Traveling abroad

From two days to six months traveling abroad is an enriching experience.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

The Wizard of Oz

As I step down from the train I begin getting the flavor of the city. Usually central stations are situated in old town. So the first steps already give that feeling that mixes the familiar with the exotic. Buildings, stores, traffic signs are almost like at home but not quite.

As I pass by I like to take pictures of everything that comes to my attention. The first minutes all streets are interesting and every building a monument.

I arrive at the hotel to let go all the baggage. And there and then begins the learning of the most basic vocabulary of any city: the greetings exchange.

Greetings are human artifacts crafted on custom and reiteration. They are the formal way of acknowledging the existence of another being. Hej, Bom dia, Bonjour, Hi, Buenos dias. Learning the basics of greetings allows us to begin the integration in the heartbeat of any culture.

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.

Charles Kuralt

The first hours are all scheduled. All places have a list of must see landmarks. Tour Eiffel is the quintessential of all such places. Going by taxi or metro is never an option. Walking is the only locomotion that makes sense if I have any expectations on seeing the actual city. I will walk from the Palace of Westminster to Portobello Road Market. I will see the people, the shops and the city flow from Plaça de Catalunya to La Sagrada Família.

That doesn’t means that I will not take the urban transportation. From the efficient Stockholm T-Banna to the almost alive London Tube getting into public transportation is an experience in itself.

and let Thy feet, millenniums hence, be set In midst of knowledge

Lord Tennyson

Going to museums allows to know how people looks at themselves and how is their attitude towards the world. Reading about vikings at Etnografiska museet in Museiparken or looking at a vintage chair at Musée d’Orsay in La Seine riverbank gives a glipse of what was considered worth conserving or – at least – what has survived the pass of time.

peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none

Thomas Jefferson

Shopping from basic items on a super market to a caprice at a flea marked makes a new stream of words come to work. Tack, muito obrigado, merci beaucoup, thank you, muchas gracias. There’s always a word to describe the gratitude for completing a comercial transaction. And always there are numbers. Knowing the currency exchange rate is a sensible part of the experience.

And I will innevitable buy some kitch objects to bring home just to remember that I was there and then as gifts to friends and family.

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.

Mahatma Gandhi

When the visit goes beyond a month and a half mark I consider myself a resident – althought a temporal one. After more than a hundrer hours walking arround, visiting places and acquiring remembrances all have changed. Now I will visit a street that I have never seen before but it will not surprise me. A beautiful building is worth a look but not a picture anymore. I will pass by Praça do Comércio without almost taking a second look when I go to buy groceries at the supermarket.

The new has become usual the exotic mundane. I will stop visiting Castelo de São Jorge, Puerta de Alcalá or the National Gallery. As by now I need time to see other places and have other experiences to maybe return back some day to the old places and see them with new eyes.