an urban lifestyle + travel blog by liz norment.

Tag: why we travel

why we travel… reason #5.


more often than not i find my eyelids settling at half-mast on monday afternoons as i’m faced with nothing more inspiring than a dry to-do list and a my finger mindlessly tapping on open tabs on my computer. it’s in these moments when i allow my mind and my heart to wander back to places that have captivated me, if not for inspiration just to salvage my own sanity. this past monday, as it often does, my heart led me back to the algarve region of portugal, one of the most beautiful and enchanting places i’ve ever visited. my eyes began to consume image after image when i finally landed on a thorough and inspiring conde nast “introduction” to the area. and as i drank down every word and explored every pixel and breathed in my own memories, again and again and again, i came across a fascinating anecdote of a historical conquest that occurred in the area, that has found itself legendized as a common term in portuguese- sebastianismo. a word that was born from a story of exploration, of desire, of hope- lost.


king sebastião embarked on a crusade to battle the moorish kingdom of morocco, hopeful, willing, and determined, and soon after embarking the entire undertaking was a disaster– outnumbered, outsmarted, and out of options, they were defeated and Sebastião himself was lost among the sandy shores; a revered and promising king met his untimely demise in the craggy, unforgiving intercontinental coastline. from that event was born the term sebastianismo, meaning a failed venture or forlorn hope. such a palpable, fragrant term, born from glory and ending in failure and


what gives us, in all it’s 6-syllable complexity, one very tangible reason why we travel. because to have hope in itself is a rare gift. to believe in yourself, to put a dream in motion, to invigorate your senses, to contain within yourself the unshakable belief in a mission, to seek the unknown, to move, to try. and then even if you fail, if you find yourself lost, if you lose that hope that blindly mobilized you to begin with- at least you had such a gift to begin with. because stagnation, and not some easily defined nemesis- stagnation is the enemy.

and that- sebastianismo– in all of its regal peril, is why we travelIMG_0654

why we travel… reason #16 | hiraeth.


what is home but a familiar pulling at the heart. who is family but people, by nature, to whom we are drawn and thus necessitate their comfort, shelter, grace, and presence. and what is homesickness then but an insatiable desire for an intangible past, a physical nostalgia, an endless and familiar dream.

i’ve recently come across this (by nature) unspeakably charming list of words for which there is no direct translation in english. they are feelings we all have, carried in our heart and experienced often, and there is ultimately nothing lost in translation. I forever find myself entranced in the beauty of languages that necessitated the development of these words.

this one, in particular, hit me.

hiraeth (n.)
a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past

there is simply no explanation as to why i have left pieces of my heart buried deep in so many places. and it isn’t given voluntarily, it is taken. split from me and taken and consumed entirely. in places, it has been buried between sturdy cobblestones and enveloped into the ether of incomprehensible sunsets alike. in people, it has remained in conversations so deep that it’s a wonder only my heart and not my entire physical being was left there in the depths of a significant verbal exchange. and in relationships where perhaps your heart is only a token of the wholeness that you have given.

it’s involuntary and yet entirely accepted, because to give your heart in such unspoken discernment signifies a recognized respect, a visible beacon, a palpable sanctuary, a home, there.

a home there for your heart.

it happens in that first glance of the  tower, likely through thick parisian fog and a blesssing for being so, because if seen any clearer it would shatter you completely. it happens when hearing the call to prayer in istanbul, the surprising harmonization of turet dwellers and worshippers alike. it happens in that last look at prague, and its painful fading into the distance feels as if you held the paintbrush and you alone dimmed each pastel rooftop and shimmering river and glowing streetlamp as it all fades, with permission it seems, into the distance.
it’s hiraeth. for which your heart breaks and then mends and then aches and then seeks.

never settling and always wistfully or painfully seeking.

and then home is something is felt so much deeper. and family are those people who are a constant and impenetrable presence. and love… love is a fucking earthquake.

hiraeth is what we seek and fear from travel. and thus, unquestionably, the reason why we do.

beaujolais nouveau 2016

why we travel… reason #15 | le beaujolais nouveau est arrive!

