With Change Comes Remembrance: Giving into Nostalgia

At every crossroad in my life, I have found myself returning to the words, the places, the music, the art that carried me before. Volver. Retourner. Zurückkehren.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote that “the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.” I think that little tool of survival also helps us confront the future. And I confront it with Schubert in my ears, poetry open on my lap and photos of moments now passed.

Moving forward and saying your goodbyes isn’t easy, especially when you have been living for so long from city to city. Seeking and seeking. It’s even stranger when you realize that in so many ways, you always will go back to where you started.

I am counting down the days left in Europe and suddenly I’m remembering everything differently; nostalgia is a trickster and fear is his accomplice. It leaves you crossing yourself and muttering prayers.

But in honor of that cunning fox, memory, here are pieces of what was and is and will be.

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What I Carry Home: The Soul of Wandering

I’ve never liked the idea of being a tourist. I much prefer a traveler, a wanderer, a soul looking for other souls. Always being a little lost with no actual desire to be found. I often think of the writings and words of Paul Bowles, a sincere explorer who found himself in Morocco while many American expats were flooding the cafes of Paris:

“[A]nother important difference between tourist and traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveler, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”

I would like to believe there is a certain curiosity, a certain way in which one must interact with the world in order to become a traveler. It’s easy to book all-inclusive holidays on a coastal retreat, but it’s difficult to become part of the community around you, especially when you embed yourself so briefly. Becoming a traveler requires that you forcibly, consciously, continually enter yourself into a place of discomfort. To travel is to awaken yourself and your senses anew by an onslaught of foreign stimuli; sounds, smells, flavors, textures that are both pleasing and repulsive. To engage with the world outside of your place of comfort — to really reach out and seize it in all it’s mess and glory — you have to be willing to push yourself.

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