You had to be there – Part 5

This weekly market in Aix-en-Provence, France, just down from the corner that amazed me, is a wonder in itself

We have looked at many ways to understand the phrase “You had to be there.” Now, let’s take a look at one final way to understand these five little words and all they contain.

Travel – being there – occurs both externally (what’s going on around us) and internally (what’s going on inside our hearts, minds and spirits).  Think of the external level as the trip itself, our journey to new places. But in some ways, even more important is the internal – how our imaginations come alive in response to that place, which emotions are evoked, what associations we bring that filter how we see.

You may, for example, be playing tourist in some new location. And then voila, you find your pulse quickening, your chest tightening and you realize that either your traveling companion had better know CPR or you’ve just experienced one of those transcendent moments where the world around you stimulates the world within you and you are moved beyond reason.

Some grand vista or the faintest welcoming gesture of a passing local touches you deeply and an explosion goes off inside you. You start looking around to see if anyone caught on video the moment you left your own body.

 I remember standing at a small intersection of cobble-stoned streets in Aix-en-Provence, France simply mesmerized by the scene: ochre-colored walls, shuttered windows, intricately carved doors, ornate balconies and people scurrying about on their way to and from the weekly farmers’ market. The scene matched yet transcended every travel poster I’d ever seen.

But it did something more.

Being there, in that place on a glorious summer day, touched a longing beyond nostalgia or impressions formed by images in travel magazines or on travel websites. Here I encountered a combination of all that so many of us love about travel: the promise of adventure, romance, mystery and exploration.

Yet even more, I literally ached inside from the joy of just being in a place of such beauty while simultaneously knowing I could not remain there, that more lay just around the next corner to be discovered, that odd combination of fullness and incompletion. 

In such places, your inside and outside journeys coalesce. The outer triggers the inner while the inner informs and adds additional delight to all that lies around you.

But you had to be there for those two worlds to meet.


Read all the other parts of this series on You Had to Be There: Part 1, Part 2, Part 2 ½, Part 3 and Part 4.


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