There was a small portion of my trip in Europe that was spent train-hopping with my father. In three days, eight different trains took us from Genoa, Italy to St. Jean Pied du Port, France, where we would begin to walk the Camino de Santiago. Our need to get from point A to point B gave us an excuse to relax for a few days, watch the French Riviera pass by, and get some reading done. I love train travel: you can move around, you can read, you can decide if you want to face backwards or forwards! Pure luxury!
We boarded our first train and wrangled our backpacks through the narrow corridors. I got settled and dove back into my book as all six of us in the compartment pretended our fellow travelers didn’t exist. We did the usual dance: stare into space just above the head of the person seated directly across from you; read your book intently; stare out the window. Anything to avoid interaction with a stranger.
A conversation finally developed between my father, the large Italian man sitting in what should have been my window seat, and me. Alberto was a chef, we learned, who works on private yachts all year. Not a bad job, I thought. He was headed to Nice to work on some rich family’s yacht for a few months. I listened to him talk about his career: migratory, exciting, difficult.
I love food, I gushed to him. I love cooking. I want to learn more about it.
“In order to learn,” Alberto replied, “you have to be curious.”
I resisted the urge to write this down in my journal like an overeager student taking notes in history class. In order to learn, you must be curious. What am I curious about? There were things I wanted to learn more about – food, language, art – but which of these topics were backed by a curiosity that would actually drive me to do something about my interest?
We each have an obligation to our own curiosity. If we want to change our lives, to discover new hobbies, to explore new career opportunities, we have to be curious. We must acknowledge the nagging desires inside ourselves that don’t shut up, and then we have to do something about them.
Hard work is obviously involved. Commitment. Et cetera. But it all starts with curiosity.
I promise this is going somewhere, rather than a nostalgic tangent brought on by a desire to be back there, in movement, in Europe. I’m back in New England now, and I’ve been trying to articulate my curiosities – to people asking the “what’s next?” question, but also, more importantly, to myself. And I’ve been telling myself since January that I want to learn more about making bread. It’s so interesting! And tasty! It’s an art and a science! It dates back to ancient times! And then I realized, with some gentle nudging from loved ones, that there are real, concrete ways to explore these curiosities. Ways that don’t involve just sitting in your kitchen and waxing poetic about flour and reminiscing about croissants and baguettes because bread in the States is just terrible! (But then what do you expect from a country where unpasteurized cheese is illegal?) ANYWAYS, I digress. I had to let go of the fear that these desires weren’t genuine, that I was somehow “wrong”. I had to trust my curiosity.
So! Right! The point here! I signed up for a four-day course at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vermont, which was just about the coolest thing I could imagine, and therefore imperative. And you can pay with a credit card! So it happened. (Thanks, internet!) I’m spending a few days learning about yeast and dough and I’m learning to knead and shape. Also, I’m carbo-loading, just in case I decide to run a marathon this weekend. I am just thrilled about all of this, especially since I’m in Vermont and it’s beautiful and peaceful and it’s an adventure.
Who knows what will come of this. It might become a hobby, or a career, or a fun memory. But I’ll never know if I don’t jump; I’ll never know if this is something that I’ll actually enjoy if I don’t at least try it on for size. I’ll never learn if I’m not curious. At a time where I feel paralyzed by uncertainty, action is always better than inaction. So far, I’m having a blast. If nothing else, I’ve already come away with some tasty souvenirs.