“La oportunidad no se vuelve a dar
Actúa y no lo pienses.”
– Si o Si, Sammy y Falsetto ft. J Alvarez
In unfamiliar territories, my feet have the proclivity to assume an extraordinary agency of their own and operate almost completely independently of my will. Having abdicated my inhibitions to the whims of my curiosity, I often find myself walking down unnamed lanes and deserted roads, at the end of which I am met with surprising and captivating vistas such as this:
This photo was taken in a charming small village called Valldemossa on the island of Mallorca. It is located only an hour or so away from Palma and is easily reachable by bus. The village presented itself to me in its most maginificent form in this spectacular mid-December splendor. It is composed of clusters of houses situated along smooth, stony winding paths that move with the contours of the valley. The bright-colored shutters of the stone houses and the lively potted plants that adorn their façade charmed me. December is the best time to be here — the summer crowds have yet to come, and you get the place all to yourself. I remember sitting on a bench by one of the main streets writing under the shade of a big tree, while watching elderly residents quietly go about their business. This tranquility and domesticity of village life, which I treasure deeply wherever I go, calmed me.
I will always remember Valldemossa as a site of fortuitous encounters, and one of those places where I was again blessed with the generosity of strangers while on the road. A little past mid-day, I stopped by a cafe to write in my Moleskine while enjoying a cup of super-thick hot chocolate, then decided it was time to move on to the next town. Just as I was about to get on the bus, my Argentinian friend I’d met in Palma a couple of nights before disembarked from the bus with her mother, and I was immediately asked to join them for a picnic lunch. I decided to delay my own departure and gratefully accepted the invitation, promising to repay with a tour of the quaint village, which I’d had the pleasure of getting acquainted with the past few hours.
I took them to the viewing point where I’d captured the photo above. While minding our own business, a German father and son approached us and engaged us in friendly conversation. The father could tell immediately from my complexion and headscarf that I was Malaysian. Intrigued, I asked how he knew, and he confessed that he had been to Penang a few times for business meetings, and had also lived in Asia long enough to know its people.
And so a long, absorbing conversation that took all five of us (the mother-daughter and father-son duo, and me) along the tranquil, still streets of the village began. We inquired about each other with much curiosity and enthuasiasm, as only new travelers encountering each other for the first time do. At one point however, I had to interrupt our pleasant exchanges, reminding my friend and her mother that we were scheduled to take the bus to get to the next town, Deià.
Hearing this, the father made us an offer we could not refuse — to drive us there and onwards, in what turned out to be a brand new Mercedes. (Being Germans, it was unthinkable that they would drive anything other than their own native brand.) We had a pleasant drive through Soller and Deià with Frank Sinatra playing on the stereo, and to our relief we were also driven back to Palma that evening. I was dropped off near my Airbnb, and we parted ways with promises to keep in touch, which we indeed still do.
Some of the most pleasant surprises from the road for me have come from these sudden relationships of exchange that I get absorbed in with hitherto unacquainted individuals. This, I feel, is part of the beauty of putting my map and agency in the backseat and letting my feet take me where they will.