My 15-year-old daughter, Maya, wrote about what travel means to her. I loved reading her thoughts and hope you do too…
When people think of travel, they usually think of planes, tropical beaches, big cities like New York and Paris. Maybe that’s what travel means to some people, but not to me. To me, travel means exploring new places, sometimes big cities, but more often places hidden away, tucked into remote valleys and covered in ivy. Places you find by chance or luck.
There is a Swedish word, smultronställe, that means ‘place of wild strawberries.’ It’s more than the literal translation, though. A smultronställe is a special place, a place where you feel at home. It can be big or small, a treehouse hidden deep in the woods, your favorite park, even your actual home. Maybe as you’re reading this you’re thinking of a place you might call your smultronställe. Maybe you can’t think of one, but that’s okay. You will know it when you find it. When you’re in your smultronställe, you feel safe, happy, relaxed, maybe even excited. You might have more than one smultronställe. When I travel I like to look for places like that.
Right now, for example, we’re in Cornwall, England. Cornwall is probably my favorite place in the world. I love the beaches, the cliffs, the caves, the towns. One of my favorite things about it are the abandoned mines. There are hundreds of them, several of them are walking distance from where we’re staying. I remember the first time I explored those ruins. We were walking our dog along our favorite cliff path when we noticed a smaller path to one side. It led off through the brush over a hill, so we couldn’t see where it led. We decided to check it out.
The path was rocky and rather steep, but eventually we made it to the top of the hill. At the bottom were ruins, but not the usual tall, narrow roofless buildings that we had seen so far. This was something completely different. At first we thought it was a skate park, though we didn’t know what a skate park would be doing on the cliff, so far out of the way. Upon closer inspection we realized it was ruins. We climbed the ramp-like structures and crawled through holes in walls.
After a while we noticed yet another smaller path leading off to one side, this one even narrower and through thicker brush than the first. Again, we couldn’t see where it led because it was surrounded by tall grass. When we got to the end we found ourselves standing in front of a sort of crevasse about ten feet deep. It was only about three feet across though, so we jumped.
Then we realized we were standing in more ruins! They were even more overgrown and run down than some of the others, but I think that made them even more special.
I had never seen anything like them, and I found it almost too good to be true that this place was mine to explore, with its tunnels, walls, and, though we didn’t realize it yet, secret paths that led to still more ruins, ruins waiting to be discovered by us.
Those ruins are my smultronställe, at least one of them. And I think there are more out there, more smultronställen, like the ruins, just waiting to be discovered by me and by all of us. All it takes is to go out and find them.