The first autumn days are upon us, and I cannot help but feel premature nostalgia for summertime. While I happily relinquish the toil of those last four years in university to the shelf of memories, I still feel the turnover into September like a loss of freedom. Labour Days have recently meant giving up my freedom from approaching deadlines, from late night treks home from the library, from sleepless nights, from endless memorization. But this past Labour Day brought another freedom to mind.
Whilst transitioning from student to half-fledged adult in the world, I spent summers working at Rideau Hall. Often, while strolling those stately, manicured grounds, I would reflect on how thankful and fortunate I was to be surrounded by beauty in so many forms. My sense of gratitude did not stop with the verdant foliage, however; I was shaped, sometimes memorably, by the people I met—particularly by tourists.
What is it about visitors to our land that evokes in me such curiosity? Is it the foreign sound of their language? Is it the swing of their arms, or the quickly-noted difference in their gait? For my part, I found myself mostly drawn by their moods—their unrelenting anticipation of wonder, their expectation of awe. Somehow, tourists—at least while they tour—seem more able to, as Peter Stockland posted last week, “treasure the concrete particular of days themselves.”
Is this my decade to enter into a minor existential crisis? Is this tinged autumn my “quarterlife crisis?” I don’t know. But I know I don’t want to be “immobilized in traffic with the digital clock ticking, and suddenly you’re 105.”
Tourists, at least while travelling, actually live. They see through a child’s eyes. They laugh out loud in amazement or joy. They embrace and love with less apprehension, if just during those magical moments of discovery. They risk more, perhaps relishing the anonymity of the traveller in a strange land, confident in being forgiven for transgressing customs or mores. The tourists I met at Rideau Hall pop in and out of my thoughts often: a laugh we shared; a compliment given or received; an awkward posed struck in their family photo.
The spirit and joie de vivre of the tourists live well in my memories. In a bid to shed my student skin, I have found meaningful employment and joined the ranks of commuters. Now, without my tourist guides, I stroll other estates, and am shaped by other people. And I am content in my unfurling adult life. Yet I want to actually live, before I am suddenly 105. If I want to gain awe and amazement, to risk, to have magically intense moments of living, I must find my connection to others. That is part of my truth. I must live like a tourist, here, now, and that journey is just beginning.