I did some traveling through Europe for awhile back in the day, but also settled down periodically to live briefly in various places around the continent. Just remembering some that still have pretty vivid, and lasting, imagery for me. Today I can see that, although I was out there exploring the world, I was actually looking for the one road home. They say that home is where the heart is, and that’s where I really always wanted to be. Sometimes you have to leave home to find it.
Pack on my back, guitar slung over my shoulder, and on a mission to find the right direction in my life. Any direction is not necessarily the right direction, but it is a different direction than the one I was pointed in at the time, and sometimes a different direction is the only one left to choose from. That’s kind of how I began my months away.
I stayed for a couple of nights with people I met in Paris. They organized a ‘Welcome to the City of Lights’ party for me. It stretched out over a couple of days. Invited all their friends over. We drank wine and ate well, then spent the afternoons in the sidewalk café’s. No one I ever knew back home had ever organized a party like that for me.
I stayed in a little medieval stone village for a couple of weeks, tucked away in the mountains in the south of France. The only way in or out was by a long hike through the woods. No roads. No gas or electricity. No running water, just a gravity shower that was heated by fire. I gathered firewood every day in the forest, and water from the stream. Huddled close to an open hearth in a small stone cottage at night. It was wonderful, and it was peaceful, but I felt so desperately alone.
I stayed for a couple of weeks in a little pension just off the Puerto de Sol in downtown Madrid, Spain where the girls on the street smiled at every passing, and the boys smiled even bigger. Smiles painted across the faces of the girls like children on Christmas morning. Although I was able to at the time, it was hard to resist the company of such uncannily bright and inviting propositions. Siestas in the afternoon, evenings in the square, and late-night dinners in lively restaurants with strangers who called me friend.
I stayed with a family for a bit in Taormina, Sicily, in a house about a thousand feet above the sea where I gave guitar lessons to a 12 year-old boy and sang my songs in a local restaurant.
The family and I watched the Godfather together on their little black and white TV. Talk about a Twilight Zone experience. Unequaled by any I’ve ever had.
I stayed for a while on a roof in Athens, Greece. A naked woman lived in a little caretaker shack on the roof as well, like in some kind of dream sequence from a Louis Malle film. When I say naked, I mean she was always naked. It didn’t bother me a bit. We had coffee together in the mornings, and wine in the evenings. Business as usual for both of us, as if she weren’t naked at all.
I stayed in a centuries old hotel room in Istanbul, Turkey with bugs I’d never seen before. Didn’t even know such bugs existed. Big ones, like reptiles, and a floor soaked inches deep with water every time it rained. I attached tarps above my bed to divert the water that was pouring down on me from the ceiling. It was just above the Pudding Shop, a meeting place for vagabonds from around the world. And the pudding was to die for.
I slept in a park in Lausanne, Switzerland at minus10 degrees. My sleeping bag froze to the ground, and my body froze in the bag.
I slept in the courtyard of an abandoned castle in Austria. Met a beautiful woman there. She wandered in to the castle just to kill a little time. She was a teacher from a nearby school who invited me to come and speak and sing my songs to the student body at a hastily organized assembly. Invited me to stay with her for a few days. I availed myself of her generosity and we found that we could trust each other with our honesty. It became the force behind our platonic, but liberating, relationship.
I stayed in a remote hostel in the Swiss Alps across from The Eiger peaks, where, through binoculars, one could see the skeletal remains of climbers who perished there attempting to scale the mountain. Cow bells echoed throughout the valley as cows meandered around the mountainside grazing on the good green grass.
It was on one of these peaks that I wrote, what I believe to be, one of my best songs. Atheist’s Dilemma.
I stayed in a myriad of places in Europe, Asia and North Africa, but really always wanted to be home. No matter where I was it wasn’t home. The irony is that when I was home I often felt homeless, and when away from home I always wanted to be back there once again. The world is a big place. In the greater scheme of things I was but a grain of sand in the desert.
I remember thinking, All roads lead home if you’re lucky.
And they have.
And I am.