In a world of shoulds and shouldn’ts, our steps follow the shoehorn. Locals here. Tourists there. These shops, please, are where you should spend your money. Oh, don’t go there, there’s nothing interesting there. Only normal people’s lives, vulnerable, laid bare because nobody expected an outsider to venture so far out the beaten path. No restaurant to have lunch, just a bakery, and a kiosk where half the neighbourhood gets their cigarettes. Next to it, a bubble-gum machine exposed to the sun for years, colors of gum faded into bleached pastels. Further down, a villa dating back to 1800 from the looks of it, staring out into the street through the gaps in its boarded-up windows. So beautiful it hurts.

And yet, though I’ve been a determined explorer for years, getting lost without a map or purpose, I still feel the tug of the fear of missing out. What if I visit a city like Prague and Lisbon and never see what everyone is talking about? Miss the obvious, the breathtaking, and the historically significant?

Ah, to see the world through the eyes of someone oblivious to the last 20 years of Internet imagery. To erase from my mind the expectation that my path, my meals, and my stay should be an experience curated to the point of being worth five stars. To see for the first time with no expectations.

When I was a boy, I remember, I used to walk a lot, out of sight of my parents. Curious what’s behind the old mill, or how the inside of a brick warehouse smells like. Probably like a cellar or a church in summer. Musty. But I couldn’t be sure unless I checked. Back then, finding a single book in English in the local bookstore, felt like unearthing a treasure. Seeing a snake eat a frog in the shrubs by the river was an adventure. Today, surrounded by an opulence of possibilities, my experience of them feels hollowed out.


Some of that must be the price of becoming an adult. Fitting in. Having a serious job. Keeping up with your friends. Ticking things off the checklist, even when you are theoretically on holiday. All that pretending gets to you, in the end.

Check out my photography from February HERE.

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Stories and photography for chronic overthinkers.

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