In class when we were very young they started with our school and then explained our city and then our state and our country. The picture expanded until it included the whole world and except for science class and Star Trek, that was as far as it went.
We filled in the gaps between geography textbooks and the ground at our feet, between colonial independence and the realities of our democracy. And as we learned something about the differences between books and experience we got a better understanding of what the world outside our experience must be like.
This is the high-concept explanation for the sense of joy around the long wooden table of a Barcelona wine bar on the first night of my time away. In our textbooks Espana became Spain and there are no greater gaps we can fill than the ones around this table.
Maybe that’s why travel makes us feel so alive. It takes us as far into the space around us as we can go and the thrill of discovery doesn’t require some grand revelation but just a series of tiny tweaks to our assumptions about language or food or music or temperament.