Fedora The Explorer — The well-travelled hat with a bandana.
Remember the scene from Pixar’s UP where Carl pins his grape soda bottle cap on Russell’s sash that Ellie had given to him as a kid? Ellie badge was the highest honour that he could bestow on his travel companion, the chubby boy scout Russell Wong at the Wilderness Lodge ceremony. A badge, a patch or a pin has to be earned. When I first made my forays into Europe, through Spain, I had a black fedora. I always had a penchant for hats. It was the best way to keep my unruly hair waves intact from the winter winds , or escape the scorching sun during summer. When I came back after journeying around 8 countries, the hat was heavily adorned with pins and a blue bandana. Today, the hat is a story teller that creates mental narratives along the itinerary of my pins, from Barcelona to Berlin.
Souvenirs can be intangible memoirs or travel mementos like keychains, souvenir magnets, polaroids or pins that bring back the past vividly into life. Nobel memorial prize winner, and psychologist, Daniel Kahneman. once said that “The ‘Instagram Generation’ now experiences the present as an anticipated memory,”. The present wanes and fades, turning into a past that will soon be forgotten. Preserving your memories is important than locking them up in a dutch chest waiting to be unearthed someday, coated with decades of dust and dirt. We flip through our old family albums, scrap books, instagrams or even share our facebook memories to go back in time and reminisce the days we once rejoiced. When Carl opens Ellie’s old Adventure book, that was given to him before her death, he realises that she wanted to let him know that a new adventure awaits for him. We set out on a road trip or a backpacking adventure with much gusto. We yearn to get lost in Tolkien’s world and Kerouac’s words that arouse Wanderlust - a strong desire to wander-travel. “Not all those who wander are lost” said Tolkien, but “Wanderlost” (that’s when you get lost from wandering) makes memories that you’ll cherish forever with a good laugh. Sometimes it’s not the must-see sights that you will remember from your trip to Istanbul or Amsterdam but ordinary moments and everyday objects that have a sentimental value to you. The worn out metro maps, subway tickets, your first star bucks cup, the acorns that you collected at the German farm house you stayed will have a otherworldly significance than the overpriced eiffel tower model that you got from the souvenir store in Paris.
You can be a tourist, an explorer, an adrenaline adventurer, a budget backpacker or a digital nomad, the more we taste the tonic of travelling, the more you get to enjoy its serendipitous perks and misadventures. By being spontaneous, culturally curious and blending into the local culture, you can bring back home so much more than a battered suit case and bags full of duty free-chocolates. I still remember the old Turkish man who offered us a cup of apple tea and provided us refuge from the blizzard in Cappadocia caves, the evenings walks, banters & tapas that I shared with my Spanish Friend in Granada, the first day that I touched snow, the Space mission roller coster ride at the Disney land and all the embarrassing moments that I encountered as an alienated tourist in a Metropolis in the West. The recollections are as fresh as ever. The souvenirs we have will never make the memories go stale.
2016 was an all-terrain adventure that taught me a lot about life and people. I survived the turbulent moments and crossed borders of 8 countries with Fedora the explorer. My 25th chapter ends today and I hope that there will be more fascinating narratives to look forward to in the years to come. Allons-y, Allonso. Post mid-life is going to be another awfully long bumpy ride!