Because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have met the woman with the large telescope in the street one night, selling us a glance at the moon for 50 pesos.
And how far 50 pesos can take you in this town – all the way to the moon, or just a taxi ride up the hill to where my mother used to watch the bullfight.
If I’d stayed home, I wouldn’t have understood why the man in the neon green vest was walking up and down the street banging a pot the other morning, reminding everyone that it was trash day.
Or how when you enter a store, you place your feet in a shallow pan of water before you go in. You’ll be wet, but you’ll be clean.
I wouldn’t have met the hippie dude with the handle bar mustache who makes a huge vat of soup every week – something he started doing during the pandemic when people couldn’t leave their homes because of the three month lock down. If you’re on his WhatsApp list you can tell him how many pints you want, and he’ll deliver it to you if you can’t pick it up. This week its corn chowder.
If I hadn’t said “I’ll do it!” when my friends, Dan and Jenny, asked who wanted to sublet their house here in San Miguel de Allende for 11-weeks, I wouldn’t be waking up to church bells, which wake the roosters, which wake the dogs, which wake up Max, the cat I’m taking care of, and the way she takes a soft paw to my nose every morning to tell me it’s time.
Time to head to La Mancha cafe, where I’ll sit alone at a table with the sun in my face, drinking a cappuccino, listening to Brian Ferry and Roxy music on the cafe radio, watching trucks deliver groceries to the market across the street. Everyone is speaking Spanish.
And then it’s time to take a ride with Jose, the taxi driver, who confesses to no English, and who takes me way up into the hills for my first salsa class. Jose who listens to my bungled Spanish as I explain how even though I grew up learning it in school, I still don’t speak well. “Lo siento mucho,” I say sheepishly, one of the only lines I feel confident saying. “I’m sorry.”
When we get to the top of the hill, I Spanglish my way through, “Es possible you could pick me up en una hora?” and in perfect English, he turns to me, smiles and says, “I think you should walk.”
If I hadn’t left home I wouldn’t know what it’s like to stand in the back of a salsa class full of women, and realize that even if you don’t know what you’re doing, as long as you keep the beat, you can get away with a lot, which feels like a metaphor for my life, and not a bad one either.
And I wouldn’t have noticed that the coffin shop – the one with the baby coffin in the window – is two doors down from the wedding dress shop with it’s great display of poofy white dresses, and how all day long people walk past those two milestones, maybe not even noticing because they’ve got someplace else to go.
And then there was the night I waved away an older Mexican man who came by our dinner table selling flowers. I waved him away without even looking at him because I decided I didn’t want what he was selling, but then I caught a whiff of gardenia, so I turned apologetically and asked for two small bunches, “por favor.” And isn’t it just like that? Just when I think I know what’s happening, I don’t, and I miss so much – like those gardenias I stuck my nose into for days.
If I hadn’t left home, I wouldn’t have remembered how travel super charges your awareness by putting you in new situations that ask you to pay attention and act in new ways. Travel enables you to let go of your routines and rituals, the things you do over and over again at home, and the way you become a little sleepy through sheer repetition, without even knowing it.
Travel asks you to let go of what you’re attached to, and to be more like a sail letting the wind have its way with you, destination a little unknown.
Letting go feels good to this double Taurus. It’s a ridiculous relief to be the worst dancer in salsa class, but to also be having so much fun; my body turning left when the rest of the class is turning right. But hey, I’m paying attention to the beat, and I had to leave home to find it.
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