"Traveling as a traveler, the philosophy of the minimalist baggage"
The trip is about to begin, the charm of the last hours prior to departure is troubled by a huge dilemma, a flaw that has mobbed every traveler, or I’d better say every tourist: "Is the amount of clothes/ underwear/ products/ that need to be packed directly proportional to the length of the travel?" I found the answer to this archaic doubt years ago, during a hot day spent at the Pireus. Exhausted after a Homeric trip, my shoulders and my arms succumbed to the burden of a huge bag and a backpack full of useless things that I had to drag from the railway station to the main port of Greece. Halfway through the journey I repeated myself: "Never again, never again , everything I need is my passport, my camera, a notebook and myself.”
"The most beautiful place can be just a walk away from your hometown, do not wait forever before you visit it"
July 2001, Kozloduy is a small town in Bulgaria I care a lot about. Most of the people know this place for its nuclear power plant and for the boat Radetsky, steered by the revolutionary poet Hristo Botev in his attempt to free Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. While I was watching the shores of Romania from the Bulgarian side of the Danube, I realized that although I was living an unforgettable moment in this remote corner of the world I was yet to see the Basilica of San Nicola in Bari, Ostuni, Venice and the Eternal City: Rome . From that moment on, I’ve started to enjoy the beauty of the places around my hometown, whose visit had always been postponed.
“Discover nature’s unconditional and silent harmony"
Ruka, Finland, hiihtoloma 2007. For those not familiar with the ABC of the Finnish language, the term "hiihtoloma" indicates a one week's holiday given to teachers and schoolchildren in February that is supposed to be spent skiing. Due to a battered knee, I didn’t spend my hiihtoloma zigzagging on the slopes. However, I had the chance to be pampered by the snowcapped birches and the fluffy white snow that surrounded a lonely cottage in the heart of the Finnish Lapland, where I spent three days away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Three days spent in a rudimental wooden house, discovering the remains of a primordial life, three days spent in contact with the timeless authenticity of nature that penetrates you tacitly while you gaze its majestic beauty. No matter where you come from, the wilderness is always few kilometers away and its discovery is priceless.
"Meeting strangers: ain't no barriers in foreign languages"
Porto, Rua Dom João IV. Jaded after the long trip from Lisbon we spend the evening in a tavern not far from the hostel Riad. Our Franco-Italian conversation attracts the attention of Jose Maria, a retired teacher from the nearby conservatory. While drinking Super Bock and eating sandwiches Jose speaks about Porto, he recalls his travels, his life dedicated to music, he introduces us to the francesinha, a typical dish of the city, he instructs us about the different types of Vinho do Porto: White, Tawny and Ruby, he tells us that the following day the city will be flooded by people because it’s São João’s day, the biggest European feast. Our new mate tells us about places we have to visit and fills our agenda with tips about the Cidade do Porto. Before saying goodbye and disappearing into thin air like a Chopin’s nocturne, Jose Maria delights us with a French quotation that I now consider the basics of my existence: "Profitez bien de la lumière avant que la nuit tombe" (Take advantage of the light before the eternal night falls). That night we entered the tavern to drench our thirst and and grab a snack and we left the place hungry for light.
"Rely on your legs strength when there’s no other way to reach a place"
Sunday, June 17, 2012, Sagres, Portugal. Every single Portuguese is waiting to watch the football match Portugal-Holland. In the bars people only talk about the game, the streets are desert and the buses aren’t operating. Cabo Sao Vicente, "the end of the known world", the southwestern end of the E9 European Coastal Path is only 7 kilometers away but there is no bus to take, no taxi to hire to get there. The only way to get there is to rent a modest bike from a kiosk on the seafront. It’s damn hot and we have to choose between a lazy afternoon sweetened by a chill Mojito or a tough uphill bike ride. The spirit of adventure always blows beneath the traveler’s wings so we decide to go for the bike ride. The ride is harder than expected, but the glimpse of the red lighthouse overlooking the headland that contrasts the blue sky and the fearful boundlessness of the ocean dry up my sweat. My eyes are enraptured by such great majesty, around me there’s only poetry, history, life. The sense of spiritual fulfillment expels fatigue from my body and replaces it with the quiet force of freedom. Gratified by this eternal beauty, I ride back to Sagres just in time for the kick-off of the match. For the record, two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo lead Portugal to win against Holland.
"Share your travels with somebody you care about"
Journeys consist of flows of emotions too motley to to be captured by a single snapshot or described by a breathless sentence. The prodigious uniqueness of travel experiences has a limit: the impossibility to evoke and live again its mere essence when those instants are gone. The detailed description of a moment can arouse interest, pleasure, laughter, excitement but it will never flaunt its unrepeatability. While I linger in my mind trying to recall past joys, I often think of those unrepeatable moments lived with true travel companions and it takes a single word, a gesture, a glance to evoke them all, even when the dust of time seems to hide those fragments for good. Then I think of Into the Wild and I repeat Christopher McCandless’ quotation: "Happiness is only real when shared”.