S2E46. What Will I Remember?

About 25 years ago, when I was in my late 40s, my wife and I spent a week in Venice. Reflecting back on that trip, though, I only have a handful of memories…certainly not a week’s worth. Which makes me wonder: How much of our just-completed 12-day journey will I remember 25 years from now, when I’m 96?

I slept well every night with a lot of dreaming both on the trip and the week after, and I didn’t experience any anxiety or depression, so my brain has no excuse for not consolidating a lot of memories. 

I’m pretty sure I’ll remember that we visited Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy, but the names of the ports are already eluding me. Without looking at the itinerary, I can name Athens, Santorini, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Zadar, Koper and Venice, but I already need help to fill in Katakolon and Kotor. I’ll be happy if I can recall 5 out of 9 a few years down the road.

One thing I know that I am certain to remember is tasting the fruit of a cactus that was growing alongside a cobblestone street. I picked one pod from a cluster and split it open with my thumbs to reveal its juicy, bright purple meat. It tasted bitter so one taste was enough. After dropping it on the ground, though, I noticed a smear  of juice on my hand and so I licked it.


Immediately, I felt the prick of a hundred tiny needles all around my tongue and the inside of my mouth. Unseen by me, the fruit was protected by a legion of tiny spikes that had come off in my hand when I opened it. That one lick transferred most of them to my tongue. Lesson learned…and never to be forgotten! (On the walk back to the bus, our tour guide identified the plant. It was an aptly-named prickly pear cactus!)

On the other hand, I already can’t remember on which excursion it happened. 

I probably won’t forget the olive trees, which I had never seen before, that were as ubiquitous in Greece and Croatia as are vineyards in France and corn fields in rural Pennsylvania.

I tried to replay in my mind our tour of Lubljana, Slovenia, and did pretty well. Sally was impressed with the detail of my recollection. But I’m unable to recall the other excursions with as much certainty. A few images pop up, but I know that there is a lot I’m forgetting, and I have trouble connecting the images to the locations. Reminiscing with Sally should help remedy some of that.

Telling friends about our adventure should foster preservation of some memories. It will be interesting to see which experiences emerge as important enough to share.

The pictures we took will also help, but only if we look at them from time to time. The photos I’ve posted to the blog’s web site are the one’s I’m most likely to recall in the future because of their association with the blog in addition to the visit itself.

I’ll remember that the former Yugoslavia broke into 6 nations: Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. All 4 of the tour guides we had in the first 3 of those countries mentioned it and I realized that I was completely ignorant of that recent history, so I made an effort to commit it to memory.

I sat agape watching people walk by at the port in Kotor, Montenegro, stunned at their height. It turns out that they have the 3rd tallest population in the world. I felt like Gulliver in Brobdingnag…which should be unforgettable.

I’ll remember the rubbing alcohol taste and spreading warmth throughout my chest from drinking grappa. I won’t remember any of the paired wines from our gourmet on-board dinner.

I’m pretty sure I’ll recall the glass-making demonstration in Murano. We bought an art glass paperweight that is sure to remind us.

In all likelihood, though, I’ll forget the vast majority of the experience. Like my Venice trip a quarter of a century ago, there will probably be fragments, but not enough to conjure up the full 12-day trip.

Already—just a week since our return—much has faded. Memories are mischievously mingling and blending with one another, so I have difficulty sorting out what happened when and where.

But I’m going to try my level best to preserve the humbling awe I felt as I beheld the elegant majesty of the Parthenon, and the quiet thrill that surged through me as I stood on the starting line for the foot races at the original Olympic stadium where the games were held for more than a thousand years. 

I believe in the maxim that it’s not the destination, but the journey that matters. I’d like to augment that sentiment by suggesting that it’s not the memories (which can fade) but the experience (knowing that you did it) that really matters. And so I’m hopeful that a quiet warmth will still well up within me when I’m 96 and someone mentions Montenegro—even if I can no longer picture it in my mind’s eye—and I’ll smile.



  1. kzhop52 says:

    I remember people (who? I don’t know) told me to concentrate really hard on my wedding day in 1974 (I was 22), in order to remember the day and what transpired. “You will forget everything!” they said. And I pretty much have. So it’s not surprising that in your 7th decade, when our brain cells are not working as well as they once did, that you will forget many of the experiences of your trip. Which brings up the question (you sort of addressed this), why should I travel, if I won’t remember it soon after I’ve returned home? Is it enough that it was interesting and fun while I was there? I’m not sure. I think some memories, just don’t get imprinted on the brain the way that others do. I remember some of my trip to Europe with Bertie in 2007. Now, looking back, it was worth every penny and moment of my time, to be with her in Florence at the Uffizi museum gazing at Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” (from about 12″ away), and to stand in awe at the feet of Michelangelo’s “David” at the Accademia Gallery. We both spontaneously, and unexpectedly, cried together and hugged each other over the beauty of David. I sincerely hope that those memories never leave me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve decided that travel is an ‘in the moment’ thing and that memories are icing on the cake. And as for that 2007 trip, if you didn’t already know, it was the highpoint of Bertie’s final years. Thank you!


      1. kzhop52 says:

        I did not know that. Thank you for sharing that with me.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Barbara Briden says:

    I’ve been enjoying your column for some time, thanks to good friend Mary Sue Price.
    My husband and I have enjoyed traveling, in US and all around Europe.
    I keep daily journals for each adventure which are a great resource for retrieving details. But my best way to visually recall our trips is through by travel sketchbooks. I travel with a sketchbook and black Sharpie pen and quickly capture small details along the way each day – sometimes a view, a flower, statue, floor tile, a meal, whatever. Really looking at the objects, even for a minute, invigorates my memory and the books are my treasures for all the trips. They are much more effective than photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a gift to be able to create sketch memories! Alas, I have no such talent, but writing about the experience certainly helps.

      Give Mary Sue a big hug from me when you see her!


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