I've lived a fine life. When I was 16, as many young American Hebrews do, I took a trip to Israel to explore the motherland and deepen my connection to the religion. For me it worked in the other direction. I saw so many secular Israelis, seemingly fulfilling the Zionist mission, yet absent of piety and reverence. They just were. People connected to their history but not wrapped up in god or dogma. I never looked back. Then came college. Somehow, I cannot recall how I wound up doing my final year abroad in Italy. Seriously, I don't know what led me to this decision. I knew nothing abut the place, had no connection (other than my mother's half-Italian heritage, which merely meant good spaghetti and meatballs in our house). But there I was, deep in the experience of learning Italian history, culture, language, art, archaeology... I never looked back.
After I graduated college my first and only job was in the travel industry. I stumbled upon it while looking for anything I could do after moving to Boulder, Colorado on a whim. I was planning to study nautical archaeology at CU, as there was a professor who focused on Roman ports in Israel, the perfect marriage of my passions. To pay the bills, I took a position with a tour company specializing in adventures in Southeast Asia. I was a Mac guy that could work magic on their Filemaker database. Soon I was spending months a year in Asia building their sales division and becoming a noted expert on travel in Asia. I never looked back.
I'm fortunate to say that travel is my greatest passion that I've continually fulfilled. It's my familiar. I slip it on easily. Throughout the ups and downs of life, I always seek to create new experiences by discovering new lands. In fact, I really live for the next trip. No matter what I'm doing, I want to know that I have two or three weeks in the not so distant future that will recharge my batteries. It the only way I know how to accept and manage the doldrums of normal life (ok, it's not so bad, really...but you get the point).
Now, on the road in Argentina, discovering a new place, yet again, with a life very different than my last trip to Spain in 2010 and Greece in 2009, I've noticed a trend. First, it doesn't matter where life has taken us, when we travel we reconnect with ourselves. Without the pressures of our daily grind, the expectations we set for ourselves, the routine...it's easier to get to the root and be present. Moreover, when we experience another culture a traveler will relinquish his predisposition, ignorance and fears and become more receptive to what the universe offers. We let go a little easier, we experience a little deeper.
On this trip I've already found a deep connection to Argentina. I know it, even after just a few days. The formula adds up - they have the secret sauce. It's not hard for my readers to see that my favorite places in the world are Thailand and Italy. I speak both languages passably and have returned time and again, something I haven't done in many of the other lands I've visited. When I look at the commonalities between the places, and now add Argentina to the mix, there is a pattern: I like places that have a broad geographical diversity, Thailand's north and south couldn't be more different. Italy's have practically seceded from each other. Argentina has Patagonia and wine country and Buenos Aires and more. There's a casual elegance about everything here. Its not Europe, but it's got the same charm. Then there are the people, friendly and welcoming all across the board. In each of these places you really feel like you can get a sense of their true experience. They welcome you to participate.
But most importantly, and I wouldn't be the Zealot if it weren't so, each country reigns supreme on their continent for food. Sure, you can argue that Vietnamese is better than Thai or French is superior to Italian or the Brazilians or Chileans outdo the Argentines. But this is my blog and I'm the one ranting. So, I'll say it. Thai, Italian and Argentine food sensibilities speak to me and I consider them the best. I dream of Thai noodles and curries. I lust after handmade pasta and regional Italian cuisine. And so far, I'm quite impressed with Argentine seafood, empanadas and of course the beef. I'm looking forward to two more weeks of exploration.
I love that there are common threads in these places. I am glad to be uncovering this secret sauce of my own. I'm positively certain we all have our own secret sauces. It helps me to understand me a little better. It gives me joy to have places that I can return and feel at home, so far away, yet so familiar. I'm loving being present. And, I'll never look back...