You Have To Work At Wonder

Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

I don’t know how I didn’t walk into more people or buildings as I wandered around the streets of Prague with my eyes toward the sky, oblivious to my surroundings.

The old city and nearby metro areas are like a throw-back to another time. Huge stone buildings overwhelm narrow cobblestone streets and people bustle by you speaking any number of random languages to their companions or into a Bluetooth earpiece. A perfect collision of years past with modern realities.

Especially for me. It was my first time in Europe.

As I walked with my group of friends, hustling to dinner, we turned a corner and stumbled onto what appeared to be a castle in the Old Town Square lit up in the dark Prague sky. I stopped cold and took in the scene around me.

Beauty like that should give you pause.

Eager to get to food and more budget-priced Czech beer after a long day of travel, the group was on and walking before I could pick my chin up off the ground and close my mouth. Scampering after them I babbled on like a four-year old at a Pixar movie. “Guys, did you see that? It was a castle. Like an actual castle. It was so beautiful. We moved so fast…honestly…you must not have seen it. How did you miss an actual castle? Seriously. IT’S A CASTLE! Europe is so fucking awesome.”

One of my good friends smiled kindly at me and mused “I think I have been traveling too long. Things like that just don’t affect me anymore.”

How sad, to have been traveling so long that you no longer can stop to drink up a moment of beauty. To grin for a second at a scene that touches you. To abandon yourself to the sense of wonder that courses throughout the world.

In that moment, for someone I care about to not still have this in their life, my heart crumbled.

Granted, I am still rather new at this whole nomadic expatriated existence. When I arrived in Bali and wrote about my first ever international flight, people reflected on the enjoyment they had reliving their own first international flight through my naive sense of wonder.

Yesterday I had a flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, booked on an airline I don’t normally fly at a time I don’t usually leave. As I drove to the airport and pulled up the electronic confirmation on my iPod I realized my error. I had confused the check-in and departure times because I fly out of Chiang Mai so often that the deviation in time did not register as something I should be aware of.

It had happened to me. I had become desensitized about flight and travel. I had lost my sense of wonder.

It’s easy to have heart-stopping moments of wonder when you are seeing something for the first time or overwhelmed by the awesome impact of a place or event. If you ever question this truth, follow a kid around for an afternoon.

It's easy to find a sense of wonder in a place like this (Angkor Wat, Cambodia)

It’s easy to find a sense of wonder in a place like this (Angkor Wat, Cambodia)

I don’t know if it because we get older and wiser or if bit-by-bit life stacks up onto us and we lose this sense. It’s a terrible consequence of a life filled with adventures.

I remembered the Louis CK monologue I had referenced in that original post:

Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going “Oh my God! Wow!” You’re flying! You’re sitting in a chair, in the sky!

I said the last sentence again and again in my head. You’re sitting in a chair, in the sky. You’re sitting in a chair, in the sky. I’m sitting in a chair, in the sky. I’M SITTING IN A CHAIR IN THE SKY!

The plane dipped slightly to the right and turned an invisible corner. I looked out my window and took in a gorgeous white mass of puffy clouds. A blanket along the the base closing us off from the ground below. Little clusters popping up from the base like cotton candy cones, wisping into the wind. From the center of the base was a swirl of clouds, forming into a funnel. I tilted my head to see all the different angles, to try to imagine what the clouds reminded me of. Nearest I could tell, it was like a scene I saw when I was a kid from the movie Superman when Christopher Reeve is blasting through a similar backdrop on his way to the Fortress of Solitude.

In other words, I was now seeing something that has previously only been available in the imaginations of Hollywood and to Superman himself.

Leaning back in my seat, I felt the smile tug at the corners of my lips.

It had taken some effort, but for a moment in the clouds somewhere above Thailand, I felt that sense of wonder.

4 Comments

  1. FANTASTIC. WELL-WRITTEN!

  2. Happy tears. When you reach New Zealand, never schedule more than two hours of land travel a day.

  3. One of the best things I’ve read in a long time…great stuff…

  4. It’s what keeps me traveling that sense of wonder. But I think the wonder maybe changes as time goes on. I tend to still get so excited about seeing new things, new places, new cultures, trying new foods. But yea i agree, I remember flying as a kid and how amazing it was, but now as an adult (and after numerous trips), It has become routine and I sort of drown it out while I get everything else done. I think that is what keeps me traveling though, and what causes me to travel slower now. Because when you are dropped in some foreign culture even what was once routine becomes an exciting accomplishment and adventure. Like “Oh my god my language has improved enough to tell the barber what haircut I want, but not enough to correct him when he changes what I say!”

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