“These were my conversations in Sicily, over three days and their respective nights. They finished as they had begun. But I must note that something else happened after the end.” –Elio Vittorini, Conversations in Sicily
All across Sicily, from dinner plates to the flag, you will see the Sicilian Trinacria. The ancient symbol features a less frightful head of Medusa surrounded by three legs. Its meaning is somewhat muddied. Some say the symbol represents the shape of Sicily, used by the ancients to distinguish the island. Others say it refers to the Phoenician god of Baal, god of time. The three legs running represented the racing of time, the very cycle of nature. I was first introduced to the Trinacria, derived from the Greek word for triangle, on my study abroad semester in Sicily. At the time, it merely echoed a fragment of what I would come to know as Sicily. Little did I know that the meeting of time and location in Sicily, my translation of the Trinacria’s meanings, can be a very powerful confluence.
The traveler is faced with all sorts of decisions. I sat in my sophomore dorm room faced with a decision. I could spend the fall semester of my junior year in Sicily or in Florence. Whichever location I did not venture to in the fall, I would head to in the spring. I didn’t think much of this decision about time and location. Italy is Italy after all. And for whatever reason, perhaps just by eeny, meeny, miny, moe, I selected to spend my fall semester in Sicily.
I arrived to the old town of Siracusa, known as Ortigia in late August of 2007. From the strange noises emitting from locals, sounds that certainly weren’t Italian to the clash of cultures right before me from the Greeks to the Arabs, I knew that I wasn’t in Italy but a far different location. My study abroad program featured just 13 students, much to my surprise. When you have such a small selection of people in a foreign land, you never know what you might get, feast or famine.
I shook hands with one of those unknowns on the steps of a 13th century palazzo. If you are going to meet someone for the first time, it might as well have been here. Time and location had collided in one of its rare forms, those means that you don’t recognize are truly special until you find yourself five and half years later traveling from Slovenia to the southern United States with that chance meeting. Forever the sarcastic skeptic, oddly enough I found my soul mate in a chance meeting of time and location.
Travel has given me far too much. I could never pay it back or say an adequate thank you. So often I encourage others to study abroad, to head out to far away lands and see what is on the other end. I spent nearly the majority of my collegiate years abroad, away from my home campus and in search of this careful meeting of time and location. For those that didn’t have the chance to study abroad, they can wake up in the middle of their 9 to 5 desk job and crave something more. I believe those cravings are destined greatness. If you don’t follow them, you could wind up in a completely different world. Travel can lead not just to an enrichment of the self, but relationships and friendships that you would never have if you just stayed home.
Last week I found myself in a different meeting of time and location. I walked into a grand ballroom at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. At its center was a table set for two and that man I met on the steps of Sicily on bended knee. The Sicilian Trinacria had appeared again, blending this time and location in a form that I recognized on those palazzo steps over five years ago. And just as I said yes to traveling, to going places for the sake of going, I said yes to someone I would have never met had I not made the decision to see where time and location will lead.
Do you have a travel love story, a chance meeting of time and location that completely changed your life?