Reading the book Eat Pray Love has triggered in me a firestorm of passion for my oldest and truest avocation: travel.
When I was young, I wanted to run away: not only to escape, which was part of the equation, but to explore. This has not changed.
In my time, I have wandered through forty-seven states, eleven countries and have lived on both sides of the continent. I have learned to say Yes, No, Please, Thank You and Excuse Me in six or seven languages. I can say "I am tan because today I lay in the sun" in Italian, which sounds just spanky, believe me. I can also order a sandwich and a cup of coffee just about anyplace.
Never one to research a travel guide, I have done most of my wandering with my sister, both of us turning our Inner Voices up to maximum volume. In this way, we have seen a stunning number of incredible and breathtaking views, everything from a solitary Greek island beach to the smashed shores of the Olympic Peninsula. Together, we have carried eighty-pound backpacks (we weighed them on meat scales), slept outside in the Arctic Circle, chased Italian trains and caught them, and narrowly escaped a number of unpleasant encounters brought on by innocence and vulnerability. With my own eyes I have witnessed the grandeur of the North American continent--and I've only seen a thimbleful. I have been graced with the personal experience of seeing our planet from a hundred different angles on a hundred different days, and it's been the most incredible blessing I could ever imagine.
Still, I want more.
The raising of two small children has temporarily hampered my wanderlust, but it hasn't quelled it. I am failing miserably at any attempt to happily roost under a single roof, watching the seasons quietly turn. I need to move, in short spurts at least.
For two reasons. One is escape. Ann and I discussed this the other day. It's true that an essential component of satisfying travel is the relief of abandoning everyday responsibilities. Once, I traveled the country and had not planned for paying bills or feeding my cat, and I was never able to really leave home, what with all the frantic phone calls to my friend Cynde, who fed the cat and took in the mail and handled business for me. Part of the lightness of traveling is the release of routine.
That's all well and good, but there's a component of travel that reaches right into the addictive. When I'm in motion, I am awake. I smell the damp grass or the dust, the clean linen. I am serenaded by insects, traffic, street music, cattle, waitress slang, the music of foreign language, the rhythmic beat of the train on its track. I absorb these things into my senses like oil into my skin. I drink in broad Everglade heat; I quicken in the thrilling Arctic cold. I merge with these places; I take them away with me, and leave part of myself behind.
This is not something I'm going to outgrow. This is what keeps me growing. This is what keeps me going. I may be a wife and mother and grower of flowers, but part of me will always have my bags packed, ready to distill another elixir of delight from faraway places.