Have you ever met someone really awesome, had a great conversation with them for hours, discovered several things in common, maybe even to the point where you’re thinking “Where has this person been all my life????”…and then parted ways without exchanging any phone, email or social media info? CRAZY. It’s a romantic concept, and not one I like very much.
As one who prefers either extreme of being attached or not, it’s interesting to be in a space where people–really interesting, awesome and inspiring people–come in and out. Great conversation–okay bye.
This was what my first experience staying at a hostel was like when I went on my weekend excursion to Rio de Janeiro. I met some wonderful people with different motivations and reasons for being there, and with different goals to meet. I found myself mentally collecting these stories and storing them in my heart. My hunger for more conversation, much to the irritation of my travel partners, grew with each conversation.
My defense: this is how I connect with where I am. For me, it’s not the picture-taking or the formal city tours, and it’s especially not being engrossed in social media, that makes a place or makes traveling. I’ve said this before. For me, it’s the conversation with any and every one. It’s the people who make a place come alive. People give meaning to the building, to the beach, to the street and to the party.
It was for this reason that I decided to extend my trip an extra day. I knew what I wanted. Needed. And I got it.
I spent my last day getting thoroughly lost in downtown Rio, watching all sorts of people go about their day in a hustle and bustle. After that, I found myself at a beach quieter than Ipanema or Copacabana called Praia do Flamengo. In my search for a caipirinha with which I could while away the hours contemplating the special beauty and grime of the city, I fell into conversation with the owners of the beach bar. I ended up kicking it there for hours and hours, learning things from them, and sharing my own story. It really was the very definition of cultural exchange and one of the many highlights of my trip where I felt like I was discovering the heart of Rio.
Of course, I exchanged contact info with them, and I intend to return and kick it with them sometime soon. They really do have the best caipirinhas!
But, there are other wonderful people that I met with whom I didn’t exchange info, and I really wish I did. A new friend who was staying at our hostel mentioned to me that the beauty of a chance meeting can never be tainted because the contact ends with that moment. In his view, the beauty of a conversation, a kiss, or a touch, is forever preserved because it can never be spoiled by another meeting.
I see his point. Perhaps it takes some level of maturity to fully believe that, because if I experience something beautiful, I want to hold on to it forever and delve deeper.
This kind of travel, it seems, is a different kind of being permanently in transition. It is beautifully, dramatically and tragically temporary. So beautiful, and it hurts just as much.