One of the things I love about travel is the increased openness I feel to see and respond to daily opportunities. Travel is an invitation to spontaneity. It is a chance to live how we would like to live if we didn't feel too busy to do so. In this way it also reminds us to dust off the interests and passions that we have allowed to lay dormant and to live more fully by focusing again on what we love. Pouring over lists of hostels last week my only concern was to find a place to stay somewhere in between Crater Lake and Lassen Volcanic National Park. Realizing that I would probably leave Crater Lake in the evening I thought it might be nice to have a place to crash after a few days of camping. I also love hostels and jump at opportunities to discover new ones. Finding a hostel in Ashland, Oregon looked perfect for my route.
Planning merely to pass through I discovered that I had stumbled across a gem of a town in Ashland. The hostel proved to be a warm and friendly place. It was an actual home right on Main Street with large common areas to relax and converse with other visitors. While talking with Eric and Roger, two road-tripers from Northern California, I learned that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is not just an event as I had supposed, but that it is ongoing. Curious, I looked up the list of current plays and decided that the Merchant of Venice looked the most interesting. To my delight, it just so happened that this was to be the featured play the following evening. Now I had a decision to make. Do I continue on with my plan to pass through to the next place or do I change everything to stop and live in the moment? The next morning I awoke still pondering this decision. Having been warned that I should get my ticket as soon as possible if I hoped to go, I decided that attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in a place that literally revolves around this attraction was a wonderful opportunity.
Driving downtown to seek out tickets I felt like I had stepped into a village on the English countryside. Tudor styled homes and typical British names for businesses lined the streets. I learned from the friendly attendant that there were not any tickets left for the Merchant of Venice at the lower price. He asked if I was a member or new somebody from town who was so that I could get the tickets half-priced. Mentioning that I was in town for the day and did not know anyone, he said that he would check and see if he could use a local friend's discount. He then offered me the lower price for a seat. I love it when spontaneity aligns with good fortune and things work out!
I spent the first part of the day cheering on Spain in their World Cup match versus Germany. Learning from Yelp about a local coffee shop that roasts its own coffee, I decided to check it out. I loved the place the moment I walked in the door. It is large and open with somewhat of a rustic feel. The most interesting looking menu item that I had never tried was called "siphon service." It seemed the more adventurous path to try something new and I was not disappointed. The process of siphoning coffee is something that has to be seen to be understood so I posted a video here.
Forewarned that I might want to prepare before watching the play, I purchased a summary and analysis of the Merchant of Venice and sat down in beautiful Lithia Park to read it. I also attended a brief lecture given as a preface to show on the festival's campus. Feeling prepared to comprehend the show, I stepped outside and found a girl dressed as a sprite playing a variety of interesting looking wind instruments. Her music was mesmerizing and seemed quite fitting for the streets of Ashland. Every evening at 7:15 there is a free outdoor event called The Green Show" and I attended for a musical journey through the history of blues. It was quite entertaining and drew a large crowd. At last the time had come for the play.
Finding my way to my seat on the upper level, I was immediately drawn in by the scene. Of Ashland's three theatres, this play was held at the Elizabethan Stage, a large outdoor venue with a beautiful Tudor-styled set as its backdrop. The play was absolutely fabulous, professionally executed within a beautiful set. The acting was so well done that I leaned forward and felt like I was living part of the story, empathizing with Antonio, hoping the best for Bassanio and struggling to understand the cruelty of Shylock. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival provided an exceptional cultural experience.
It was a very satisfying day for a traveler. One that began with one plan and ended having followed another. I stumbled across a wonderful opportunity, gladly responded to it and experienced its rewards.