The tourist or the traveller. The onlooker or the connecter. Touring is seeing things from the outside. A big double decker red bus to take you past Big Ben and the London Bridge. Take a picture, tick another thing off the list. Sometimes even underwhelmed because of all the hype. A portrait of you (and 35 other people) in front of Buckingham Palace.
Travelling is experiential.
While touring is really fun, what I’d trade it for in a heart beat is relationship. In order to get “inside” a country you need to connect with its people. People are what make me come alive, and who would have thought that a family I hadn’t seen for nine years (and had only known five days before being apart almost a decade) would touch my heart so much in the span of an afternoon.
If all you’ve ever done is see the sights, and not taken the time to engage with the people, you’re missing out on the best part of travel.
Because people take a little piece of you, and they give a piece in return. Not even the top attraction can do that. It’s amazing to find that sitting on the train back to London I’m thinking more about the contents of a poem written and published by a little girl in Grade 4 than all the sights I saw yesterday.
It doesn’t take long, but extraordinary people can touch your heart in the briefest time together. Whether it’s having tea and cake at a strawberry cafe or having to go to the bathroom in the forest on the way to visit Roald Dahl’s grave (England, what do you have against bathrooms?) or strolling along a village street in the rain with a dripping dog that currently looks like a (cute) rat and smells wet, it all counts.
There’s nothing wrong with double decker buses, or walking tours or theme parks. They’re all lovely. But tomorrow, next month, they are gone. People crowd into your heart, in ones and twos, to stay, and to keep it warm. They line the walls to make us strong, and soft, just as we should be.