le beaujolais est arrivé!
the second time i was in paris, i remember how audacious it felt to purchase the flight. i’d already spent time in paris, a few years back, but the city had been pulling at my soul since i left. it jad settled into a part of my heart that i didn’t know was there, much less vacant and seeking. it was filled, immediately, with a first glance of la tour eiffel, lit up and sparkling. with my first ascension up the tight spiral staircase of the arc de triomphe to reveal the city of light, illuminating my face, staring back at it. the first time. my first promenade down the rue de montparnasse, my first glass of wine in a dark and hidden bar in montmarte, my first full day wandering around the palace and gardens of versailles. my understanding, finally, of the inside-out centre pompidou and all the treasure held within it. my first real baguette.
paris had more than charmed me, it had changed me. and so the first trip i planned with my barely-there paycheck upon moving to spain was to a place i had already been. and i was in love of the audacity of it all. after i landed, i navigated my way by bus through a drizzly evening from charles de gaulle and sat with my face glued to the window. paris. i was back in paris.
paris 335 copy
i inevitably missed what i thought was my stop and realized that i was terribly lost. i got a cab to the address i had of a friend of mine from years ago. i knew i had 2 hours before he’d be home, so i wandered down the champs elysees, through the christmas markets, that even 6 weeks early seemed so so timely. i indulged in a rather shitty styrofoam cup of mulled wine. i shamelessly didn’t hold back tears. i was so, so happy. when my pack got a bit too heavy, i wandered into a bar along a side street. it was small, crowded. audaciously devoid of intentional decor and exactly the type of cafe you expect in paris. i loved it. as i tried to awkwardly make room for my travelers backpack, my overstuffed leather tote, my distinctively unchic pea coat, the felt hat that i thought was a good idea and now realized really wasn’t a good idea… i was tried to be as inconspicious as possible when someone gleefully shoved an antique looking juice glass into my hand. i looked up. “le  beaujolais nouveau est arrive!” i looked noticeably dumfounded, confused. he repeated himself, in hesitant english “uhh, the new wine has arrived!” i was more confused. the new wine? didn’t i come here for the old wine? he didn’t bother explaining, just toasted me with intention and motioned for me to drink up. i did, and almost immediately the bartender was there filling my glass over the brim. everyone was dancing and singing, sipping and spilling. no one seemed to notice the spanish flag patch sewn onto my backpack or my obvious lack of any knowledge of french. it was all “congratulations!” and two kisses and wine. wine. wine.
paris 316 copy
i spilled out of the bar and onto the street, late now to meet the friend i was staying with. i hailed a cab. on they way i caught a glimpse of the eiffel tower lighting up, again, and began to cry. paris! my god the beauty of it all.
when i arrived at my friend’s apartment, i asked him what was happening. and he laughed when he told me, “oh of course, the new wine!” the explanation he went into was brief but with enough passion to make me realize that this would be my favorite reason to celebrate for the rest of my life.
during the rest of my stay in paris and consequently as the jubilant weekend wore on, i learned that the legend of “beaujolais day” and was captivated even more. the story, as i heard it, is as follows.
 IMG_2299 copy
In a land where wine is held so sacred and for good reason- Chablis, Champagne, Bourdeaux to name a few, Beaujolais was virtually unrecognized and not nearly revered. so the winemakers of the region set off to charm and fool everyone in the frenchest of ways, by letting their reputation recede them… provided they successfully outran it. one bold winemaker picked and fermented his grapes. aging it for exactly one week, he raced into Paris and announced that the parisians would be drinking that year’s vintage Beaujolais before anyone else in the world. And it would be up to their discerning taste and opinions that would mark that wine’s character and reputation. He risked a non-existent reputation and the hope that the Parisians wouldn’t ever want to appear foolish or not en-vogue. and the people of paris embraced it, they beheld it, they drank it. The next year, more winemakers decided to join, racing against each other on the third thursday of November to declare their Beaujolais Nouveau the first of that year. And from that vintage on they continued to do so, and the people of paris began to embrace it and revere it more and more, in spite of themselves. And so they made it a holiday, a jubilant weekend-long celebration, a commemoration of a bold marketing ploy and when something so unfrench became something oh-so-French.
And this is why we travel. For the wonder and bewilderment of that initial arrival, for discovering such a beautiful tradition in a foreign land to embrace, forever, as your own, and for that irrepressible feeling and adventurous spirit that is forever us. because you and I and le Beaujolais nouveau have all arrived.



why we travel… reason #14 | Granada, Spain


no hay en la vida nada como la pena

de ser ciego en granada

this phrase, discovered engraved upon a stone wall in granada, spain by happenstance, yet has stayed with me since the moment i discovered it. it reminded me of the simple staggering power of words and of views.
there is nothing in life
like the pain
of being blind


in granada.

