How many “Big Things” can one really expect to see and experience in the course of travel? Big Things are the major sites and attractions that are featured in tourist brochures, Trip Advisor, Wikipedia… They are the things that friends and family ask about upon our return home. 2 or 3 in a day? 7 or 8 in a week? Certainly not more.
The remainder of time on the road must then be occupied by something, and it occurs to me that they must then be the “Little Things”.
Little Things give context to be big ones. They provide texture and depth… they are the Kodachrome of daily reality that give the color of life to the otherwise black & white starkness of Big Things. They are also the overlooked joys that mindfulness reveals.
A warm shower is something taken for granted at home, but aboard a narrowboat where water conservation is required that shower becomes a celebration that sparks a 10 minute conversation.
A sunrise, a formation of clouds, a sunset. These are the ever changing “art” that hangs upon the endless horizon of our experience.
In the weeks of extended travel we compress a closet full of clothing into a small backpack. A change of socks or a fresh t-shirt bring an appreciative sigh to one’s spirit, not to mention the olfactory senses of self and others!
There are countless things that are taken for granted at home but become little moments of happiness on a journey. They are inadequate if measured against their home equivalents but become huge in the context of travel. Gratitude springs from the Little Things as awareness brings appreciation.
Relationships also come into sharper focus. At home we suffer the distraction and background “noise” of daily life, media, bills, house and myriad other duties. Appreciation for those we love often suffers accordingly. However, in the compressed spaces that we inhabit on the road attention is forced into a refreshed appreciation for the qualities of our life partner and for the absent loved ones who we miss.
The friendships that we share with our travel companions are not an occasional evening out, but are minute by minute experiences.
In 2001 a chance encounter at a restaurant in southern France brought our daughter Alexis into acquaintance with Huw and Nina Thomas of Wales. From that 20 minute conversation sprang a friendship that continues to this day. They have are like family to us.
In 2013 while Christine and I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain we were passed afoot by another “pilgrim”. Peeking out from a recess on her backpack was a small stuffed bunny. That sight brought a smile to my face and sparked my greeting to the pilgrim. She was from Denver Colorado and the “bunny’s” name was Marshmallow. Conversation ensued, she offered to take a picture of Christine and I together, and what sprang from that insignificant moment was our enduring friendship with Kris Ashton.
In 2018 while we walked the Portuguese Camino a gentleman commented upon the hat that I was wearing. It was a “Tilly Hat”, made by a small firm in Canada and well regarded for sailing and travel. He commented, “Nice hat!”. I turned to see that he too was wearing a “Tilly”. Pleasant banter ensued which quickly included our spouses. They were from Ottawa Canada and the friendship that sprang from those hats brought Tom and Nanci to share this week with us aboard Salten-Fjord. How different life became because of a stuffed bunny and a couple of wide-brimmed hats.
Our “stories” abound with moments that seemed small and meaningless, but in the rear view mirror of time they loom large as the major crossroads in our life journey. One such moment brought Christine and I together. That “Little Thing” became the biggest thing in my life.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. Sometimes the “little things” come as sample sized glasses of really excellent British cask ales!