Side Streets

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My husband cannot resist side streets and detours. When traveling, he is equal parts instigator of adventures and destroyer of “best laid plans.” I can no longer number the times we have headed for some destination—any destination—when something catches his attention that demands further investigation: an undiscovered alleyway, a cool shop he never noticed before, a side road that leads to God only knows where—but it all simply must, must, be explored. It doesn’t matter that we are a mere 10 minutes from our original destination, which, by the way, is not even close to a priority any more. If life is all about the journey versus the destination, then Barry is a master at living.

His propensity to wander used to make me crazy. I, too, am easily distracted, and I so wanted to stick to a plan. But now when that “We have to check this out!” look comes over him, I just go with it. Had I not learned to do this, I would’ve missed so much—like the Hotel California sing-along with a bunch of Italian guys in a Tuscan art gallery, located—you guessed it—on a side street. I wouldn’t have seen the tiny, lone grave next to the remains of an old cabin we hiked past. (The entire site had to be explored—knee-high weeds and all.) I would’ve missed the mountain goat in Crête that stood on a huge boulder like an ancient sentry as we rounded a winding mountain road.

I would’ve missed that jazz club in Paris with some of the most talented musicians you’ve never heard of, and the eerie café in northern Italy that turned out to be some kind of Mussolini shrine. There was the wine tasting in a tiny Spanish hillside village with a panorama of the Mediterranean; and the flamenco bar where the locals nursed small glasses of moscato, played guitar, and sang in that mesmerizingly mournful and flowery Arabic style. And of course we had to stop when I spotted a two-room shop filled with handcrafted Spanish guitars, the master craftsman himself as old as the Al Hambra. There was also that boat ride on Lake Geneva that was memorable simply because we lived through it.

Even when we are not traveling, he takes detours. On a bike ride the other day, he (naturally) noticed a gravel pathway that led…somewhere, by God! It was our bounden duty to find out where. It wasn’t earth shattering, but had we bypassed it, we would’ve missed a pretty lake, a covered dock with a gazebo, and some very large turtles who greeted us before shyly ducking under the dock.

In almost all of the above cases, I don’t remember the original destination, but I do remember the detours. The long way really is, apparently, sometimes better. For creative types who berate themselves about their inability to focus, maybe it’s encouraging to know that this need to explore is ok. It’s part of your artistic spirit. You need to satisfy your curiosity. When you squelch it, you smother your inspirational soul. So go ahead. Wander a bit. Check things out. Take the side road. You’ll come back to the path—or at least a path—all the richer for the experience.

© 2010 L. Kay Johnson, L is for LaNita. All rights reserved.

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