When I was growing up, the dream of my traveling around the world seemed as likely as my looking like Bo Derek. But several years ago, I did go (though I didn’t arrive in Dallas looking like Ms. Derek). Although we made a full rotation, if you tracked our route around the globe, our trail would be a thin rubber band leaving 99% of the world left unseen. Even so, my eyes have been around the world and they were opened to new cultures, new food and new characters.
My eyes have seen the spot on Mykonos where Shirley Valentine’s dreams (and mine) came true. They’ve seen the Istanbul bazaar and the Acropolis from a nearby hilltop restaurant. They’ve seen dainty painted eggs in a Salzburg shop, Mount McKinley on a rare clear day, Pope John Paul II's coffin in the crypt below St. Peter's Basilica, and the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam (another dream come true).
I’ve yet to put together a collage of saved ticket stubs, museum literature, menus, beach pebbles and coins, but we have over 3,000 pictures from our trip, photos of the rich landscape of cobalt seas and white columns, of glaciers and rocky beaches.
Of us eating fat raspberries in The Netherlands and toxic foogoo in Japan.
Of a cow staring us down from the middle of a winding Swiss road.
Of Greek gods hovering around us.
I treasure the pictures of my guys, the backs of their heads offering me a view of the world from their perspective. Of my dear friend Joy and her big Greek family and our adventures in Athens and Delphi. But I've always been fascinated by the faces of nameless people.
I gathered a lifetime of stories, my mind spinning like the globe we circled, so it’s no surprise I see those nameless people cropping up as characters in my dreams, wheedling their way into future novels. One day maybe I’ll write about the couple on the steps of a Tokyo temple, a bride and groom as stunning as their costumes. Who are they? What twists and turns has their life taken since that day?
Perhaps I’ll write about the surprise and wonder in exotic children, about where they fit in the family tree or what secrets they will learn about their ancestors.
Or maybe I’ll tackle the people whose faces tell stories without words. Will I write about the older woman whose life is laid out in her stature, or about the only English speaking resident in the tiny town of Montefelonico who shared homemade limoncello and tales of his stint as a college professor with us?
No matter where my travels have taken me, I've studied a world of faces. They tell stories enough for their characters to jump off the globe, hopefully carrying suitcases of plots with them.