We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.
As Aria trotted off to the deserted beach, the evening breeze whistled in her ear as if breaking to her its darkest secrets. Sweaty and exhausted from the day’s activity, Aria settled on the cooling sand and felt a surge of emotions in her. She recalled her mother’s words.
“Aria”, she’d said in her motherly voice, “that tiny island is a beauty spot on the face of Earth.”
Since her arrival here three days ago, she had felt that her mother was absolutely right. Far away from the din of the city, here she felt calm and completely secure. She smiled contentedly as the cold water washed over her feet. Eyes closed, she felt for shells in the sand, caught a big one and kept it in her duffel.
“For you, mother.”
Mother. The thought of her mother always made her long for home.
Eyes still closed, Aria tried thinking about the ruins she’d visited earlier in the day.
The size and grandeur of the Dunan ruins had overwhelmed her. It was a hot day and she could tell that very few people were around. The high pitched voices of a few guides here and there and the click of her own sandals and stick on the old gravel floor were the only sounds she heard.
As Aria swept across what was once a grand palace, she absorbed history worth a thousand years. She felt the moist bricks thick with moss and imagined the colours that must have lit up the palace once upon a time.
In her mind’s eye, she saw the giant halls warmed by sunlight flooding through the archaic windows. She imagined the corridors draped in the most exquisite lace and bustling with gallant men and pretty women. She saw the chambers as luxurious, filled with the most exotic items brought in from distant lands.
“What was life like a thousand years ago?” She asked out aloud.
“Tough” came the instant reply.
“Must be one of the guides”, thought Aria. She felt him coming towards her.
“There was constant threat of war. The belligerent tribes of the surrounding areas frequently plundered the scattered towns. The peasants had no protection. Disease was rampant, children seldom survived infancy. There was never enough food.”
He seemed to hesitate a little, but went on anyway.
“Of course, there were calm years. But for a peasant, it meant little or no change. The nobles owned him and they owned the courts. Peasant rights were unheard of. For the poor, it was a rough time to be alive. It was far better for the royals. Hon, are you all by yourself? Do you need any help”
“Um yes. That sure sounds gloomy. Thank you, I’m fine”, she replied and hurried away from the direction of the Guide’s voice. She wasn’t looking for company. Not then.
Now lying on the beach, she felt restless, alone and dejected.
“Even a thousand years ago, life was just as hard, if not harder. Oh Aria, you hopeless romantic…”
Somewhere in the distance, she heard the seagulls squawking, their playful hankering broken only by the sound of waves crashing at the shore. She sat up and breathed in the cold, salty air that smelt of dead fish.
The smell of happiness.
The smell of freedom.
This smell made Aria want to get up and sprint along the shore.
Which is exactly what she did.
As she ran, the wind whipped her body, chilling her to the bone. In her half-hearted attempt to dodge the ocean, she fell right into it. Arms flaying and helpless against the might of the ocean, she felt the salt water stick to the roof of her mouth. With her clothes full of prickly sand and seawater, she clumsily climbed out of the ocean and spit out a mouthful of dry sand.
“That’s awful”, she frowned, half mad at the ocean for having soaked her to the bone.
“O dear Lord, please don’t let me catch a cold.”
Shivering in the cold breeze she realised that the sun has almost gone below the horizon. A satisfied smile swept over her face. She felt her whole body convulse with joy. Or maybe it was the cold wind?
“Never mind the minor casualties. Here’s to another great day”, she sang out loud. Sitting down again, she scrounged the duffel for her slate, stylus and card-stock paper, all the while looking towards the limitless sky. Her journey had just begun.
She moved her bony finger over the hard paper.
What colour is the sky today?
Aria smiled her beautiful smile and began punching the stylus.
“Ah, it’s hard to say. Perhaps a blend of vermillion, blue, yellow and orange? There’s even a hint of fading turquoise, I believe. I like to think that the last of the sun’s blood red rays are shooting out from the crimson horizon. It’s a colour lover’s paradise. It is my paradise”
She threw her stuff into the duffel and shot a last glance in the direction of the drowning sun.
“Next stop, Paris. I can’t wait to feel Le Tour Eiffel.”
Chirping birds, howling wind, rumbling trees and a mind full of a million colours.
That is how this blind vagabond travelled the globe.
One sound, one touch, one memory at a time.
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