A solitary Sufi, an Alaskan elder and a Buddhist nomad board a Ferry from Genova to Tunis. This is not a joke!
The three of us are traveling to Tunisia in the hopes of finding something significant, something unexpected and, most of all, something memorable.
Our project goal is to capture the oral histories of maritime cultures around the Mediterranean, a task which has taken us to numerous countries over the past two years. We have flown, sailed, trained and driven from discovery to discovery…until now.
There is a deep feeling of expectation among my traveling companions and I … something so strong and enveloping that it has become almost tactile…we can feel it waiting to grab us by the shoulders and pitch us into some Great Moment…as yet to be defined. We find ourselves aboard this aging vessel for this exact reason.
It seemed obvious to all of us that a Tunisian Ferry would be the only appropriate means to arrive at our destination, allowing time to calm the mind and leave our lives behind. Long empty moments spent on deck watching the sea, smoking cigarettes in a bar open on all sides with large bay windows, watching Tunisian families change from European styles to Tunisian tradition.
Arriving by sea offers a sense of discovery that airports lack. From the first time you sight land, the coastline grows in front of you, your new host country expanding to dominate the horizon. I challenge anyone to arrive at an exotic destination by sea without fantasizing about being the first explorer to discover a new land…you feel a connection that spans centuries as your eyes behold the same sights as they did…especially from afar.
The Chinese believe that when you travel by plane, your soul cannot keep up and therefore you must sleep with the window open in order to allow its return. Traveling aboard a ship, slowly passing the hours, dining, relaxing, sleeping…the traveller and soul remain united…arriving fresh for whatever adventure awaits.
Arriving by plane at any airport is a stressful, confusing and often nerve racking affair. Once you have finished the various customs and immigration cues and found your luggage, you are pushed through sliding doors into the stark reality of a new culture. It can hit you like a slap in the face.
Aboard are Tunisians, descendant immigrants to Europe, businessmen, truck drivers…a random selection of the society we will shortly find. Over the past 24 hours, we have grown accustomed to them, absorbed some of their culture. No longer do the screaming children, running in all directions cause me to cringe…i felt tranquil during the chaotic cue for passport control on board…and I honestly find myself enjoying the luxury of smoking my cigarette indoors, something unheard of throughout modern Europe.