I love detours. Scenic routes. Surprises I would have missed flying by at 55 miles per hour. I think it’s a shame detour is frequently used as a euphemism for the difficult parts of our lives. The time you misunderstood driving directions. The dysfunctional relationship you regret. The year you were hooked on drugs. I call that being lost, not taking a detour. A detour, by definition, is an alternative route to a destination; unexpected, unusual, unplanned. There is nothing inherently negative about a diversion from point A that, no matter how roundabout, eventually gets you to point B. If you know me you know that I am not focused on point B. What’s waiting there, anyway? Career success? Material goods? Retirement? None of that is guaranteed. Only this moment. Here. Now. One detour at a time.
My surprise trip to Europe was a wonderful detour. My husband’s plan unfolded detail by detail. Our first stop was Berlin. We met up with good friends and spent a day sightseeing. My only request was to visit the Berlin Wall and I was grateful to be able to see firsthand a landmark of such significance. We had a simple walking tour of the area our friends call home, had the best cup of coffee we had ever experienced and sampled bretzels, currywurst and döner (Berlin’s take on a gyro). Back at our friends’ flat, brimming with natural light, soft colors and cozy decor, we caught a nap before beginning the next leg of our journey.
From Berlin we all drove overnight to our final destination: an expenses paid trip to Poland. The big reveal was that Unforgiven:Rwanda, the documentary our German friends asked us to collaborate on, had been nominated for best documentary at Camerimage in Bydgoszcz. Though the name was new to me, Camerimage is the most prestigious cinematography festival in the world. For more than two decades it has brought together filmmakers from the international community for a week of film screenings, lectures and workshops with the best in the business and extravagant galas. Though my husband is the filmmaker, I love cinema and was more than happy to hang with the likes of Caleb Deschanel, Roland Joffé and Alan Rickman. (I was more than a little crushed that just 2 years prior David Lynch was present to receive a lifetime achievement award.) World premiers at the festival included Birdman and Wild. I was super excited to watch The Shining, which I find visually stunning, on the big screen. My husband and our friends were honored to have Unforgiven:Rwanda nominated among a select group of great documentaries.
Eastern Europe was everything I hoped it would be: cold, gray, rainy. We literally didn’t see the sun for a week. It was perfect. But the people were very welcoming and pleasant. We devoured quality time, both as a couple and with our very dear friends. Being put up by the festival in a ritzy hotel, nightly invitations to indulgent parties and a week of all things cinema made for an extravagant, if not exhausting, week abroad. We even listened to Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls and jumped on the bed while throwing hundreds of zloties up in the air. Well, at least I did. In the middle of the week my husband and I traveled to the neighboring city of Torun, which managed to escape bombing during WWII, and therefore boasts some of the only true Gothic architecture in Poland. We toured thirteenth-century castle ruins on the Vistula River, saw the birthplace of Copernicus and had dinner at a pierogi restaurant. My husband bought me a rose from a street vendor and gingerbread in the shape of Copernicus’ head. It was really nice to get out and see a bit more of Poland because by the end of the week we were turning down galas and movies; there really can be too much of a good thing. Except coffee. We consumed as much fine European coffee as we could.
We drove back to Berlin with an evening to spare, wanting to spend more time with our friends in their home. They introduced us to Raclette for dinner (Cheese as a main course? Yes, please.) and quark for breakfast (Which I’m still craving.) My husband practiced what little bit of German he has taught himself. We spent time snuggling their babies and getting in as much laughter and conversation as possible and promising to come back to Berlin someday with our girls. And, of course, to reciprocate the invitation and host them again in the states. Our friendship is so natural and so important to each of us that it is hard for us all to believe we met only two years ago.
On the flight home I thought about how blessed our family has been in the past couple of years. Our interest in meeting new people, developing deep friendships and creative collaborations, working on meaningful projects and traveling ended up all being intertwined. I believe opening ourselves up to diversions made it possible. We don’t have any more time or resources than the average person but what we do have we direct toward experiences. We make the most of where we are right now in our lives. Yes, we should live in the hope of the future– but our only reality is the present. What is the rush to get to tomorrow? Today is always the perfect day to take a detour.