August 14, 2014

The Value of Wandering. ~ Alisa Cole

Photo: Alisa Cole

Ever since I was young I have always had the desire to wander aimlessly.

I wanted to see what or who I would discover when I turned the next corner. I would go deep into the forest behind my family’s house in Pennsylvania with no goal except to satiate my curiosity.

To be a part of the unknown that surrounded me allowed me to feel safe and at home.

Here I was not defined by my body type, my accent or my grades. My past and dreams had no relevance in an undiscovered place. I was alone in the solitude of the constant activity. I loved it!

As I grew older, this desire to be alone in a very alive environment grew with me. I would go to concerts with my friends and couldn’t help to wander into a crowd. It sounds comical to me now but I couldn’t be more satisfied.

When I turned 18, I was invited to a participate in the Mozarteum Music Festival in Salzburg, Austria. Mozarteum is an international festival designed for students to take master classes from some of the greatest teachers of 21st century classical music.

I decided I would find a way to go simply because I just had to see Europe. I stayed a month and visited Austria, Prague and Budapest—all alone at the age of 18.

Looking back, I think I must have been crazy. What about safety? Where did I get the money? It didn’t matter to me back then. I just knew I wanted to travel to the castles in Europe and busk around them. I wanted to contribute to the environment and see how the locals or tourists would receive me. I had to go.

I learned a lot about the value of wandering and being alone on this trip. Yes, travel has a lot of value with or without friends, but opening yourself to the concept of anything could happen?

No second opinions, just you and who knows what. If you have the resources to do this, then add it to the bucket list.

Here is what I learned:

1) Everywhere in the world, there is sorrow.

I thought the USA was f***ed up. We had some self-deprecating problems that we satiated with prescription pills and money. I thought Europe was an enlightened culture and that they didn’t like Americans because of the stereotypical obesity and George W. Bush.

The truth is, shit happens everywhere. There is no external refuge. The only refuge is how you treat yourself and those around you. Smile big, tip well and treat others with compassion.

2) People are compassionate/Love outweighs hate.

I was street performing as I traveled. A street performer is offering a stranger a piece of who they are. It is a sense of vulnerability to believe that this music I am playing will not be an irritation to a stranger’s day. A musician opens themselves to judgement.

The truth is that I was treated with an overwhelming amount of compassion. Even when a policeman came, he only asked to see my passport thanked me for my music and moved on. I wasn’t supposed to be panhandling!

Even though there is a lot of violence and hate in the world, I believe wholeheartedly that compassion outweighs ill intention.

3) In communication, language is the least important factor.

I made friends with those I could barely speak with. I was forced to pay attention to physical cues that I may not have seen if I relied on language.

Being unable to use words, I had to be more sensitive and listen harder.

I understood how an individual felt more than the ideas she or he was communicating. This is a different kind of sincerity that I think should be used with or without the language barrier.

4) There are wanderers all over the world.

So many people are out searching for connection and something to inspire them. Maybe they’re seeking answers, maybe it’s something spiritual or maybe they’re looking for connection and love.

In Europe, there is culture and art everywhere. Culture and art are the best expressions of humanity.

If we possess humanity, we can connect to art on some level no matter the language. To experience humanity is to experience and connect with a great amount of art by traveling. To travel in Europe is to experience humanity.

This is only what I have learned on my journeys. I am curious what you will learn or what you have already learned in your wandering.




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Apprentice Editor: Karissa Kneeland / Editor: Emma Ruffin

Photo: Author’s Own

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