Looking Outside the Box

“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

A friend posted Fitzgerald’s quote on my Facebook page when I returned from Italy recently. If my garden is a litmus test of this statement, I’d say the first half of the hypothesis is correct. Azaleas bloomed as they always have this time of year—great splashes of hot pink, coral, and magenta—like a Georgia O’Keefe painting. Live oaks wore pollen “worms”—thousands of tiny yellow ribbons in their hair. Sparrows twittered in the bushes, and the honey fragrance of alyssum permeated the air. Spring had arrived on schedule, even without me here.

But what about the second half of the hypothesis? Has travel changed me? I am cautious by nature, not a risk-taker, not a breaker-of-rules. I color inside the lines, think inside the box…more likely to say “no” than “yes.” I hate flying.

Yet I repeatedly board a vehicle weighing more than 700,000 pounds at take-off and travel at an altitude of 34,000 feet across a body of water approximately 3500 miles wide to experience how people in other countries live. I climbed an ancient Norman tower on the Adriatic coast, even though the sign clearly warned (in English and Italian) not to climb it as there was a chance the rocks would crumble and fall.  On a white water rafting trip, I said “yes” to the invitation to jump from a twenty foot high cliff into the river. In Matera, I ate crapiata, a bowl of legumes and herbs, much tastier than its name suggests. I braved a visit to Naples. I grabbed a pickpocket’s hand from my purse, yelling “hey” in my sternest teacher-voice.

Travel forces me to at least look outside the box and question the rules. It makes me push my limits a bit, stretch my tolerance of things different. I can guarantee I’ll never make the ninety foot dive from a bridge into the sea on the Amalfi Coast. Neither will I eat pigeon in Orvieto or horse rib in Ostuni.  But I do want to hike the Walk of the Gods from Positano to Amalfi town. And  salami and cheese for breakfast now seems as common as bacon and eggs.


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