The art of traveling that I have learned

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – March 31, 2019 – 12:00am

We were the world and the love that was everywhere was coming from us and spreading to every space. It was a blessed moment.

I have been traveling or 16 days now. I have been on the road with nine women who are all past 60 years old. My sister-in-law Rosanne had invited Lydia on this tour. Lydia had been convincing me to go. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy being with nine other women but I finally said yes about three months ago. I was the last to sign up. Actually, I am quite glad I did. It is fun to travel with women who have strong caring instincts. Often, I feel that they are looking out for me.

The first leg of this travel was eight days in Portugal, a beautiful country — very picturesque, quite affordable with very nice people and tons of history. The 10 of us arrived in Lisbon and wasted no time enjoying the food, the sights, and going around for two days even before the tour we signed up for started.

When the tour formally started, we all hopped on a bus, this time with other tourists from South Africa, the US, Ukraine, etc. and visited many cities like Porto, Viseu, Belmonte, Evora, and many others. We spent a lot of time visiting chapels, churches, Basilicas, fortresses, museums, shops, universities, wineries, monuments, while enjoying sunny Portugal’s great weather. Our seasoned tour guide, Pedro Graca, a native of Portugal, proudly introduced us to the many wonderful things that his country can offer.

I’ve always loved history. As a Filipino, I knew a little about Spanish history and how we were colonized. And it was so fascinating to hear and see how this Portugal, which was once a great superpower that rivaled Spain, went through its own history.

Most amazing of all was knowing about Portugal’s heroes like Vasco De Gama, their kings, poets and writers from past centuries and how they are still so relevant and much part of their society today.

I have made a promise to myself to visit Portugal again and stay longer.

Cyril Marc Erica, the author Jim Paredes, Ananda and Lydia
I am in Paris as I write this. I have been here before. I spent Christmas here in 2017 to visit my daughter Erica and my grandchild Ananda.

Paris is a very charming city. One can say that it is one of Europe’s most beautiful, scintillating and exciting destinations. No wonder so many people love Paris. Paris is a world center. If anything is happening here in the arts, fashion, the world of ideas and politics, it affects the rest of Europe and perhaps the world.

Today, I watched the Van Gogh presentation at D’Atelier D’Lumiere. It was an immersive experience of Van Gogh’s paintings projected in many huge walls and even the floor. The paintings projected everywhere moved, blended and bled into each other. Truly mesmerizing. The audience was part of it. I would say it was the best thing I have seen on this trip so far.

After the exhibit, we ate at Robuchon, a famous one-star Michelin restaurant that my daughter Erica trained in as a chef after her stint at Cordon Bleu. It is the second time I have eaten there. The appetizer (amuse bouche) was made of foie gras, and some other ingredients put into a very small glass. It is meant to excite the palate before the entrees are served. To put it mildly, it was spectacular.

It left us talking about how wonderful it was for the next 10 minutes. Robuchon is an expensive place to eat. But if you want the true French experience in dining, you must eat in all kinds of restaurants from the cheap to the expensive to savor a good representation of French cuisine.

I am quite amazed how my apo Ananda can now speak fluent French after 10 months of classes. I heard her in conversation and she seemed quite eloquent. Her pronunciation and vocabulary are pretty good, according to Cyrille, Erica’s partner. She will be transferring to a regular school soon. Am happy that she has adjusted quite well.

During travels, I find myself being both a participant and spectator at the same time. As participant, I get into the food, enjoy the sights, the experience. I soak in as much as I can. As a spectator, I try to analyze and look for commonalities with my own background and culture.

Sometimes, I go way more than that.

Lydia Paredes, Lorna Ejercito, Tita Villanueva, Kathy Burke Millie and Doris Ozaeta, Maricar Sobrepena, Malen Carlos (not in photo) — my female co-travelers
A while ago as I waited in line to get into the Van Gogh exposition, I felt surrounded by “foreigness” everywhere. I was actually not uneasy. I just noticed how much diversity there was. There were people of different colors, nationalities, ethnicities who spoke languages from everywhere. I marveled at how colorful humanity is and how easily everyone can now experience cultures beyond their specific origins. As much as there was diversity, there were also a lot of shared commonalities like art, food, fashion, music, etc.

I noticed an American family beside me in line comprised of a dad, a mom, a daughter and a special child who was in a big stroller. I noticed how lovingly the family attended to the young boy who was in quite good spirits. He smiled a lot at me.

I suddenly had an epiphany. I was moved at how this family loved the special child so much. I was getting quite emotional at how much they affectionately attended to him. Then something suddenly crept all over me. It permeated my whole being. From the boy’s smile, I felt love emanating that seemed to fill the whole space we shared. I was touched to the core. It was such a great Zen moment. I felt that at that instant, our individual origins did not seem to matter.

We were humans that became indistinguishable from each other. We were the world and the love that was everywhere was coming from us and spreading to every space. It was a blessed moment. It seemed like time stood still. I took it all in. I know I was awake because I still felt the pain on m legs caused by days of walking. Everything around me, every feeling, including the physical pain there but wrapped in love.

I smiled and thanked God for that moment.

I still have a few days here before I head home. There is still so much to see and experience. But I do not feel frantic or anything. What you can experience depends so much on the state of conscious awareness you can muster.

You can be in the most beautiful places in the world and still have a lousy time if you can’t take it in with the right attitude. By the same token, awareness can make the most mundane places an extraordinary experience if you pay full attention to them and how you are processing everything. Like everything of value in life, there is an art to it that one must learn.

I am glad that I have learned enough about the art of traveling and I am enjoying it now more than ever.

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