Bonjour from Montreal, Canada.
We have done a lot of walking while here in Montreal. And even our visit to the nearby Granby Zoo had us walking several miles to view all the animals. Bringing the right shoes helped a lot but I found having a good mind set to be just as valuable. As I move among the crowds here, whether it be in the metro or on the street, I find myself easily lost in thought rather than mindful and present. I notice how so much around us is about food and body image — restaurants, advertisements, weight loss promotions, fashion, ice cream for sale on every street, along with coffee shops and clothes stores. I catch myself caught up in how others are dressed. I am not certain if it is the heat or the city — women of all ages and shapes wear clothes that reveal soft bellies, lose breasts and tops of thighs. I feel a discomfort in my own body as I walk among strangers who don’t really care if I am a size 2 or 16.
I noticed how tight I am in my body, uncomfortable in the knowing that I am not the size and shape I once was, or could be.
Then I asked myself, “Is this how I want to travel?” Is this how I want to experience this moment? Since I am always traveling — always a visitor (it may be a visit of 40 more years but a visitor nevertheless), what do I want to do with this precious time?
I remember now that it is not so much where I am traveling but the shoes I am wearing and the “luggage” I am carrying around in my mind. Instead of carrying around judgment about mine or other’s body, or about what my next meal will be, or dissatisfaction with myself — I decide to empty out the contents of this “suitcase” and let some air in.
I take a deep breath and realize that all this mind stuff is a veil in front of reality — of all the diverse beauty that is for me to feast on, in this moment. That at age 53 my belly can be on the softer side. That there is a feast for the eyes, ears and nose to behold each moment. And that it is a waste of my energy to be caught up in how I may appear to others. I realize that the true feast is whatever the present moment has to offer. And to be a good traveler means to participate in each moment. When I let go all the extra mental luggage — of how I should be, the what ifs,- – I find myself able to enjoy and participate in whatever the moment has to offer — be it a noisy city meal at a street cafe or a walk the prairie at home.
In the Ancient Chinese oracle of The I Ching it reminds us that we are all just travelers here — and to practice this mindset as we move through our day. Even though it is just another Monday and the routine is pretty much set out for you — what you carry in your mind will determine the experience for the day. Pretend you too are visiting a country where everything is new. As I go out into Montreal today (we are visiting the Biosphere and Old Montreal) I will appreciate the newness around me. I will leave behind the weight of heavy thoughts and enjoy what will surprise me today — a new sight, a fresh taste, and an unknown word. I will experience the city through the mind and eyes of my daughter, who left her suitcase at the station and travels very light. She is always ready for the next adventure.
For today and this week, let’s all be like travelers in a strange land. Pretend each person you see you are meeting for the first time. Each meal is new (order something you haven’t off the menu or pack a picnic lunch and eat out on the grass), take the long route home, hear the sounds around you as if for the first time. See your loved one fresh. Eat your meal slow so as to remember each flavor. Look up and out the window at the new sight. Take the time to write in your traveling journal. Explore a different route home, wish the stranger on the bus or in the lunch line a good day, notice something new.
Make sure to wear your walking shoes and take your journal with you.
Traveling Journal Entry for 8/22/08
We are into our 2nd day and it is hot. Took the bus and the metro (underground rail). Lydia was more interested in the city squirrels, the greedy seagull and a few ravens when we got to the park that overlooked the city. We traveled to the open market and got some spicy olive oil from Little Italy. The truth, the city is intense and hot and well, dirty. There are a lot of polite beggars with their empty cups. They don’t hassle you they just silently remind you they are here too. Lydia placed a two dollar coin in into the beggars bowl that was a dog’s water bowl. This beggar and his black lab sat in front of the pet store that had a $700.00 puppy for sale inside. Lydia had us visit the puppy twice.
Across the street from our $130.00 a night B&B is a center for the poor. They give them lunch. We have our car parked in there lot for a minimal fee.
The truth is we couldn’t find the french restaurant that lets you bring in your own wine. Our feet sore and heads loaded with city we returned home with a bottle of red wine in a brown bag. Tired and hungry. The woman who made the reservation for me was upset — now the restaurant wouldn’t trust her next time she made a reservation for a guest. But we got lost. We did walk by a restaurant that was empty except for the three waiters dressed in white and black. I didn’t want to go in if that was the one and be the only customer.
So we went out to the local bakery and deli and bought herb potatoes, brie, 2 loafs of bread, butter, liver pate and two personal deserts — for me a lemon torte, for Lydia a double chocolate torte with a center of carmel. We stopped by the nearby market and got her two grape spritzers. Fortunately the wine opener sat displayed in the kitchen to be borrowed for the red wine.
We went up to our room. I took the sarong that my friend Michele gave me a couple birthdays ago for our indoor picnic and spread it out on our bed. On it we put our traveling feast. Our French cuisine. And we drank and eat and laughed and caught up with ourselves.
You can get lost here in the moving traffic, the city noise, the shops and the endless stream of faces, all foreign.
The heat of the city and its intensity makes beggars of us all.