Travel and Observation

Words by Hannah Zisman   //   Photography by Conor McGlauflin

It’s hard to imagine that you can become used to New York, but it happens - you can get used to anywhere. On my daily walk to work, I groggily walk down 5th avenue, barley opening my sleepy eyes as I pass by the Flatiron building. I get annoyed by the enthusiastic tourists snapping photos from a myriad of angles. They’re in my way, and I’m trying to cross the street. 

I shuffle through Madison Square Park, and on most days, I forget to look up as the sun (or clouds, or rain, or snow) filter through the tree branches. I forget to observe the fat squirrels, overfed on peanuts by the wild-life starved Manhattan dwellers. And on my way home, I forget to stare at the Empire State Building to see what color the lights are. 

Repetition has a way of making even world-renowned historic landmarks fade into the background, as the anxiety of the mind, the to-do’s, and the daydreams take the forefront. 

There’s a cure though. Travel. Diving into completely new scenery is the best way to reset the observation-clock. And, my recent trip to South East Asia did just that. My eyes were opened wide, as I observed monks’ robes drying in the sun, school kids sucking on their daily snack of fresh watermelon and chili salt, the tamarind seeds littering the sidewalks, the toddlers bouncing between their parents on motorbikes. And I smelled things too - Jasmine blossoms, and fish sauce, and burning trash and sea salt. 

To travel is to reinvigorate the senses, to wake them up to their surroundings after a long nap. To inspire the self to remember to stop and look around because the world is always changing. 

During one of my nights in Luang Prabang, Laos. I sat by myself in a open-air restaurant along the Mekong River. Beneath me lay an illuminated bamboo footbridge that crossed the river.  Some tourists shakily walked along the path, stopping in the middle to take selfies. A monk waited for them to finish and I wondered to myself, was this beautiful, hand-crafted bridge adorned with tiny lights his Flatiron Building? Was the bridge just his direct way home and were these tourists totally annoying? I wish I could have asked him.