I have recently been travelling for work. Something I used to tell myself I hated doing and also something I used to do with as bad a grace as I could manage.
Recently, however, I’ve realised – or at least admitted to myself – that I actually really like the entire process. I love having time to myself, time to breathe, time to think, time to just be. I also love the feeling of going somewhere new, seeing something I’ve never seen before, savouring the feel of a new experience. I love the fact that I’m alone, and can do whatever I want outside of work hours. Go out with any colleagues that are around? Sure thing! Eat early and curl up with a good book? Not a problem! Stay up late in the bar watching the ebb and flow of other lives passing by? Of course! Go for a walk to explore that interesting-looking cemetery seen through a taxi window? Why not?!
I take my comforts with me, comforts which turn a cold, impersonal hotel room into a home from home. My stash of different teas and my barley ‘coffee’. Soothing CDs, usually New Age or Early Music that ease me into relaxation of an evening. Since many hotels do not allow candles, a small votive holder and a small bottle of frankincense oil to perfume the room. Just fill the votive holder with hot water and add a few drops. Simplicity itself. A Kindle stuffed with books I want to read: old favourites, as instantly soothing as sucking your thumb; challenging factuals I can get my teeth into; and a few historical romances for when my brain hurts and I don’t want to think.
This time, my business trip took me to Istanbul. Istanbul! A city imbued with romance, courtesy of the Orient Express. A city redolent of a more elegant time. A city with a new experience on, quite literally, every corner. Most of all, however, a city I have always wanted to visit. Since first reading about it (I think it was in an old crime novel, or possibly a vampire tale, though I misremember which), I have had visions of myself visiting the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace and eating heaps of baklava and Turkish delight.
Since this was a business trip, the visits didn’t happen, and since I am wheat intolerant, I didn’t get to eat any baklava either. I’m not repining, however, as I did at least get to sample the Turkish delight. Much nicer than the ones you get in this country.
I have learnt that in this life, you have to grab any opportunity that comes your way. Such as the glorious view from the restaurant a colleague took us to one evening. A wonderful antidote to the usual stresses of the day.
One day, I will go back and see the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace close up, although they will be hard pushed to match the magical impression of being seen lit up in the night under a full moon with their lights reflected in the ever-changing waters below. Someday. Another item to be added to the only to-do list that matters. The one graven into my soul.
Grab your memories where you may. They’re insurance for later on.