flashback: Bruges, Belgium

Summer 1998

I've alluded to the critical point and unknown character who influenced the next four years (at least) of my life in just five minutes. For those of you who asked the whats or whys I wanted to travel, here's an insight to one moment of silent persuasion:

I've often thought of going back to Bruges. It's tempting you know. I remember narrow streets, the tower, relaxed shopping zones and the town center square that transforms sipping latte from a past time into a philosophy of being.

It was there that something clicked inside. There was a feeling of wonder, appreciation, adventure and great envy all stirred up by a sweaty character taking in the sights of the cobbled square for the first time. He let his pack slip to the ground and produced a bottle of water in the same motion. He drank, hot and exhausted, gulping and peering about this new place. He's come from some unknown place and discovered this. He must be traveling a few months by the look of his pack and his beard making it clear that he became more a part of this experience rather than just a tourist-observer as myself. He'll probably find more oasis towns on his journey too. He stood on the other side of the rope that divided the cafe's area from the passers by and the riff-raff. My good fortune in America had me sitting smug, though deeper senses told me I was on the wrong side of the barrier.

The memories of that summer day are still vivid. Going back could only deteriorate them.

"We can't ever go back to old things or try and get the 'old kick' out of something or find things the way we remembered them. We have them as we remember them and they are fine and wonderful and we have to go on and have other things because the old things are nowhere except in our minds now."
- Ernest Hemingway, in a letter, 1923

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