Yesterday and the day before, I went to the same cafe, around the same time. I liked their atmosphere, the sturdy table, the big open doors and airflow, the people-watching and lack of people bothering me. I liked that people would come and go, but the place was never crowded, never uncomfortable. Here, my brain-hampster is spinning and my creativity is flowing. I’m productive, I’m creative, I’m happy.
So I went to this cafe twice. And yesterday, a lady pointed out that she had also been there the day prior. I laughed at my lack of observation and our coincidentally being here together. We chatted a bit. It turns out she’s also from the GTA and is studying Spanish for a week in Cartagena. I paid my cheque and we joked about seeing each other tomorrow.
Well, tomorrow is here, so when I walked up to the cafe, I smiled and waved, a little chuckle from both of us. She was on her way out, so offered me her (my usual) table and we chatted a little before she went on her way. What a lovely interaction. It’s these experiences I cherish almost (or just?) as much as those travel experiences. These are the authentic experiences. Not authentic in a cultural kind of way. But authentic in the living-a-normal-life kind of way. The experience of becoming a regular at a cafe and having interactions resulting from this normality – that’s something I’d rather have than any expensive, tourist-packed trek.
I had been beating myself up a bit about not wanting to do a lot of touristy stuff right now. I don’t feel much desire to go to the mud volcano or go on a 5-day trek to La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City – Colombia’s Machu Picchu). I’m in this amazing city, but all I want to do is “normal” stuff, like organize the files on my computer, read a book, hang out with the people in my hostel, study those online courses I’ve registered for.
But is there anything wrong with this? “Travel”, for most people, implies a limited time period. It implies that a person will be returning “home” (here are my most recent thoughts on “home”) to a job, to friends and family, to a stable life and a routine of some sort. Perhaps what I’m doing can’t be called travel anymore. For me, I want to live all over the world. I want to call my current place home, and I want to live in it as if it were a “real” home. So, yes, I want to do that trek, and I want to visit that castle, and chat with those locals… but more importantly, I want to do all those things on my to-do list. I want to devote hours upon hours studying an online course. I want to sit in a cafe and people watch. I want to read a book before bed, and play games with friends.
This experience of being a regular has made me a little more comfortable with the way I’m feeling. I’ve always been a slow traveler, but now I’m realizing it’s okay to not want to travel… but rather to live. So that’s what I’ll do.
Perhaps I will do the trek, perhaps I will visit some museums and historical sites, go on tours, and the like. But first and foremost, I am going to live a normal life, doing normal things. Because that’s what I want this to be: normal life.