гдепочта & jossa onposti?

Find your way in a city
February 2 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

Question is, WHICH city?!

And which country?!

Germany. Italy. France. Or Belgium. Denmark. Sweden. Or Finland.

Or how about Japan. South Korea. Thailand. Or Bali.

Mexico. No.

Or how about closer to home. The United States.

Every state on this side of the country. Texas. Arizona. Nevada. Colorado. Idaho. Montana. Or Wyoming.

Or maybe California. No. Catalina Island. Oregon. Washington. Hawaii. Missouri. Or Kansas.

I’ve been to every of those (and others). Some by car. Some by train. Some by foot. Some by boat. By bus. Some by plane. Some by all. I’ve yet to travel into a place by hang glider but the possibility’s still there! Because as much as I am a natural writer, I am also a natural traveler.

I dare not poke that bear of what true travel is. Most people do not get it. Most people are not it. Most people think that just because they bought a plane ticket and flew into France or Vietnam or {fill in the blank} that they are travelers. Oh how wrong they are.

Most people are tourists, if they are that. But again, not gonna poke that bear. Suffice it to say that most people in general overstate themselves. Attribute to themselves greater skills, qualities or characteristics than in reality they have.

They’re smart. (They’re not.) They’re creative. (Uh, not really.) They’re photographers. (Unoriginal banal snapshots.)

They’re cooks. (Crappy recipe featuring Spam & Velveeta.) They’re singers and the next American idol. (They can carry a tune.) They’re writers. (Puullllease! They couldn’t pen a proper sentence, never mind an original, to save the their lives.) They’re travelers. (They got on a fucking bus in Paris!)

Just several examples of the overstating themselves that people in Western culture tend to do.

Back to find your way in a city.

Truth is, I’ve found my way through so many cities, towns, villages and blips on maps in the United States and abroad that I simply can’t pick one. Truth is, I’ve veritably made a lifetime of travel* and travel has made me.

*Again, true travel, not simply flying somewhere and following a tour. I don’t do tour groups unless a country forces it upon its guests (such as Russia or parts of communist China).

I actually don’t like traveling with others. Not to say every adventure has been solo; about 99.99999% has been. I’ve traveled abroad with intimate others spottily. It has its advantages. “Sharing the experience” and all that. But deep down, I’m a lone wolf. An unconventional trekker who thrives on meeting the world wholly present and naked to the experience. No interference or “safety factor” from anyone. If there is an other at my side, there’s gotta be a lot of separation time for it to work for me.

Find your way in a city.

Since I’ve lived my life finding my way through unfamiliar and foreign places, I truly cannot pick one! I can identify, from experience, useful tools! Beginning with:

* paper and pen. To draw crude pictures and maps when you cannot speak the native language. Or even when you can. It’s amazing how effective those two “primitive” tools are! Well, to me, they’re essential. I’m very rarely without pen and paper. They’re as much a part of me as limbs. But then again, writing is my calling and purpose and if I’m without, then I’m not quite myself.

Which raises an interesting point. Today, everything’s cell phone. They come in handy, no doubt. Plenty are the times I’ve been in the “middle of nowhere” — which to me is not only “nowhere” but THE best place to be, just me ‘n’ my Subbie! — where I’ve needed to look up a campground. (Campgrounds, especially primitive/dispersed ones with zero services, are a mainstay of my travels.)

Phones can be invaluable. But they can also hinder the experience.

I still vividly remember communicating with an Italian with crude drawings on a train in Italy while I was backpacking (alone of course!) through Europe.

The person spoke not a word of English and my Italian from college was long gone! I don’t recall the content of our conversation, only both of us greatly endeavoring to communicate with hilarious stick figures or what-not!

Try doing that with a cell phone! See, to me, there’s something so glorious … so real …. so HUMAN in communicating with the very same tools of our ancestors. Our hands. Sticks in the dirt.

It’s not hard to picture. Two caveman. One from the west, the other from the north. Neither aware that the other tribe exists. Both cavemen on the move in a hunt.

They meet. “Sektylke aetasdkt” says one. “Oeadkggbsh asdkrjg” says the other. Neither understanding a word of the other. Are they going to kill each other? Or make friends?

How is the situation overcome? Each takes a tool. Maybe one the crude spear in his hand. The other fashions a pen out of a tree twig. With a swinging bare foot, one fashions a scratch pad onto the earth. And they begin drawing pictures. Hieroglyphics. Whatever is necessary to convey a thought. Because the fundamental truth is: Pictures speak even more loudly than words. When words — language — are not shared and mutually understood.

I remember that “primitive dialogue” on that Italian train decades ago so vividly as I was trying to negotiate my way through a country or city or town or wherever it was I was heading.

For a traveler until the day I day, I will hold to this truth, for me. Perhaps it’s a universal truth. I don’t really know and frankly don’t really care because I move through my life in deeply unconventional and unique ways.

Finding my way in a city — any city in the world — is fundamentally and fully not about reaching the destination (though that’s very important too).

It’s about the journey. It’s about the experience of finding my way. The tools from my metaphorical and physical backpack (and yes, I’m a backpack girl, not handbags or purses!) … the tools given to me by life — firstly and namely my brain … my intelligence … my creativity and problem-solving skills … my McGyver nature … my ingenuity … my fearlessness … my genuine and profound interest in other cultures and people … my deep self-awareness as a global chick with no country that I REALLY call home but the world as my home.

And perhaps above all, finding my way in a city is about love of travel … love of adventure. Love of growing and learning and gaining wisdom.

I can find my way through just about any place on this planet while executing caution and awareness of course! Don’t be stupid! Or do and learn the hard way. Some places you DO NOT go alone or even with 10 armed body guards.

I can, and do, find my way in any city or any place long as I’ve got pen and paper. Writer and traveler are inseparable. Deep down, I’m also still that caveman from the north, encountering a counterpart from the west. And we will communicate.

BTW, today’s title reads: “Where is the post office?” in Russian and Finnish.


One thought on “гдепочта & jossa onposti?

  1. I hear you, travelling is a luxury I have seldom experienced. And I agree completely with your statements (even though I am found of baked pasta with Velveeta but still, LOL)

    From my personal experience, I would split the hair a little further by stating that going on vacation is different than travelling or even being a tourist. Circumstances are pushing me to head to the same hotel in Ixtapa year after year, I can see I fall into a routine.

    As for my travels, one thing I have always tried to do (notwithstanding my limited experience compared to your resumé) is act as a local would do, try to step out the beaten path. Mind you, it feels so much easier going by that philosophy while remaining in North America, which is why I’m eager to find the opportunity to head overseas and test out my limits by stepping out off my comfort zone!

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