Dedicated to Anthony Bourdain
Laredo, Texas, nicknamed “The Gateway City,” largest inland port on the U.S./Mexico border, immortalized in a famous cowboy ballad. This was my first visit, and as I rounded a corner, my expectations were realized…
I’ll get back to that; but first…
I have a friend who’s a certified nomad. With her backpack, camera and laptop, she travels the globe and shares her delightful impressions on social media. She has been known to say, “Travel or die!”
Now, I might not go that far, but surely a part of me would wither if I didn’t quench my thirst for travelling. My wanderlust assumes many forms: afternoon plunges into my home city, day excursions, extended road trips, international safaris. Whatever it takes to get out there! Unless I do so, I become like a caged tiger pacing back and forth along the bars of his enclosure, eyes flat and spiritless.
Travelling is an art, and I have methods that suit me well. First, I do my homework on Trip Advisor, Frommer’s, and other web sources. Second, I speak to friends who have visited my target locale and solicit their advice. Third, I set a tentative itinerary.
But then comes the most important ingredient: my belief in serendipity. I am certain that I will encounter an unexpected person, place, or thing that expands my knowledge and appreciation of our magnificent world. The key word here is “unexpected”–a surprise that fascinates and instructs, a bonus for anyone who hits the road!
Here are examples from recent trips:
- An image of Eva Garza, “Sweetheart of the Americas,” on a mural in my home city of San Antonio. It led me to YouTube and her gorgeous voice.
- A park ranger at The Big Thicket who recently retired after thirty years in the U.S. Army. This guy is salt of the earth, and I absolutely loved our conversation.
- A roadside historical marker on the highway north of Trinidad, Colorado, that prompted me to investigate the Ludlow Massacre on April 20, 1914, a day when the National Guard (in cahoots with John D. Rockefeller) killed over two dozen striking miners with their machine guns.
- An unexpected welcome from hundreds of singing schoolchildren as our caravan pulled into Manyamula, Malawi.
Now, back to Laredo (after you enjoy the slideshow).
As I walked along its streets, I saw the recommended tourist sights: the San Agustin Cathedral, the central square with its impressive statue of Ignacio Zaragoza, the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum.
But I also expected a serendipitous surprise, and I wasn’t disappointed. Turning one corner, I saw the city’s port of entry, Mexicans of all ages streaming through its portal into our country. A question sprang to mind. In this era of turbulence surrounding illegal immigration, how many Mexican nationals come legally into our country every day?
Estimates vary, but it is close to a million, counting both ways. They come to work, shop, go to school, visit friends and relatives. On this day, their flow into The Gateway City filled me with a sense of community and friendship. I sat on a concrete bench and watched them: mothers with children, men and women of all ages, part of our global community, brothers and sisters of different mothers.
It may sound simple, but this is what I treasured most as I walked out in the streets of Laredo. And it would not have happened UNLESS I TRAVELED!
I leave you with a quote from Anthony Bourdain that deeply resonates for me: “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch. Move!”
Carpe diem, friends!