Most of us have a place, somewhere in the world, that so entices us and draws us in that we return to it in our mind over and over again. For you, it may be a beach on a faraway island. It could be your hometown. It could be a city you lived in or only passed through for a day. Perhaps you have returned to that place many times, or maybe right now returning is a dream, something that you keep on the back burner, so to speak.
The other night my husband and I were having one of our many travel chats, and I asked him, “If you could only take one more trip for the rest of your life, where would you go?” He paused and said that, well, there are so many places out there…he’d have to do some research.
Before even finishing my question, I realized I knew what my answer was: Oaxaca.
Right now I’m in the middle of the book My Own Country by Abraham Verghese. Verghese, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases, was at the frontlines when small-town America began to face the AIDS crisis. His book chronicles his time living and working in Johnson City, Tennessee. It was a long way from India, where his family is from, and Ethiopia, where he grew up. And yet, the small town began to feel like home. He writes, “I suppose this is when you know that a town has become your town: where others see brick, a broken window, a boarded up storefront, you feel either moved to tears or to joy. The map of the town becomes the map of your memories, the grid on which you play out your obsessions, on which you mark your great loves and your enmities; its geography becomes your destiny.”
I read this the day after my Oaxaca realization, and it couldn’t be more true. I’ve had wonderful moments there – weaving through Abastos and spending time with dear friends in Teotitlán del Valle. I’ve also had sad times, such as a very specific melancholy that hits me when it rains there, or needing to catch a flight and not being ready to go. And all this, like Verghese says, makes up my map of the place.
So, with Valentine’s Day in the recent past, I send loving thoughts to a place that will always have my heart.