"All the way on those, huh?" he said, pointing to our bicycles in the parking lot of a small market, gear strapped to the frames.
"Yeah, all the way on those."
"And you started from?" "Ireland." "On those?" "All the way on those."
We got to talking at one of the tables in the market. Albert enjoyed his coffee and croissant. Lydia and I picked at our half kilo, budget-buy loaf of bread. It was almost 2 pm. Usually we are on the road by 9 am, but today I had my first tire puncture and spent the morning repairing the tube. Finally stocked up on food, we were prepped and ready for the Swiss Alps. Albert took interest in us, as we took in him; a retired Dutchman in the foothills, spending his days as an abstract painter. He offered to take us up to his studio to show us his work.
"It's just across the street," he said. Lydia had run back to the isles of the market to search for one last thing. "Well . . .," I pondered, stroking my beard a few times. "I think it would be good for Lydia to see, since she just started painting."
When traveling, you always have the option to graciously decline someone's offer with the intent to "get back on the road." Much of the time there is this internal nudge to keep moving. To be "on my way" is a very common feeling.
In art, be it painting, music, performance, pottery or other form, many of the best expressions and pieces come out of mistakes or unintended avenues. I consider travel an art. It is a chance to be creative. The rules are loose and the options are endless. If I stick to the same few brushes all the time, the piece looks pretty boring and redundant. I want to step out on the edge, find the flavor of Zen in the unintentional.
"Sure, we can come by for a moment."
We crossed the street, took the elevator up to floor 6 and walked down the hall hung with paintings created by Albert. It felt like a gallery in a museum. A few pots of orchids sat in the windows we passed by.
It was a classic painter's quarters - dozens of brushes and sponges, selections of colors in the hundreds and a couple canvasses in progress. He gave us a proper exhibition, showing us the old and the new. Out the window we could see Lake Lucrene, surrounded by the snow-capped Swiss Alps - no shortage of inspiration here!
After our private showing Albert invited us for coffee. Coffee led to toast and homemade jam. Ten minutes before each hour the ferry boat passed by Albert's bay. The conversation wove through the afternoon and as the hours passed I saw the boat out of the corner of my eye, in what felt like every 10 minutes. The sun was getting low and our plans for the day were distant history. Hunger began to set in and Albert invited us out for pizza; something two people from Chicagoland can never turn down.
When we returned back to Albert's apartment, well past 11 pm, he asked where our campground was so he could give us a lift.
"Oh, we don't have a campground, we don't have a place to sleep yet. But we can find one."
"Well, you will just stay here then," he suggested.
Throughout our conversations that day, Albert told us it was peculiar that he met us at the time he did. Usually he has his coffee at 9 am, but he was running late due to some circumstances and he decided to have his ritual coffee and croissant in the afternoon. Similarly, our tire puncture warranted us a late start and we too had our brunch late and behind schedule. The Universe put a few obstacles in our paths in order to make them cross.
Sometimes it feels strange how we meet just the right people in the oddest ways. People always seem to be attracted to those they have so much in common with; those deep relationships that seem to form almost overnight. But it might not be all that strange at all. There are those conversations I've had that stick with me for the rest of my life and this day was one of them.
We are destined to meet certain people that will help guide and direct us through our lives. Paths are crossed and relationships, however short or long, influence our choices and direction in life. The art comes in taking the risk of saying "yes." The risk of crumbling the plans or objectives and being open to a new opportunity for the day. Therein lies the Zen of travel; traveling across the world or the journey of everyday life. Pick up a different brush every once in a while because you never know who will change your life.