory bank, and now’s the perfect time to pull them out. Nothing grand. No, I’m in the mood for simple pleasures.
Let’s see, what will it be? Oo, I know!
When I travel— pre-pandoodle— one of my favourite things to do is get on a city bus, any bus, and see where it takes me. There’s no destination in mind. I don’t look at Google or plot the best route. I don’t crack open a guidebook and look for a site to visit.
I get on the first bus that pulls over, find a seat by a window, and ride it until it either runs out of road or something looks intriguing.
Drive, my good-person, drive on. Oo, what’s that, pray-tell? An odd-looking structure in the middle of who knows where? Mm, yes, I think this is my stop. Hop off, let’s check it out. How fascinating? This isn’t in the guidebooks.
If you want to get away from the crowds and see the country like a local? This is the cheapest way to do it. Put away the books, close your devices, and travel the path less taken. Sometimes it’s a pleasant ride through a part of the city you’d never see. Other times, you find a hidden treasure, good food, and have plenty of laughs.
Isn’t that what travel’s supposed to be? It’s an adventure. It’s time to get a little lost. A lot lost? Now, that’s the spirit. My favourite quote is by Tolkien, “Not all who wander are lost.” Sometimes we’re trying to find ourselves.
If you know me, then this will sound out of character. I’m a planner, and I love a well-thought-out itinerary. Of course, life doesn’t have to be scheduled down to the minute or the second, but it helps. Let’s go wild and give it thirty minutes or break it into hourly chunks. I’m not utterly unreasonable.
Whimsy? Spontaneity? No one has ever used those words to describe me, and rightfully so. It’s not who I am, typically, but when I travel? I have a few moments of reckless abandon. Or, I try because travelling is about getting out of our comfort zones and exploring new worlds.
One of the perks of travel is the freedom to try on a new personality and see how it feels. No one knows me there, so whoever they meet is the only version they know. I can be whimsically goofy, carefree, and bubbly. I can even be a fedora-wearing academic on a research trip that turns into a hunt for treasure.
I can be my complete opposite if I get out of my own way.
There are aspects of my personality that are firmly etched in my brain. I’m instinctually a cautious person, and I get a lot of comfort from researching and planning. As much as I’d like to be a little less hyper-vigilant, it’s always there no matter what border I cross or how many time zones I visit.
But for one day? One bus ride? I can manage that, and some of my favourite memories come out of it.
Given the rainy day, I suppose it’s only natural that my mind went straight to Ireland. Belfast, Northern Ireland, to be precise. That day was similar to this one. Spring couldn’t decide if it was a lion or lamb. The sun would peek through the clouds, and it felt perfect. Then, five minutes later, rain would bucket down.
It was more out of desperation than an adventurous spirit that we hopped on the first bus that stopped. We were wet, cold, and our feet were aching. We’d spent most of the morning wandering around the city, and we desperately needed a break, but we were only there for two days. That’s not a lot of time to get an immersive experience, so we tried to make the most of every minute.
The bus trick seemed like the best of both worlds. We’d get to explore the city, warm up a little, and rest. We rode the bus for an hour through residential and industrial streets. We saw the more well-known sites like the murals, Peace Lines, and the Titanic shipyard.
Then we turned down a quiet street, and up ahead was this tiny shop painted bright red. Everything around it was subdued, so it stood out like a beacon. My friend bumped with her elbow and gave me a nod. This was worth checking out.
We got off at the next stop and walked back up the street to the little red shop. Turns out, they sold handmade chocolates and sweets. Brilliant! What better way to get rid of the chill than a delicious treat?
When we went in we thought we’d have a quick look and try some of the candy we couldn’t get back home. We were the only ones there— it was the middle of the day and the middle of the week— and we got more than we bargained for. After chatting with the shopkeeper for a few minutes, they asked us if we wanted to see how it was all made.
Uh, yes please!
They took us into the kitchen, and we were hit by the smell of cooking sugar. Sweet chocolate melting in a pot. A candy artisan masterfully joined brightly coloured, goopy strings of goodness. He cut off a couple of pieces and gave them to us. Mm, delicous.
Then came the really fun part. Do you want to make your own sweets? I couldn’t suppress the squeal. We washed our hands, put on some gloves, and got to work.
We were rubbish at it, but how often do you get to try and make your own sweets in a professional kitchen? As someone who loves to cook, this was a dream I stumbled into. Rolling taffy and stirring steaming caramel. They got free labour, and I got to live out a childhood fantasy.
Willy Wonka, eat your heart out!
The shop was called Olde Time Favourites, and they’ve been in business for over a hundred years. I don’t think we would’ve found it if we weren’t trying to get a little lost. If it hadn’t been raining, and our feet weren’t tired? If we didn’t let go of our master plan and embrace simplicity?
Not all who wander are lost. Sometimes we find what we didn’t know we were looking for. Like a sweet treat and a nice memory, perhaps. It’s a remember-when tale that brings a smile. It’s a simple adventure that carries us through a rough patch. A reminder that, while hope is on the horizon, the horizon isn’t as far away as it seems.