‘Travel’ derives from the Old French word ‘travail’ which means work. This in turn apparently goes back to the Latin word ‘tripalium’ which was a three-legged sort of whip used by the Romans to drive slaves. Being on the move was work, walking miles and miles to get from A to B, getting dirty and sweaty in the process.
No modern-day traveler is required to submit himself to torture, but a little bit of ‘travail’ by exploring our destinations on foot, as opposed to hopping on a tour bus and letting yourself be guided to pre-selected destinations, goes a long way to increasing the pleasure of travel. We travel to satisfy our curiosity and to discover the real side of the country of our choice. If we don’t put in a bit of legwork we will miss out on all of the following:
She continued to explain that said Marias had been three sisters who, during the times of Franco, had suffered serious hardship. Bound on pulling themselves out of misery, they began to design and sew their own clothes and, every day at the dot of 3pm, set out on a walk around the city center, modeling their clothes and, as they had a lot of wit and a sharp tongue, flirting with the students and providing entertainment for an entire city during dreary times. After their death, a statue was erected in their honor and Galician poets even dedicated poems to them. No guidebook mentions this story, which I would not have discovered without taking to the street.
Our cruise ship had just docked in Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. I saw that the town center was approximately 2 miles away and decided to walk along the ocean front up to the 99 steps which I wanted to visit. My fellow passengers were not inclined to follow my example and headed for the buses and taxis. “Two miles,” one gentleman huffed, “you can’t walk that!!” No? I thought to myself. Watch me.
Charlotte Amalie is a small town and the roads are not equipped to accommodate the sudden influx of thousands and thousands of cruise ship passengers, all arriving at once and all headed for the same direction. Result: they got stuck in a traffic jam and looked slightly miffed when I overtook them on foot, happily waving at some very long faces. Moreover, I arrived at the 99 steps and the World Amber Museum well ahead of the crowd and had the place to myself.
I was richly rewarded for this in Kusadasi, a lovely Turkish port town on the Aegean Sea. Discarding the more elegant places, I opted for a small, half-open place called “Toro” where I saw a lot of Turkish businessmen having their lunch. It had long communal tables and benches and an open hot and cold buffet where you just pointed at what you wanted. Or you could ask for fish and then sit down by the waterfront and watch fisherman pulling out what you were about to eat a few minutes later. The lamb shanks I had were so tender that I didn’t need a knife and a rich fruit platter came as free desert. The total bill was a lot cheaper than anywhere else, because if not, the locals would have protested.
Again in St. Thomas, I saw the Skyride, a cable car going up and down Flag Hill to Paradise Point. I admit, I took it up, but when I discovered a path leading down, I decided to follow it. My first companion was a bright red butterfly which settled on my shoulder and stayed with me all the way. I saw colorful birds and lizards scuttling out of the way and enjoyed wonderful views of the island and the ocean peeking through the trees. Best of all, I was all alone.