We’ve just passed the halfway point of our world tour, both chronologically and geographically. That makes it an excellent time for some reflection. We’ve traveled 24,100 miles, which if we’d been going in a straight line would have taken us around the world already! But why take the straight line, when there’s so much more on the scenic route?
We’re been blessed by the opportunity to go on tour and by the people we’ve met so far. It’s easy to say anyone passionate about play is likely to be awesome, but we’ve had great interactions with ‘civilians’ too – a man in Escazu who’s been selling ices from a cart for 70 years, the cleaner who helped us get into our quayside accommodation as we repeatedly locked ourselves out, and a didgeridoo salesman in Freemantle, Western Australia. It’s important to take time and value the things we’ve done so far apart from work (fun as it is) and acknowledge the moments when we’ve relaxed, explored and played, for example in a Costa Rican waterfall park.
There was the storm that hit, when we were staying in a high-rise in Brisbane. From our spot on the 29th floor, we could see the furious-looking clouds gather and boil over. The wind made the glass walls creak and we shouted to one another from all over the apartment, running to the living room to watch the table and chairs outside skid across the balcony. One of the cushions tugged up, held on briefly by its velcro straps, and then spiraled off into the night. A few moments later the storm stilled, as quickly as it had risen, and we all laughed at each other with the relief of having survived.
The next morning I was looking down at the trees blown half-naked, the streets blasted clean by rain. Beside the river, lying on a bench in someone else’s garden, I saw a familiar-looking grey square and went to investigate.
In addition to storms, I love museums. We visited the Shipwreck Galleries in Freemantle, learned the tragic story of the Batavia and bought replica pieces of eight. We went to the State Library in Melbourne and peered at Ned Kelly’s famous suit of armour. I went on my own to the Treasure Ships exhibition on the spice trade, and stared at the beautiful Japanese paintings of Dutch vessels and thought about the complexities of world travel, trade and colonialism. We may often marvel at how small the world feels these days, but humans have always been shifting themselves about this planet’s surface, always been curious about what’s over the horizon.
Each town and community we’ve visited has had its own local stories, which people have generously shared. Escazu, one resident told me, used to be known for its witches “who would come down from the mountains, and hurt the men”.
“Hurt the men?” I asked. The woman, who had been in our workshop the day before, nodded solemnly.
“Oh yes,” she said. “But only the drunk and foolish ones.” Awesome.
In Brisbane, we saw a beach and pool right in the middle of the city! It’s staffed by lifeguards and is loved so much by locals that it was rebuilt after being flooded out in 2011.
One of my favorite spots was an enormous fig tree, so much older than the town around it, now conserved as a traffic island. Fig trees grow incredibly here, with roots coming down from the branches and rising up from the ground to form small rooms tucked against the trunk.
It seemed so patient here and still, moving slightly in the breeze as commuters hurried past and tourists snapped their pictures. There was a plaque saying that an important document had been signed here, but of course the tree predated that as well – this spot was chosen because it felt important, because the tree itself gave an air of permanence to a country in urgent and powerful change. You can walk right around the tree, inside its little rooms and gaze up through its gnarled branches. You can look at the light made green by its passing through these leaves and feel, for a moment, the rest of the city passes away.