If the art on my walls could talk, it would tell of fishing on the Mekong Delta, harvesting rice on Bali terraces, and drying potatoes in Peruvian Mountains. In my guestroom, men hunt tigers in seventeenth century India and a jockey celebrates winning the Palio horserace in Siena, Italy. Art that delights my eyes surrounds me— yellow and purple flowers in chalk from Russia, red roses embroidered on silk from China and pink gladiolas in watercolors from England. My travels embrace me whenever I walk through my house.
Dining room shelves display a pink blown-glass urn from Murano, Italy and a turquoise tea cozy quilted with onion-shaped church steeples from Russia. I carried coral-colored crystal water glasses with care from the Czech Republic. A hand-painted tray in bright prime colors stands in the kitchen buffet that shows shepherds herding their llamas in the Ecuadorian countryside. Next to it lies an ornate wooden spoon from Wales, where, I learn, the concept of “spooning” originated.
My bedroom closet houses clothes from nearly everywhere I’ve been. A long silk vest in varying shades of lavender and purple, ripples like a stream when I walk by. I purchased it on my way to see a 2,000-year-old rowboat at a museum near the Jordan River in Israel. I bought a magnificent black wool jacket when the bus I was stopped for a bathroom break near a Women’s Clothing Cooperative. What I bargained for and bought in ten minutes I imagine several Jordanian women painstakingly embroidered over days or weeks. They created circles of intricate orange and yellow flowers with green leaves on the jacket’s sleeves, front and back. The vest and the jacket items don’t clash with one another like the people in their countries do. On the clothes rod next to a ruffled white blouse trimmed in red from Chiapas, Mexico hangs a turquoise sari from India and tee shirts with special Greek, African and Chinese designs. I wear them and remember the shops where they caught my eye.
Bedroom jewelry cases have their stories too. Necklaces of yak, camel and whalebones from Tibet, India and New Zealand were bought from aggressive little salesgirls. Blue topaz earrings from Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, made for my birthday, lie nearby. Blue and purple flowered enamel earrings from Russia dangle next to a pair of copper ones from Bosnia. Even warring countries are friendly in my jewel cases.
I learn from being immersed in the world’s cultures. I cannot have adventures sitting at home. Exploration of the world demands an active mind and body. Exposure to the world’s ways of life makes me tolerant of different ways of dressing, praying, eating and thinking.
I have gazed upon beautiful sights, learned new languages and hiked challenging trails. The buildings, paintings, monuments, arts, crafts, animals and people of other countries are now a part of my home and me. I remember my adventures as I gaze upon my souvenirs. My voyages taught me lessons I couldn’t have learned in classrooms. As I grow older and wiser, those memories will forever remain as testaments to the magic of travel.