Photo: photodonato/Shutterstock

Notes on Trespassing as Travel

by Joshywashington Feb 9, 2010
Jump the fence with Joshywashington and discover travel as trespass.

TRAVEL has always been for me on some level about trespass. In a world that has been picked over, trampled and bricked in, the (law-flaunting) intrepid spirit must look for signs that point the way to adventure. Sometimes those signs read: NO TRESPASSING.

Taormina, Sicily

From Taormina a steep walk leads to a vista overlooking the Ionian sea and the crumbled memory of a Saracen castle. Rounding the bend I come to a tourist couple facing a closed gate. Three times my height, the padlocked iron gate looks like it has been fasted shut for years. The iron rises in black stripes to decorative arrowhead points. The path winds on beyond the gate and into the ruins.

I slide my camera bag under the gate and King Kong up the warm metal, swing one leg then another over the top and slide down the other side. The impasse now separates me from the dispirited couple and who amble back down the trail to find solace in a day at the beach and a dozen pumpkin raviolis.

The ruins: a strong breeze disturbs the tall, dead grasses where crickets hop and click. The shriveled litter of enterprising local youth is scattered here and there in little piles. The hilltop view that has been settled and sought for 3,000 years is all mine. Scampering over the walls, snapping photos, feeling the exhilaration of the trespass, the secret world of the Saracen ruins grow into my own brief kingdom under a blue of a Sicilian noon.

Seattle, Washington

A city is a secret folded in on itself over and over and over.

We slink under sodium streetlights that make the asphalt look iodine yellow, into the shadows. We peek over our shoulders. Sometimes a cop is parked there, he points.

No cop. We move around the side of the four story brick structure that looks like everything else in Georgetown; old, storied, used and done.

Inside the abandoned Seattle Brewing and Malting Co. building it is all diffused light through dust-crusted windows and wrought iron and huge spaces where tanks of beer had brewed.

A central stairway is flanked by two tight spiral staircases that curl up three floors.
 Chalk graffiti glows perfect in the dim light. Where the tanks once bubbled the emptiness and the spaciousness of the dank air keeps you peering into the dark. Georgetown was Seattle before Seattle was Seattle. It’s old. And like Taormina, grime and gates keep most from breathing the musty air of its most secret spaces.

On the roof we look out at the rail lines that are wet tendrils of commerce running North to South. Another trespasser’s reward: silence, solitude, adrenaline, an inner narrative holding its breath around each blind corner.

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Where have you trespassed? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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