i noticed it when i’d first arrived in granada. it was hotter i swear than i’d ever felt outside, even being from the south. the wheel on my suitcase, packed with a year’s worth of my belongings, had just broken off on the cobblestone streets. i’d dragged 40lbs of cumbersome luggage up granada’s many spanish steps to my hostel… just to learn that they had to given my room away. because i’d missed my check-in time. because i’d missed my train from sevilla. they’d tried to call, of course, but my phone had been stolen the night before.
and so there i was in my predicament. i couldn’t help it, i started crying. they booked me another hostel across town. completely defeated, i kicked my suitcase back down the steps. when i finally greeted it at the bottom of the steps,i found this phrase, engraved into a pillar on the wall. no hay nada en la vida como la pena de ser ciego en granada. and in my “misery” i paused. i breathed in. my lip stopped quivering. i noticed as the sun was setting, my eyes were drawn up the mountain just before me. and standing proudly in front of me the alhambra, illuminated. a site i’d been waiting to see my entire life. and the impact of it hit me all at the same time. and i cried, this time, not out of frustration, but out of pure gratitude. that i was in granada, and indeed, that i was not blind, in sight nor to any of the staggering significance that had brought me to this very moment. broken suitcases and overbooked hostels be damned. i was alive. and i was in granada.
there are so many scenes that have moved me to tears by their intense beauty. so many experiences that have made me uncertain if i’m even able to take them in. i’ve witnessed moments that have made me clutch my chest lest my heart jump right out because of the stunning humanity that exists all over the world. i’ve been reminded in those moments that no matter how difficult the path may seem at the time. I’ve learned that no matter how low the trough of the wave is, the crest will be so so high that you won’t even be able to see the bottom. significance hits you this way and sweeps you up, just at the right moment, and just in time. always. all you have to do is seek it.
so this is why we travel. to understand that there is nothing in life more painful than to remain stagnant in a world so beautiful, than to be deaf to “i love you” “te quiero” “je t’aime” in so many languages, to be numb to the tastes and flavors and traditions of so many rich cultures.
and to be blind
in granada.
tell me, then, what beautiful scene has left so so happy to have your sense of sight, and adventure, and the propensity to appreciate them both.

this moment captured by the talented @puma4487


why we travel… reason #13.

lunch in taipei.

every morning in taipei started with the same understood priority, the same frenzied mentality, the same shameless need- get pork buns. of course this task was quickly followed on our mental itinerary by “check out hidden taiwanese morning market” and “visit taipei memorial hall” or “hike up to breathtaking view of skyline at elephant park” and “stroll around xinyi district”  “share bottle of wine to get the nerve to check out taipei 101.” but first, always, the pork buns.

and somehow, during the first few hours of this particular afternoon, the pork buns had eluded us and we found ourselves ravenous and panicked, searching around the university neighborhood of taipei, an area presumably ripe both with fresh knowledge and cheap street food, trying to find the buns. we knew what to look for- a constantly billowing steam cloud, incessant flow of people, sticky array of communal sauce bottles. smiling, grease-shimmered mouths.
buns, contemplating in taiwan.
buns, contemplating in taipei.
and while we knew we must be getting close, against our will, something else to tempted us away from our noble mission. we passed a crowded restaurant of communal tables all centered around one big smorgasbord of dishes. we stepped in to get a closer look and what we saw from the street nearly multiplied before our eyes- a buffet of foreign delicacies, an array of dishes in nearly every color of the rainbow, a beautiful smattering of what we only assumed to be edible based on the context clues- hungry people, stacked plates, used chopsticks and inviting tables, yet hardly anything in front of us was identifiable. and so armed each with our own set of tongs and a temporarily empty plate, we began to paint our canvases and satiate our curiosity with one of nearly everything. we divided and conquered- a purple and black rice sushi roll, an array of what must be mushrooms in shapes that i didn’t know mushrooms could be, wrinkly dumplings filled with surprises, a lilac rice krispie treat ball, slimy purple jello bean pie, a flauta-like yum-yum, small elephant ears with boysenberries… and general tso’s chicken? they have that here?

