We often focus on the now, and so we should endeavour, but I’m also fascinated by the afterglow. We hold in our hearts those embers of memory, people and place, sense and sensation and times lost awash in an ocean of experience to rest on the shore of your always memory.
Once the white hot experience fades you’re left with the glow. They warm us in the cold and dark. We remember places and people far off in time. And isn’t it while we travel? To collect those precious moments. To experience? Much has been written about the white hot now but today I’ll write about the afterglow.
There’s no filing system. A scent or sight can breathe a little light into them and cause us to remember. Maybe a photo ignites a spark of memory. Maybe the woven threads of conversations can lead winding back to through time and space. They come at random. A heart collection of places glowing like stars. Those embers I’ll write of today.
It’s why we travel. It’s why we live. To be. To experience.
“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”Sea Fever by John Masefield
The ocean harbour wall hugs like two arms embracing the town in the dying light. The boat for the sunset tour bobs in the water. There’s something that draws me to any body of water from lazy rivers to roaring endless shushing oceans. Get me by the water or into a boat and this is my happy time.
Whitby is a small town in North Yorkshire. I’ve been here for a week and the last day I decide to go on a sunset cruise. We will chase the sun. A small boat waits for me, bobbing, at the foot of some worn stone steps.
The boat battles waves as it chugs out into the ocean beyond the stone hug and into the North Sea. It’s much choppier than I expected. We chase the falling star, already swollen orange, as it falls towards the horizon,
The stone houses of Witby shrink and vanish as the light fades to fireside tones of ochre and amber. A cold wind, tasted salt laden on the lips, fresh touched on the skin, whips around our vessel now alone in the sea.
The engines die to silence as we all watch the magic of a star falling. The sun paints the ocean waves brilliant red and gold. The boat rocks to the songs of the waves hull dancing. Just before it sinks, the sun winks brightly on the edge of the world. as it’s caught for a moment between existence and oblivion. One last bright star kiss and then it’s gone.
There’s something so simple, pure, beautiful, and magical about watching the sun descend into the deeps.
“Tokyo was an origami city folded over and over until something was made of virtually nothing.”Christopher Barzek
Life is rarely as colourfully painted as our dreams that in broad strokes paint an impossible picture free of imperfections. Our dreams fuelled by the romance of fictions read and imagined. Places rarely match or meet or expectations. Not to say that they are worse. In fact, I think the reality often exceeds in its own ways but just differently..
But Japan is the exception to the rule. It’s everything I expected it to be. It looks just like an anime. It looks just like a manga. It looks just like my dreams said it would and I can’t help but be overwhelmingly charmed by this place.
This is my first night in Tokyo and although I’m jet lagged but need to explore, My bag is left unpacked, I head without intention into the dark Tokyo streets. Every fibre of my body begs for sleep but I fight back and force myself onwards through the thick sluggish air into streets lined with bicycles and hanging lanterns.
Each street seems all to eager to give a new wonder. A temple hidden shyly between two buildings. An Izakaya brimming with boisterous banter spilling out of the buttery lit lighted doorway into the darkness. Candy colour vending machines of tempting treats waiting in rows. A tucked away shrine almost hidden from view. A building covered tip to top in lit lanterns.
I stumble almost literally and figuratively onto a small crowd gathered around a place selling food. The rule is to always follow scent and a crowd to good food, right?
Row upon row of bread crumbed goodies glisten under a white light. Fresh from a fryer. I’ve no idea what they are. I some how, nervously, with a little bad Japanese I picked up, order some.
Beyond the crispy panko breaded coating lies the silkiest smooth creamy bechamel studded with meats. It stuns me into happy munching silence. I order more and devour them hungrily with absolute pleasure.
Sleep finally wears me down and I’m forced back to the hostel but it’s been a wonderful first few hours in Tokyo where my dreams lived up to my expectations and the food went beyond.
“Y si no te escucho”Grita, Jarabe de Palo
I’ve always loved flying. Magic and wonder have become ubiquitous. I managed to hold on to the wonder of flight. Gliding through kingdoms of fluffy clouds on silvered wings is magic.
I have two favourite parts. The first is the take off. Your trip has truly begun. You buckle up for adventure. The wheels spin as you’re propelled forward ever faster on this rolling run up before being pushed back into the seat. You feel the plan leap into the air to touch the sky. The land falls away. I love this sensation!
The second favourite part is nearing the destination. That sense of anticipation soars as the plane descends. The plane glides downward. The wheels ready with a whirr. Suddenly all in a rush, you find yourself in an entirely new place.
I’m here again. Home from home. Valencia waits in faded glory and heat hazed washed roads scented with garlic. My friend waits beyond the gates. It’s all in the unravel. Days of adventures await us. Palm trees pass us. Jarabe de palo plays on the radio, “soy completo incompeto.” Those sunbleached days are still in here with me in the afterglow. Jarabe de palo still sings. The days never end. Siempre mi alma. Siempre. Here in the afterglow.
“Tasting Thai food for the first time: “It was like discovering a colour I never knew existed before. A whole new crayon box full of colours.”Anthony Bourdain
I blink into the sun as the doors of the airport shush open. Waves of heat roll over me and almost stop me in my tracks. The second thing that hits me is the scent of the city: heat, food, and concrete.
I catch a taxi into town. My first experience of Bangkok is heat and chaos from the window of a taxi. faded buildings and honking horns. Power cables draped across the streets. A collision of old and new. The faded and the shiny. The relentless heat.
After putting my bags away I head out to find food. I wander in the dark hoping to find an oasis of scented light. Luckily just a few minutes from my hotel I find what I am looking for.
Piano notes hit the air like raindrops with each note clear and distinct in the heated dark. The restaurant lit brightly and already deliciously scenting the night. The riverside restaurant welcomes my lost, weary, and hungry self. I am seated near the water.
As the piano plays and the water murmurs as I taste my first Thai food. While the sun sets in pastel pinks I eat beef tom yum. Fragrant rich sour broth brimming with coriander.. There’s cheesecake to follow and a shot of something.
Bathed in the setting sun by the water edge, this is impossibly romantic. As an introvert I have no problem with solo travel and enjoy it. But here in this romantic place I suddenly wish I had somebody to share it with. Suddenly I want to reach across the table and find other fingers or to talk into the night about the beauty of the sunset.
I walk back slowly to the hotel full of food and dreams of what might be.
I’ll end with one of my favourite quotes by one of my favourite writers, Ernest Hemingway.
Life should be an adventure. We should embrace it. We should be prepared to risk it. We should push off from familiar shores and seek wonder and love and beauty and magic and come back again. We come back with memories that will live with us forever, change us a little, and keep our soul warm in the afterglow.
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Thank you for your time and I hope to see you again soon with another belly post… Unless I procrastinate…. which I might. I’ll think about it. Tomorrow.