It was hot and dusty and it would be easy to argue that there was nothing to see. I was OK with that. Nothing to see is one of my favourite sights.
The walk was listed as a hike through Tanzania’s Usambara Mountains. And I suppose in a technical sense, it was, as we were in the heart of mountainous terrain. But it wasn’t a hike so much as it was a stroll along a hard-packed dirt road. We went past schoolyards full of kids in uniform and hair salons and tiny snack shops. Sometimes I could look down into a little plot of land that had been terraced and farmed, sometimes there was a goat tied to a tree, sometimes women were chatting on a front porch and waved when they saw this group of obvious foreigners wandering past their front porches. We waved back, of course.
Another trip, another time. We skipped the motorcycle ride and walked into the maze of the Chau Doc market in Vietnam. The smell was intense. A man leaned a blue bucket toward my husband and said, “Mister, you buy?” We looked in and then, all of us laughed, the vendor knew we wouldn’t have any interest in his pigs feet. Or much of what was on offer at this decidedly not touristy market. Wilting in the heat, we sat on a curb watching a woman who was doing a lively business selling sugar cane juice from her cart before wandering to our hotel in no hurry at all.
The streets of Santiago, Chile. A great arcaded walkway lined with fortune tellers, all of them women. And little courtyards, everywhere, some bright with bougainvillea flowers, some lined with columns, and checkerboard-patterned walkways around square plazas with fountains in the middle. Then, seeking lunch, the restaurant with the longest line out front. Surely that must be the place.
These accidents of observation, of interaction, are best made on foot. I love the blur of landscape out the window of a moving vehicle, but little familiarities happen at a much slower pace. The sidewalk — or dirt road — becomes a neighbourhood when you walk, when there is time to notice the details, or for someone to have a good-natured laugh at your expense.
There’s lots of science about how walking is good for your brain, how it staves off aging, improves your memory, and may even help your brain grow. That’s great, but in my travels, the experiences alone are benefit enough. That’s why — especially after a long day of driving — I’ll opt out of group activities and take a stroll instead. I’m not looking for anything in particular; I’m just looking. If I’m really committed, I’ll intentionally leave my camera behind, letting my feet find their own travel memories.
San Cristobal, Mexico, after a pouring rain, walking back from dinner. I stopped in the supermarket to buy pastry for breakfast as my flight was early the next day. Then I wandered the arcaded plazas, twinkling lights reflected on the wet stone walkways. A cluster of kids around a television propped up on a wicker chair just outside a café door. Mystical gods gazing over all of it from the facade of the church. Me, earthbound, my shoes wet, and not even a little bit sorry about the quiet walk back to my hotel.
G Adventures runs a number of departures encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.