Okay. I know that it’s been all quiet on The Y Variable front as of late. I have a decently good excuse though for my silence on the blog. I was on work-related travel, so it was an intense few weeks, meaning many things outside of that sphere may have slipped. I hope I will be forgiven. 🙂
But I’m back now and in a decidedly reflective mood after having had the opportunity to get away, especially after months of a seemingly endless Canadian winter that is far from abating. The trip was an opportunity to get a sneak peak at the spring that currently eludes us and to revel in my temporary life in some other cities. In my other existence, I was becoming proficient in ‘big city’ life, navigating trains, the metro and the Underground like a pro – well, trying my best anyway to fit seamlessly with the locals – and luxuriating in the energy one finds in the ebb and flow of crowds that I ordinarily disdain. For some reason, crowds ‘elsewhere’ are welcome, more interesting, meriting a longer gaze, and more analysis from my foreign eyes.
One of the more interesting aspects of travel is seeing how other societies construct their cities. The shape of a city – its roads, buildings, walkways and pathways – all signal what a people consider essential to their way of life. The shape of a city – both its physical and cultural sides – also demonstrates that society’s core values. Is it a biking city – with plenty of bike lanes or bikes for rent? Is it a driving city or a city where metro is paramount? Are there are as many recycling bins as garbage bins? Is the cultural scene vibrant – with festivals galore and access at one’s fingertips to theatre, galleries, or street art? All of these characteristics drive how citizens will design their own lives and creates a remarkable push/pull effect. A city’s form will attract some, creating a unique devotion to that location, but will deter others, causing them to pick up and leave for a locale more in line with their personal philosophies or individual drumbeats.
I always enjoy a good walk in a new city. There’s a particular joy that comes from exploring an unknown place; where being a little bit or very lost is more than okay because what you may find around the corner could be better than anything you may have planned or set out to see. On those walks, especially when on my own, I imagine what it would be like to live in that city that I’m coming to love even more. Am I seeing only a veneer? Do the tourist goggles cloud my vision? Perhaps life in that city isn’t as great as it may be in my mind’s eye? I doubt it, however.
Of course, an escape to another city, whether for business or for relaxation, must always come to an end. The passport has to come out again, that marker of otherness, permitted officially to visit, but signalling that your stay is only temporary and that you don’t fully belong.
On my return to a home still covered with ice and snow I try my best to carry that ‘travel status’ life with me and integrate those things I loved in my life here. And as the snow falls and as I hear neighbours shovelling their driveways for the umpteenth time this season, I think of my time away and the pleasure I found being elsewhere.