Getting the wanderlust back?

You wouldn’t know it from listening to me know,

But I used to love to travel.

I grew up in a road-trip family:

My parents were both public school teachers,

So we spent summers hoboing around the country,

A beige plastic luggage container

Clipped to the roof of the Oldsmobile.

We went to California via Seattle and back home through the

Southwest,

French Canada via Niagara Falls,

Florida via New Orleans,

Washington, D.C.,

The Black Hills.

(We flew to Mexico ’cause I guess you don’t drive there.)

I’d watch out the car’s side windows for hours,

Lulled by the rhythms of the power lines and the

Pavement breaks.

Frugal,

We camped.

My mother in a red bandana making breakfast on a

Wood picnic table in a

Grove of pine trees.

My dad standing on the inside of the

Car door frame,

Loading the tent and sleeping bags and tarps into the

Bug-encrusted luggage container.

In high school,

My brother and I chose to use our fresh independence to

Road trip together to the Black Hills

In the Chevy Lumina my parents loaned us.

And summers in college

I was always driving off somewhere–

One summer to work on a guest ranch in Montana,

The next to rent a little apartment and wait tables in

Spearfish, S.D.

A little time,

A little money,

And my friends and I were off on another

Camping road trip.

In my early 20s,

I would take off alone on a Saturday or Sunday:

No map,

No time constraints,

And I would just

Drive.

My mind got

Clear and calm with the

Pavement rushing by beneath me.

I did a couple trips to Europe, too.

First England,

Then the continent.

Some of the best naps I’ve ever taken were

Seated upright on a train,

My stuffed backpack in my lap,

My head resting on it.

Back then I loved traveling.

It was the pure joy of movement,

The wonder of the different.

I just went,

And then came back.

I think it all changed when,

Instead of being a tourist,

I tried to go live there.

Seattle,

A few places in Europe.

Living somewhere is a

Completely different proposition than

Visiting.

You’re not just there to observe from the outside;

You should be a part of it now.

Instead of consuming,

You should produce.

But I would move there with a

Tourist mindset:

No reason or goal

Or plan.

Just,

Here I am.

I’m ready.

Instead of the new city

Opening itself up to me,

Its opportunities were a puzzle I couldn’t solve.

I would get menial jobs

And watch the natives

Negotiate their homelands easily.

It was hard.

And not very fun.

But I kept at it.

Seven years I wandered around,

Five of them in Europe,

Squelching the nagging question,

“What the hell am I doing here?”

With another drink, and another.

Until my thinly stretched life

Unraveled with an

International divorce and

Excruciating child custody decisions.

Now, flights across the ocean are exercises in

Emotional restraint as I

Count the last hours of a months-long

Separation from my son.

Those backpacking college students in

Reykyavik airport?

Naive,

And irritating.

I want to sit down at their cafe tables,

Elbow aside their egg sandwiches and jet-lag beer,

And tell them like it is:

“Everything you think you’re looking for?

It’s

Right

In front of you.

Cut up your credit cards

And go home.”

Bitter?

I guess so.

My travel life

(And vacation time

And extra money)

Is now is confined to these

Shuttles across the ocean

And of course,

Business trips.

Which I

Dread because,

Says this former flower petal

Who once drifted on the wind,

They take me away from

Home.

But wait.

This bitter rant has a hopeful ending.

I was in NYC a couple weeks ago

On a business trip,

And I was ready to do my thing

Which is to attend the requisite events,

And then hide in my hotel room

And wait for it to be over.

When one night at dinner,

Tickets to a Broadway musical

Popped out of the breast pocket of someone’s blazer,

And we were off:

Tromping through Times Square,

Getting lost and then

Turned back in the right direction,

So that we arrived at the theater

Just as the lights were going down.

And suddenly,

An old familiar wonderment

Came over me.

Suddenly,

I was energized in that weirdly calm

NYC way,

Where you know you haven’t slept enough,

But somehow, it doesn’t matter.

You’ll be fine,

You’ll have more than enough energy for what’s about to happen.

This naif had never been to a

Broadway musical before,

And the musical,

“Memphis,”

Was

A-Ma-Zing.

Like a child,

I never wanted the

Singing and dancing to end.

It was

Simple

Wonder.

I had thought

That I had maybe

Changed

Intrinsically

Into a homebody–

That the wanderlust had been

Stunned out of me by my

Naive decisions and mistakes

In trying to go

Live

Where I maybe should have just

Visited.

But in the plane back from NYC,

As I settled into my window seat for a delicious nap,

I thought,

Maybe not.

Maybe not.

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