I’ll never forget my first time strolling around the Louvre at night when I realized the man I thought was admiring the beautifully lit up statue was actually publicly masturbating. Or when I was standing outside the impressive Sagrada Familia at 7 a.m. passionately arguing with my then significant other as the sun came up the morning after our rental car got towed.
Or when a bird pooped ALL over my jacket in front of an entire tour of people at Westminster Abbey. Those certainly were moments I’ll always remember. And you know what? I’ll remember these moments lovingly and laughing. Because, wow (!), those moments were REAL and absurd and hilarious. I might as well laugh and embrace these moments as undoubtedly mine.
Honestly, a lot of the time I feel lucky that my travels are like the movies and postcards promise. I’ve felt infinite under the Eiffel Tower right when the lights started twinkling. I’ve watched the sun come up over the Royal Palace after a night turned morning of dancing in Madrid. I’ve blushed as an opera singer serenaded me in Italian to a crowd in Rome. And trust me, I LOVED those moments so much.
But the other ones, the absolutely not in any guidebook, completely ridiculous, perfectly imperfect ones? A part of me can’t help but remember them just as lovingly, if not more. When I look back on my life I want to know that I didn’t just do and see and eat everything – I want to know that I FELT everything too. Even if sometimes it seems a little crazy or vulgar or inconvenient at the time.
A long time ago I learned a little about “wabi-sabi” (not to be confused with wasabi) and it really stuck with me. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept all about accepting the imperfect and transient. It teaches about flawed beauty and finding the beauty within flaws. It tells us to view something that is less valued because of its “imperfections” as pricelessly unique. I love this teaching so much and think about it a lot. It seems to me like such a wonderful way to travel the world but also to travel through my life.
When something is going “wrong” or less than picture perfect, I tend to smile to myself a bit, knowing that this must be the wabi-sabi of my life. And that in this moment, I’m getting to experience some special new aspect of life that I didn’t know before. And that in itself is beautiful even if the moment seems awful. Those moments are what make my travels MY travels, my life MY life. Those are the silly stories I will retell laughing as a little old lady, hopefully after living a life that is truly worn in and stretched out and experienced into the corners and far edges of my soul.
To be alive is to be imperfect and I want my life to be whole-heartedly alive.
(Even if sometimes that includes a little bird poop.)