Lately, I keep finding myself on a bench in Salem, Massachusetts, eating a blueberry muffin.
Or, rather, my mind keeps taking me back to the memory of that particular morning in Salem when I sat on a bench eating a blueberry muffin.
Since traveling recreationally hasn’t been an option over the last year, I find myself dwelling a lot on these tiny, overlooked moments that make travel a unique kind of magic.
I’m beginning to realize that so much of what I miss aren’t the big, flashy experiences, but those little sparks of finding peace or joy by stepping outside the familiar.
Like the particular slant of the sun in early May as it filtered down onto the street amidst the old buildings in Salem, full of magic and history. The silence of a tourist town in the early hours before most vacationers would rise. Wandering the near-empty cobblestone street and taking in those small, unnoticed details that come into focus outside the hustle and bustle.
Like that bench in a little parklet wedged between museums and significant sites, where I could sit and let the sun kiss my face.
As much as I miss the potential of visiting famous sites and scenery, a year into not being able to travel, I long most of all for the simple chance to happen upon somewhere less obvious that feels like a private secret.
I rarely travel alone for entire trips, but try to push the boundaries of my comfort zone and find a little time to explore on my own whenever I am away from home.
These solo wanderings have generated many of the travel memories that linger in my mind. They remind me of who I am when I am most myself, transported away from the ordinary, senses newly alert and awake in search of novelty.
Like waking up for a morning run down to Niagara Falls, the once-crowded amusement park streets empty and still asleep.
Or seeking a coffee shop in Seattle and along the way noticing the particular glint of the sidewalks near our hotel, looking more like marble or granite than asphalt.
Or going for a run through the deserted streets of a beach town during the off-season. Smelling the sea-salt air, feeling the grit of sand working its way into my running shoes, and marveling in the sensation of being near the ocean without the roar of crowds dotting the shore.
Like so many people, I’m eager to return to travel for the big reasons. For seeing cities I’ve never seen with the people I love, checking off bucket list sights and adventures.
But most of all I long for those sweet moments of stolen solitude in the morning hours. For empty streets and surprise treats from unknown bakeries, and unexpectedly stumbling upon a bench in the sun.
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