View post

why we travel… reason #12.

to witness sunsets on foreign lands.
familiar light bathing an unfamiliar landscape, a humble reminder of the vastness of the universe, of the purity of our existence, of the complex miracle that is life.
the close of a sunday in el parque del buen retiro, madrid, spain.
sunset is the universal changing of the guard, when sun gives way to moon. a silent vow, a vigilant promise, as if only for our watchful eyes. one rising, one setting, and us crossing the threshold. It’s a rebirth, it’s a recharging, it’s a reminder. as day fades into night and the need for acceptance and forgiveness is forgotten.  and all that’s remains is the knowledge of existence, pure and honest and hopeful.
sunset palawan
over the horizon line on palawan island in the philippines.
witnessing the sunset for the first time in madrid was the only way i was able to conceptualize the reality of my new life- that i had moved away, had quit my job, was living in a country across the ocean from everything i knew and everything i thought i wanted and now i was there. i remember laying on my back in a park on the west side of the city and feeling the grass under my body and the warmth of the sun waning slightly and for the first time understanding not only the magnitude of my decision, but finally embracing how i wanted to be and feel and live, from that moment on, indefinitely. something about that familiar reminder connected me, grounded me, and elevated me.
sunset is a universal reminder that no matter how far we travel, how foreign the culture, how unfamiliar the landscape, how disorienting the perspective,at dusk we are blanketed in a sweet and settling confidence that existence is perhaps the only comfort we need. in any land or any home or any state of mind. and with that confidence we can and must go forth.
creating bold silhouettes in nice, france.
to travel is to seek adventure, to be definedly uncomfortable. to reject the familiarities and conveniences of life and to go forth into the unknown. and we are left with afeeling that our path is uncertain but well-trodden, that time is fleeting but will be relentlessly filled. with new people and ideas, with the life we breathe into a place and in turn, that breathes new life into us.

dusk just before the call to prayer, cappadocia, turkey.
for sunsets, and all of the impenetrable familiarity they provide.
that, is why we travel.

on the coast in the algarve, portugal.

why we travel… reason #10.

because life is a gift and not a moment can be wasted, not a minute taken for granted. because in reality we are all just a breath away from what may be our last, so we must seek those moments that take our breath away, that will fill our lungs and our hearts so full we think they may burst.
never is this feeling more evident to me than on this day, every year. when i feel the spirit of 32 fallen hokies weighing heavy on my heart. of 32 young people who were taken too soon. of 32 voices that i know are telling me to live, to go, to seek so much more out of life. to never settle for mundanity. to disregard sensibility. because if you were given a second chance at life, you wouldn’t think twice.
on april 16, 2007, a unimaginable tragedy happened at my school that claimed the lives of 32 innocent students and professors, and disrupted the sanctuary of education that our country holds so sacred. because of the decisions of one individual, 32 lives were taken, 32 families destroyed, and nearly thirty thousand students were left paralyzed in fear. friends and families were frantically making phone calls. and, for a moment, the world stopped i think. the world stopped and asked and begged why. why.
the building that the gunman entered that morning was primarily used by the school of international studies. the classrooms he entered were french classrooms, german, latin. the students were studying to be world leaders, to be diplomats, to have an international impact that began in blacksburg virginia but would reach so far beyond the new river valley. they were explorers aspiring to see the world beyond the walls of their classroom that, unbeknownst to them that morning, would forever be their burial ground.
they were explorers, whose journeys ended too soon.
i recently came across letters written to me 6 days after april 16th, by a third grade classroom in glen allen virginia. and the innocence and sincerity in their words reminded me of just how precious life is. one sentence in particular gripped me- “I hope this never happens again.” and the knowledge that I had then and have now that this did happen again, that it is happening, still. again. and the simple wishes of an eight year old written on loose leaf paper don’t exist in the world we live in.
there is a temptation to react with anger. with fear. to cling tight to comfort and to familiarity. to let fear overcome you and to stay put. but in reality, i know that for these 32, that isn’t what they would have wanted.
for anyone who feels that somehow their lives were spared, their is a reason for your vitality. and for those of you who haven’t felt that yet, you will. what will you do with this life you’ve been given or spared?
go the places you said you’d always go. see the things you’ve always wanted to see. let your permission be the silenced wishes of 32 students with their entire lives ahead of them, of 32 hokies, most of whose diplomas would have international studies proudly embossed upon them, whose steps would have imprinted dirt and sidewalks and countries far beyond the limestone walls of norris hall. and whose lives would have left an impression so many hearts.
leave the perceived safety of the place you are in and go. see. travel. and do it for those whose lives were taken too soon. for the footprints they would have left, for the adventures they would have sought, for the lives they would have led.
because life is a gift. and that is why we travel.


