City Walks and Love Locks: On Travel and Inspiration.
by Jessika Grewe Glover
I always say I am going to write whilst on vacation. The promise of being independent of my usual circumstances, filled with inspiration, gives me that go getter drive to put fingers to keys. It rarely happens. Truth be told, when I’m away from the repetitious cycle of day to day life, writing slides behind my priorities. As a traveler, I am far less disciplined than I am in normal life. Even holding a dinner reservation gives me pause for consideration. In my escapade state, I relish being beholden to no one and nothing. Unless I’m absolutely starving, it’s chucking down with rain, and I’ve found a restaurant with gluten free pasta within walking distance of my hotel in Zürich. Exceptions can be made.
As wanderers in foreign cities—whether foreign to our domestic abode or simply somewhere different—we can be other. There is nothing which states we must act in accordance with who and what we are in normal life. Within budget, of course. As a writing wanderer, I cast myself off into the archeology of discovering hidden gilt and gems in places new to me. The forgotten bones of a place fill my lungs with their dust and sordid past, inflating my imagination for future stories.
Back to Zürich. The restaurant which graciously held my table was on the opposite side of the Limmat River from our hotel near Old Town. The hour was late walking back, yet in Zürich, a midnight walk under a bridge holds no feeling of dread as it would in any other city. I stopped for obnoxiously long on the Mühlesteg footbridge, peering at different love locks, coming up with stories in my mind of loves found, lost, fought for, and given up. I wondered who held each key and were all the keys still in existence or had most of them been cast off in fits of spring cleaning.
“What’s this to? I can’t keep all this junk in the drawer anymore.” Toss. Love can be a bit like that. Casual letting go of something which once meant everything. The only way to open a mechanism of feeling between two people, thrown away because it wasn’t as shiny and obviously useful anymore. Were these doomed lovers travelers like myself, or locals? Had they been to the Pont des Artes bridge in Paris where sixty-five tons of padlocks were recently removed because they weighed the bridge down? Goodness, what a metaphor that is. Had they been to Paris at all? Paris, where even a sprint from The Arc de Triomphe (and another fabulous gluten free restaurant) to the Louvre because we had to make our ticket time became legend. And it was raining. Again. And there was a protest near Plaza La Concorde, making it impossible to convince an Uber to drive us.
Impossible ne pas francais. We made the impossible happen, because, obviously, we were in France, and as I said in that quote, impossible is not the French way.
We ran through gale storm and demonstration, hating each other and cursing the lovely shoes which I had to throw out that evening (after a fabulous meal at our family’s Chinese restaurant on Rue Vignon). However, the inspiration stuck. It stuck as I perused the galleries in the world’s most famous museum. It stuck as we continued on to the Latin Quarter. It encoded itself in my blood as we viewed Notre Dame from a distance, and two years later, I penned a poem about gargoyles. It stuck throughout the pandemic when my next trip was canceled. And the next. When all I could think about was traveling again. About losing myself somewhere else. Getting lost in the late nights, quests for food, and ruining shoes.
These trips we take, whether they are three thousand miles away or three hundred, can be as formative to our species as kindergarten, honeymoon stages of a marriage, even losing a parent. There is something about travel which changes the code in our DNA. The change makes journeys so necessary to our being, the revocation of flight can be destabilizing. Who are we once our wanderlust cannot be sated? Stumbling fawns, foraging for a new kind of muse? This intrinsic need for travel keeps memories neatly tucked in the recesses of our minds, waiting to be plucked and unfolded when we need them most.
So, if I don’t write on my holiday as I always intend to, it won’t matter. I’ve already been feeding my pen, gathering the nuts and seeds for any kind of literary laying in. A single trip has the propensity to feed me through an entire hibernation. Even if I was a total bear about losing my shoes to the rain.