I arrived in Paris today, the last stop on Terry: The European Tour. In one week, I return to Amsterdam for a day of “wrap up” and then head back to Los Angeles. So, what was the first thing I did once I settled into the apartment? Go for a walk.
I recently realized that I have a certain way of arriving in places when I travel. Like a cat, walking in a circle before sitting down, I have ritual:
- Move things into hotel room/apartment and unpack…completely.
- Freshen up.
- Go for a walk.
In Los Angeles, I walk every day for exercise. When I travel, I walk to connect to where I am.
I start with a short walk around the block, just to see what is near me, a dry cleaner, a café, a restaurant, a market.
Then I make a larger circle and see what else I am near, beginning to notice the street names, the direction I am facing, subways, buses, etc.
By the third time around, I begin to use all of my senses. I smell the dust, the fumes, the rain, the smoke and the food. I may even taste something right then and there. (Today it was Nutella, croissants, espresso, and a Camembert and butter sandwich on a French baguette!)
I listen to the conversations around me, even if I don’t understand what the language. (By the way, a woman yelling at a man is universal. One doesn’t need to know what is being said.)
I touch a plant, a wall, a paper, and maybe even a person who I accidentally ran into because I was being all “sensory” and not paying attention to where I was going.
I get a sense, a feeling of the area, if it’s safe, if it’s welcoming, if it’s happy or depressing.
Then I begin to see more things, trash on the sidewalk, a flyer, a child’s sock, a flower petal, graffiti on the walls, abandoned alcoves, potholes, and maybe even some coins on the ground if I’m lucky.
And finally, I start to notice the people on the streets, what they are wearing, carrying or doing.
In Los Angeles, walking around town is pretty much impossible. I think this is one of the reasons I like Europe so much. If you are in a city, you have city services, cars are a luxury and often a nuisance because walking is a much better way to get around. Everything you need is never more than a 1/4 mile away.
In Europe, they also have town squares. In the evenings, young and old walk about, chatting, watching and playing. In Italian it is called passeggiata. In Los Angeles it is called loitering. It’s just not the same.
Walking has also been linked to creativity. Many musicians, writers, and other artists walk to get started on their work. When I walk I get ideas, I get inspired, I sort out problems and projects, and I breathe in the world around me.
Tomorrow, my sister arrives and I will begin to show her the city. We will walk, saving the Metro for the end of the day when we are tired and just want to get home. She has never been here before, and I want her to discover the city for herself. My plan is to do what I always do, pick one place as the destination for the day, and then walk around aimlessly discovering things for the first time.