Nice, on the Riviera, fourteen days, $1260.
Barcelona, ten days, $880.
Yes. Spain it is, though I’ve never been there and I don’t speak Spanish. But I tell myself I’ll manage, popping CDs into the player in my car, listening as I fall asleep, cramming language lessons into my consciousness and my dreaming.
Get away? Somewhere? Anywhere? You bet!
At least, in my dreams…
I can picture the winding streets I’ve seen on film, the fruit market overflowing with aroma and color. I want heat on my winter-whitened face, midnight meals in noisy cafés. I want freedom, mobility, reminders of another life – a single life – young, strong, curious, carefree, alive.
I am wandering a crowded marketplace, jostled on every side. It’s Europe but it’s not; I can’t make meaning of the words in the air, at moments believing they’re Dutch, then Greek, then Arabic. Only occasionally do I hear heavily accented French which allows me some sense of orientation. But it doesn’t last and I’m lost again in a sea of sound.
There are women who are my size and the swell of this crowd is manageable; some barter and gesture, arguing feverishly with vendors or with men I assume to be their spouses.
Now the midday sun beats on me and I’m suddenly tired. I make my way to a deep red awning and speak to the proprietor in French, asking if I may stand a few minutes in the shade.
And the streets empty. The air cools. I am in another city, strolling along a canal, then walking along an unpopulated road. The quiet is unsettling and the sky is low and heavy with mist. Now I pass a castle and know that I have seen it.
This is a ghostly place. I’m searching for the train station.
A middle-aged woman in a car picks me up and drives me to the edge of a whitewashed tunnel. “Go the rest of the way on your own,” she says. “You will know where you are.”
* * *
I long for the action of my foreign familiar, and that has always been Paris – Paris where I am at home, Paris where I am more alive than in my dreaming, Paris where I am happier more often than not, Paris where even unhappiness offers rewards of darkly marauding intensity.
In the morning after dreaming there is energy that doesn’t dissipate. There is the itch to travel – really travel – stark and pointed. I pour over travel sites again – airline sites and tour packages and special deals for winter.
I cannot afford to go anywhere but the desire reassures me, and in a few minutes online I find Paris for $1300, Nice for $1260, Barcelona yet to be discovered – at $880.
It isn’t so much where I go as the fact that I can imagine it. Uncertain of the destination? Of course. But pleased that in my dreaming I reject the quiet, contemplating instead a vigorous and expansive space of mind.
- Do you dream of places you’ve never been?
- Are you younger or freer when you dream?
- Where would you go – right now – if money (and responsibilities) were no object?
*Image of Barcelona Market, Flickr / Jasmic, Creative Commons 2.0
*Images of Belgium, Yours Truly