This is a post I’ve been contemplating for a few months. It’s still not perfect, so comments and critiques are greatly welcome.
Have you ever tried thinking of the places you’ve traveled to the way you would think of an ex-lover?
I spent an afternoon thinking of it once, and decided that if places were men, Seattle would be the one I fell head over heels for; the one with whom it was love at first sight. Madagascar would be an arranged marriage — an analogy that I think most Peace Corps volunteers can relate to with their country of assignment. Much like an arranged marriage, we have little decision in who/where we get paired up with, but like any marriage, struggle through the bad and revel in the good to make it work. I’d be interested to hear what others come up with.
Besides it simply being fun to think of your favorite travel destinations in the same nostalgic way you’d conjure up a great memory of a friend or lover who has (sadly or not so sadly) disappeared into the vast vault of our pasts, there are similarities in the way we have relationships with places and with people.
Considering how many pieces have been written about “a love affair with Paris/Italy/Bali, etc.” this notion isn’t too radical or new. I’m not the first to think of it, and unfortunately I can’t provide you with this great quote on the topic that I dug out of a book once. Maybe when I find that scrap of paper I scribbled it down on, I’ll insert it here, but in the meantime, I’ll try to summarize and expand on that great author’s point:
The relationships we have with places mirrors those we have with humans. We love them, we connect with them, we fight with them. They push us to grow and experience things outside of our comfort zones. Places, like people, have personalities — often because of the people inhabiting them — and either that personality strikes something within you and begs you to create a deeper connection, or leaves little lasting impression, like a stranger on the train.
I’m sure all of us who have traveled have that one place where, when mentioned, we can’t control our smiles. I’m sure all of us have that place that makes us overly excited when the conversation turns to “the best coffee shops in Seattle” or whatever your equivalent may be. And like lovers and friends, each individual place has a different effect on us, brings out a different part of our personalities, and inspires us each in its own unique way. On the other hand, there are those places that are like a bad friendship, where you felt your soul being sucked out of your skin and slowly shrivel up. For me those places are the “bus depots” of the world (the strongest of which is an actual bus depot in Antananarivo, Madagascar, with whom I had a strong, hateful relationship with, like an unhealthy relationship you can’t end because you’re too dependent on each other…)
Anywho, I’m posting this today, after a too long hiatus, because (and I kind of loathe to acknowledge it) it’s Valentine’s Day. I’m a Valentine’s Day hater, the concept is contrived and cheesy romantic gestures make me vomit a little, but hater or not, today’s a very relevant day for this post. It’s a relevant day for us to think not just of the people we love/have loved, but the places too.