Pereta, Italy 2009

My current trip to Europe calls to mind memories of past visits, so I hope you’ll bear with me as I reminisce. A couple of years ago I went on a bicycle tour of Tuscany. My group stayed in rural farm inns, agriturismos, and operated in a radius of somewhere around 20 miles each day. Although we pedaled hard, it was really a languorous vacation existence. That in itself was something of an accomplishment for my hard-charging wanderlust.

What I didn’t expect was the total sensory experience I would gain from exploring the area on a bicycle. I vividly remember one particular ride when I slowly became aware of a clink-clink-clink sound. I looked up into the hills toward the direction of the sound and saw the form of a house, mostly hidden by trees. The sound itself came from workmen’s hammers making some improvement I couldn’t see.

I would have missed that there was a house nearby had I not heard the faraway clinking of hammers–something I would have completely forgone if I had been inside an automobile. Fascinated, I started paying more attention to other things around me. I smelled ripe figs before I saw the tree. I noticed tomatoes lying in fields, dropped after the plants had been harvested. I tasted salt in the air as I neared the sea. I was overwhelmed by the fragrances of anise, rosemary, and oregano as I cycled past wild growths of each. I saw with my own eyes that when untended, rosemary grows into bushes. I broke open a cone from a pignoli tree to discover the origin of pine nuts.

In little more than a couple of hours, I easily could have covered the same distance in a car that it took us a week to cover on bicycles, but I would have missed it all. That trip underscored for me that much of life is a total sensory experience. How much more do I learn and remember when I use all of my senses to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste the things around me? How can I apply this lesson to more than just vacation?

To my readers: I would love it if you would share your own examples in the comments here. Tell me what you have learned through your senses and how it has made a difference to you.

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