Sicily is a place you can’t really escape after visiting. I was putty in Sicily’s hands, returning after just a year of being away. I found myself back where I started, but not. I was looking for a “slow travel” day. Alone on an island, I felt somewhat useless. If I have a day here and there when I travel where I don’t get out and see the world, I feel like I have let myself and the place down. As a result, one gray day, I boarded a train to Ragusa to go see, as they say.
Not really knowing much about the city, I sat in the Siracusa station as construction workers kept trying to make eye contact. I knew what everyone was thinking. What is this girl doing here? I felt those eyes on me as I jumped up to the train and took a seat.
I kept my eyes on the window, admiring the Sicilian countryside in winter. Having spent the end of a summer in Sicily, I was used to seeing sun scorched lands and little greenery. This ride was different as sunlight burst around green hills and rocky roads.
As the train pulled into Ragusa, I couldn’t seem to find the “quaint” and “charming” old town I had imagined. I had read you needed a bus to get down to it from the modern part of Ragusa. Trying to make sense of the Italian bus schedules, I gave up and thought I could find this historic old town center on foot.
Truth be told, I am stubborn and shy by myself. I should have reached out to a local for directions. I should have asked someone, but I didn’t. I just kept walking around a modern town as locals gave me the hairy eyeball. Hungry and tired of looking, I popped into a shop for a sandwich. An old couple ran the shop and looked at me as everyone else did. What is this foreign girl doing in the middle of the commercial center of Ragusa? I ordered and collected my salami sandwich as though I was a regular, despite resembling nothing of the sort.
What they don’t tell you to do in guidebooks or nearly every other travel publication is to go somewhere with no rhyme or reason, no plans, no idea what you are doing, no knowledge of what you will see, what you might accomplish. There is generally a purpose to going somewhere, a reason to visit. You read about some festival. This town makes some ancient wine you want to try. With so many reasons behind travel, it can be a bit draining on the traveler to live up to those purposes.
You don’t have to go where someone tells you. You don’t have to have a reason for going. You don’t have to socialize all day with locals. You don’t have to go alone, with someone or on a tour. You can do it your way. You can have moments of traveling just for the sake of travel.
Perhaps I was lonely. Perhaps my purpose was to sightsee had I found the historic city center. I think I just needed a day to sit on a train. I needed a day to have people wonder about me. You might need to go from here to Ragusa and back with nothing really obtained, no greater sense of the city, but just a moment of travel cleansing, an unadulterated movement.
I have nothing to show for Ragusa. I don’t have a million photographs of the city. I don’t have exchanges with locals that were intensely powerful. I do have that travel, that act of moving from place to place, for no real reason other than to get away. I remember the back and forth movement of the train. I recall passing tiny homes and countryside. I can even imitate all of those looks I received. I may have nothing from Ragusa, but a memory of traveling for travel’s sake. Robert Louis Stevenson said it was a great affair just to move so I will take a note from him.
Have you ever had a day of travel for no rhyme or reason?