Perhaps it’s just me or others can relate, but I’m a very contemplative traveler. By this I mean breaking away from the tourist label and taking a moment to be there. Take time to observe and live a familiar life in an unfamiliar setting. Simply put, I cannot miss my October autumn walks, no matter where I am.
The best method is to indulge in relaxing and mindful activities to alleviate the ‘tourist syndrome’ and dislocation while traveling. My most memorable October stroll was in Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city. This maritime university city, nestled within the fjords of Hordaland was my final stop before flying back home. I spent the first two days doing touristy things like fjord cruises, museums and coffee Instagrams. My last day was my chance to wind down following my three week nomadic lifestyle to a brisk, autumn walk.
I slept in and left the hostel around 10 am. As per usual custom, I grabbed my late morning coffee. What made this visit special in particular, was not only was it my last, but a customer brought in his dog – a giant poodle – who at one point huddled up against my foot, waiting for well-deserved attention. I knew this day was going to be just what I needed.
After sipping some coffee and making a new furry friend, I left, put in my earphones, and began to walk uphill. For visitors and probably locals, Bergen delivers a perfect balance, from Bryggen’s bustling nightlife to almost perfect serenity during the day, filled only with noises of rain drops or yellow-tinged leaves billowing down the streets. The windy acoustics mixed perfectly with the music in my ears. Nearly every peak surrounding the city and the surrounding water, are dotted with white houses. Ten minutes into my walk I found a path that zigzagged upwards along the side of the city, aligned with trees on both sides. On my way up, I passed a tree decorated with yarn with colours of the rainbow artfully wrapped around the trunk. Its branches were adorned with streamers connecting one another like a web. Looking backward, I noticed there was a schoolhouse nearby, thus revealing the mysterious artists behind this curious display.
I was surprised by how sparsely populated this trail was, although perhaps being the middle of a weekday would explain it. As I reached the top of the winding path, I could see the tops of trees billowing back and forth, jostled around in every direction by the balmy October wind.
Right now I knew this was the kind of traveler I wanted to be. The kind that looks from above at Bergen simply as it is. The sun barely peeking through the mountains, cars winding past, the houses dotting the hillsides, and the boats chugging back and forth from the harbour. Admittedly sounding cliche, I truly felt as though I found my ‘off the beaten track’ that travelers yearn for. Things being and going in a new place evokes a sense of calm. It gives you a break from asking people questions, showing tickets, finding hostels and catching flights.
Next time you go traveling, take a moment to just walk and look for the everyday things. Don’t just explore. Be in the city.