After last week’s bitter cold, Washington DC reached a stunning 70 degrees on Monday. The birds were singing. The tree buds were, I’m sure, confused. The soft air carried with it the promise of spring…and tantalizingly clear memories of Switzerland.
I was sitting at my desk when the warm air finally wormed through the cracks in the windows to fill my office, and suddenly I was standing on a street in Geneva, surrounded by the same spring air. The memory was fleeting but vivid.
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, the weather is inextricably mixed up with our travel memories. We’ll of course remember the trip to Paris where it poured down rain for a solid day, until our shoes squeaked and squelched and we had to retreat to our hotel. What we may not realize is that the mild weather of the following day is also locked away in our memories, permanently associated with our visit to the Eiffel Tower. Then, years later, we walk out our door into the same mild weather, and – boom! – we’re back at the base of the Eiffel Tower.
Smells and tastes can also bring forth a rush of memories, but perhaps because I spend more time outdoors when I travel, the weather is, for me, particularly evocative of past travels. A crisp fall morning takes me back to the French Alps. A scorching, humid August afternoon transports me to Cambodia. A cold, clear night returns me to the Australian outback.
I find it fascinating to contemplate how many details our brains process and store away without any conscious effort on our part. And what a wonderful thing it is when some of those details pop up when we’re not expecting them, to give us a little break from our day with memories of past adventures.