On recreating my relationship with "Travel"

Picture of Seattle through a ferry window, taken March 2006View of Seattle taken through a ferry window, returning from Bainbridge Island, March, 2006Earlier in the summer, a friend and I were talking about travel when I noticed her expression had grown serious. We'd treaded into the territory in which my own relationship with travel was about to be on the table. Seeing as how it takes more than one hand to count off the international destinations this particular friend has been to since we met 5 years ago, nobody would think to question this woman's assertion that she enjoys travel. Mine, though? Well that's another thing altogether.

In spite of the fact that I've lived a quasi-nomadic, pretty unconventional life for about 5 years now, and I once regularly listed "travel" as a hobby any time I was asked, the truth is, I don't really do much serious travel. Local and area trips, sure. Up and down the southern part of the east coast? Well, yea. From time to time, though not really that far. I mean, until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't been on a plane in several years. Most of my Moving From Place To Place has been done in cars. In one particular car, in fact, until those days wrapped themselves up so tidily, that is.

Photo of Pilot Mountain from I 85This is not to negate my wandering explorations. My lifestyle is very satisfying to me and I'm grateful to have the experiences it offers me. I love being able to say "yes" when a friend calls on Tuesday to see if I'd like to drive with him to the beach in 3 days. When I headed off to live in near-isolation in a house in West Virginia last summer, a number of friends told me they admired my bravery. So I realize what we're talking about here is relative. Still, when I think of "Travel" with a capital "T" my personal definition of the word includes a willingness:

  • to try new things as often as possible,
  • to push myself further than might be completely comfortable,
  • to steadily move myself out of my comfort zone, seeing things I've never seen before, meeting people who have experienced lives different from my own,
  • to be conscious about my travel decisions, rather than passive, as has been my default for so long.

Photo shot from an airplane window; pretty clouds and a wing!And although it's definitely not a requirement, I decided, too, that airplanes need to be involved in the kind of travel I'll be doing in the coming months.

So I'm sitting in my friend's living room, suddenly faced with the Not Quite Accurate label of myself as "one who likes to travel." Lots of excuses presented themselves - I'm busy, travel can be expensive, Fill In The Blank With Any Number Of Random Topics had been consuming my hours - but even before that day, the truth had started to show its unpleasant face. I paused, then said, "I'm a wus, aren't I?" She nodded, not smiling, and declared in her Direct Voice "You ARE a wus!"

And there it was.

Of course another truth, certainly entertwined with the Fear Truth, is that I just haven't made Real Travel a priority. It's largely off the radar, when I'm concerned with making a living and managing my relationships and the like. But probably at the core, the truth of my forgetting to focus on travel remains wrapped up in the other truth. Which is basically this: I'm fascinated and enthralled with the IDEA of world travel. In fact I've dreamed and fantasized about travel for as long as I can remember. And yet many details related to traveling alone scare me.

Okay then! Now that we've identified The Issue, we can start to work on it! And so that's what I started doing.

Only I didn't go home and book a flight that night, or anything impulsive like that. Oh no! I had to sit with the thoughts first. Ask a million questions. Consider which answers were honest and which ones needed revisiting. But still, when something presented itself as solidly as the "You are afraid travel, darlin. Now whatcha' gonna' do about it?" in the form of a conversation with a Real World Traveler, I had something to work with!

Of course very soon thereafter I drove to Atlanta and spent a few weeks in a friend's home before coming back via my folks' house in SC, where I spent 3 weeks helping my mom recover from heart surgery, and 3 weeks after that trip finished, I went to spend a week with my 90 year old Granddaddy and some other relatives in south Alabama. It occurred to me later that these were the perfect first steps to get me thinking about travel in a bigger way than before. In fact, it was while I was away from Greensboro that the first seeds of my next trip were planted.

It'd be a hoot to tell you that I'm headed off next week to work on an Australian ranch, or that I'm meeting up with some kayakers in Patagonia. Don't go getting all excited. The travel I'm about to embark on would barely raise the eyebrow of most Serious Travelers. But we're not talking about those people right now. This is my life. My journey. My adventures.

Dunes in the Outer BanksOne of the answers that came to me during this current transition is that if I don't feel ready for Big Travel, I should just start by making some solid plans for Some Travel Of The Kind That Doesn't Scare Me. And then do it again. And again! Then? Well then, just like with most of life's challenges, I'll become more and more confident as a traveler. Which will naturally be followed by some Big Travel!

First Lessons & Experiences Since My Friend Confirmed She Thinks I'm A Wus

  • Learned that Delta Airlines now charges $25 extra to check my luggage. Just one bag, too big to take on board with me. Who knew? (Like I said, it had been a while.)
  • Experienced my first cancelled flight - after I'd arrived at the airport - while in another city. (Which of course worked out MOST spectacularly for me!)
  • And, on the same trip, had my first opportunity to give up my seat, take a later flight, and be rewarded with free travel benefits. Woo hoo!
  • Joined AAA Premier - mostly for the less-obvious benefits - just before my car drove its last hundred miles.

Looking forward to telling you about my plans. But this is long enough, and prolly it's better if I get back to this mountain of work that's funding this little adventure of mine.