'Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.'
So wrote Lawrence Durrell in his 1957 book, Bitter Lemons of Cyprus. He later described the necessary travelling companions in order to achieve this utopia; namely, loneliness and time, declaring them as 'those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything'.
He was, of course, writing about his time in that wonderfully complex, Mediterranean retreat otherwise known as the Birth Place of Aphrodite. Indeed, it is where I am now writing, accompanied by a welcoming, though yet still cool, morning sun; its rays reflected by the expanse of yellow wild flowers and intensely luxuriant grasslands which rise behind my home here. The only sound is that of sparrows in a nearby carob tree, interspersed by the distant call of a wood-pigeon, and the soft mewing of a ginger cat, which has seated itself expectantly on the terrace outside my kitchen door, and which now stares back at me in the hope that I have something more exciting on offer than the occasional man-made 'meow' I return to it in the spirit of trans-cultural friendship.
Durrell is a writer I immediately warmed to. His work speaks of a man who understands the enormity of the mundane, the intrinsic value of indolence, the desirability of solitude, and the wealth of material residing just out of reach within the grey cells of one's mind, just waiting to be freed by the onset of some melancholically-induced cerebral exercise.
Cyprus is an island which allows for all of that. It is impossible to ignore the whispers from centuries past that filter through the rocks, like vapours through the pores of a living, yet antiquated, historical tome. 'Listen to me,' the land murmurs; 'listen and feel; listen and learn; listen and understand.'
So I listen, alone and unrushed. I allow the sounds of nature to filter through the labyrinth of neurones which somehow act as the repository of my thoughts; I let the rocky terraces speak to me of the island's origins and the tales of centuries past, laid down within it like seams of history, layer upon eventful layer, and I feel my mind tuning in to that same wavelength which endeared itself to Durrell, as it has to so many writers over the centuries. Yet, as I do so, my thoughts stretch, not just back down the monumental ages belonging to this island, but laterally across to the other side of the world, to the Caribbean Sea, where I sailed less than two months ago, and where, alone and with all the time in the world to muse, I cerebrally travelled back not just centuries, but through millennia, to the time of the world's earliest existence. It was a cathartic moment, and one which I tried to capture in a haiku:
Wave laps against wave:
wind's primeval voice echoes
from the start of time.
That, I believe is precisely what Durrell understood could be achieved from travelling introspectively, with time and solitude as one's companions. It is achieved through bouts of unmoving contemplation; that splendid quality the Moslems know as kayf. It requires no more than the gentle stretching of the grey cells. However, the reward is immeasurable.