Isabella: Is the Romance of Traveling Gone? A Short Story

She finally went to Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia yesterday, on her birthday. She put off visiting Europe, let alone Madrid, too long and decisively realized the irritations of modern travel would take a back seat, and view the presentation of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. A moment is infinite and never too short: only too long when we deny ourselves the wanderlust experience of traveling.

A traveler told me, “I blame my enjoyment of having miserable experiences, while I travel, due to being able to write about them later.”

The steps through life may be curious enough, so why make it more difficult to focus on those irritations or even the outcome? Why not just go, explore. The expensive airfares, cramped seats, crowded planes, irritatingly higher bag fees, and exhaustingly longer security lines rightly lead a formidable traveler to doors of knowledge. Who cares that traveling does not appear to be what it once was. I thought we were living in a liberal world of progress and change, which means nothing stays the same? Being on the road means tolerating those experiences, where, in the moment, seem to take away from everything about your travels, but in the end, those are what we truly remember and feed our imaginations to go explore again; sometime down another road.

Isabella did not care if the romance of traveling wore off for most people. She found the romance of traveling in being lost, with no map. Frustration began to arise, but she stopped her movement, took a deep breath and began to appreciate the sites she found while she was lost! She stumbled across Catedral de Santa María de la Almudena, the Royal Palace of Madrid, Sabatini Gardens, and Palacio de Oriente, all while walking in the wrong direction, trying to find the bus station. She did not even think about visiting those places. There is nothing like being lost in solitude, encountering the most random spots in a foreign city. She could have easily asked someone for help, stopped when she felt like it, make more wrong turns if she desired. Locals are friendly and willing to help, if travelers stop and ask where they need to go.

The randomly obscure selection of experiences, while on the road, occur outside our banal normalcy of life. Isabella finally found Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. She began journaling about finally being able to see Guernica. Her words were confusing, even to her. Her mind was filled with excitement of simply being on the road and having the opportunity to travel, even if some people thought the romance of traveling, seemingly, had vacated. That may appear that way, but certainly not in the idea of exploration in what each individual seeks. The painting indeed was gigantic, yet not as big as the steps it takes to get there, through all the tedious experiences. What she adored about the painting was the room before Guernica, displaying Picasso’s sketches and ideas towards painting Guernica. That reminded her of how someone would tell her, “It is not about the destination, but enjoying the entire process of arriving there. That is far more gratifying.”

She realized people in Madrid did not make eye contact, because of the cold weather, but that did not mean they were not willing to help when she put herself out to ask. She felt they were so focused on getting somewhere, which most people in today’s world appear to be going: somewhere is always catching up. People moved quickly in Madrid. She noticed that when two or more people were walking together, they were so attentive to one another and they were still so expressive with their body language while walking and talking.

Sitting in Reina Sofia, enjoying the surrounding grandeur of art, she realized: a poet speaks so soft the world does not even need to ignore his words – they simply skip over their two ears. Isabella may have, also, missed the poetic, the beauty, and even the romance of traveling, if she denied herself this trip to Europe, something she had always wanted to do.

When Isabella left, she wanted to see Guernica only, but she came to the understanding it was not only about seeing Guernica. It was about the entire process, the path of finally being there; the irritations which all lead to the outcome: being able to travel. The expensive airfare, the cramped seat, the crowded plane, the bag fees, the security meant nothing compared to being lost and finally being where she had desired to be for so long, on the road.

Ask someone before they go traveling about the romance of traveling being gone. The answer could very likely be an affirmation of why you would not want to leave your home. When you take the first step toward your own romantic voyage, that very idea is going to be corrected. When you stand in front of your own Guernica, you are going to see the path is the destination and the destination can be a very true reality and that is why exploration is so beautiful.

Henry Biernacki has traveled to more than 120 countries and continues to travel as a pilot for Virgin American Airlines. A four-sport letterman in high school and a two-sport letterman in college, Biernacki holds a Bachelor of Arts in romance languages and international affairs. He lived in France, Germany, Taiwan, the West Indies and Mexico before settling in his current home in San Jose, California. Biernacki is the author of the recently released novel No More Heroes (

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