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
French Canada via Niagara Falls,
Florida via New Orleans,
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
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
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 time constraints,
And I would just
My mind got
Clear and calm with the
Pavement rushing by beneath me.
I did a couple trips to Europe, too.
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.
A few places in Europe.
Living somewhere is a
Completely different proposition than
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
No reason or goal
Here I am.
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
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?
In front of you.
Cut up your credit cards
And go home.”
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,
Says this former flower petal
Who once drifted on the wind,
They take me away from
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.
An old familiar wonderment
Came over me.
I was energized in that weirdly calm
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,
Like a child,
I never wanted the
Singing and dancing to end.
I had thought
That I had maybe
Into a homebody–
That the wanderlust had been
Stunned out of me by my
Naive decisions and mistakes
In trying to go
Where I maybe should have just
But in the plane back from NYC,
As I settled into my window seat for a delicious nap,