why we travel… reason #9.

during my year abroad, while my heart was constantly teetering on the edge of homesickness, it also nestled comfortably into a nomadic lifestyle. something about the discomfort and displacement energized me more than the concept of a grounded “home” ever had. to be so completely out of my element that I could no longer depend on the people and environment to bring me comfort and strength but had to find that within was invigorating and addictive.
however, that teetering was replaced with one big plunge on christmas eve of that year. my sister got engaged. I was in Prague.
when I received her text message, although I’d been traveling for 5 months, at that moment I felt the farthest from home. i was torn and confused. all of a sudden my confident decision to spend a year abroad seemed empty and selfish. My heart felt vacant. I realized in vain that life was going on without me back home. people were changing and life was happening that i wanted to be a part of it too. i was collecting stamps on my passport and anecdotes from foreigners and unbearably beautiful vistas that would be burned permanently into my mental bank, and it all felt significant. but my sister was engaged. all those miles and moments suddenly became a heavy weight and all I wanted to do was fly back across the ocean to be with her and her new fiance to celebrate.
because that was impossible, i made a decision at that moment to instead embrace and commemorate the occasion in the best way I could. i had waited years to visit Prague, because it’s part of my family’s heritage but also upon learning about the Charles Bridge from a stranger in an airport. “it’s the most romantic place on earth,” he told me as he described the tradition of kissing your lover there at sunrise, overlooking the ancient city. it was where he had proposed to his fiance, at sunrise. he showed me a picture of their silhouetted embrace just before he boarded a plane, to sweden, to visit her. i promised myself to be part of that silhouette one day, with a lover.

View post

why we travel… reason #8.

to seek, find, lose, and rediscover love. in all of its captivating complexity.
because stagnation is so definitively isolating, we move, we travel, we seek love- in a city or person that will deeply connect to our souls, immediately and relentlessly. and to find this is something unique and unshakable. you hold on to those moments where your heart is warmed, your soul is illuminated, so much so that you can only put your hand to your chest so it absorbs the energy and keeps it from nearly bursting. those moments, that inexorable magnetism of the soul, the insatiable curiosity of the mind, the often fleeting nature of the heart- that connect us deeply, if often momentarily, to a kindness in a person, the exactness of a place, a sight unseen that we will always crave again. it’s those moments that that move us so viscerally that we know our hearts and bodies will never leave.
but as explorers we are, travel on we must. and to leave, to experience this melancholy of departure is a pain that is all too familiar to lovers and travelers- sharing one last look, one last touch, a few final words that will inevitably seem to fall short. the beautiful tragedy of goodbye. be it to a person or a place, a moment or an opportunity. and the only tangible thing left in your hand and your heart is the inevitable uncertainty as to when you will feel that next- what road you will be on that it will hurt so badly again to have one last look, one last inhale, one last goodbye. and the hopeful certainty of returning is often the only thing often that keeps our feet moving forward.
and to finally return, to that city or those arms, after being apart for an indefinite amount of space and time. a boarding pass in your hand, a once-familiar destination in your heart, you’re filled with the desire to embrace the experience still containing that same wide-eyed curiosity, exploring every enticing curve and stubbly imperfection of a cobblestoned street or lovePhoto (1)r’s skin. and you can’t help but desire to relive the love you had- to walk down the same streets, hand in hand. to witness sunsets from such great heights, to taste food, to sip wine, to gaze endlessly at intangible vistas or into familiar eyes longing to dive in or to sit and absorb the view from afar, with your heart and your mind only slightly ajar. while retaining a deep, impenetrable connection that is transcendent, always, of a moment or a distance.
and even months later, to get a roll of film developed and realize that you know every angle that lies steps beyond the narrow view of what the shutter captured, or just how a pair of shoulders feel beneath a t-shirt now draped in black and white emulsion. and equally with a melancholic longing and a satisfying warmth in your heart, you know that no part of it will ever leave you.
and that, is why we travel. to seek, find, and rediscover love. to lose ourselves and find each other in the process, in the ebb and flow of insatiable exploration. to leave a part of our hearts in each place, knowing that it has also gained so much, that it can only move on stronger than before. and that finally our heartbeats will populate and empower so many city streets, so many strangers’ chests, so many nights and days and moments and lives that our own will exist to seek cadence beyond our humble chests.
for love. is why we travel.