So yeah, about this blog thing. Although I have fallen short (and by short, I mean by miles) of my goal of blogging more often, it doesn't mean that blogging hasn't been on my mind. Several times a week, I have ideas flying about my little pea-brain. Target receipts, the backs of envelopes, and spiral notebooks, all with thoughts jotted down. And yet days become weeks, weeks become months, months become cases of wine. You know how it goes.
Part of the reason I'm such a blogging slacker is because I let "life" get in the way of creativity. There are the less-than-desirable activities like never-ending laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying, cleaning. And of course the things that bring joy -- making meals and baking, taking the kids to the park, hosting sleepovers, date nights with my man, entertaining family and friends, and travel. Add college into the mix, and you've got a blog with a coat of dust thicker than the one crusting over MySpace.
Yet here I am again, offering up a few thoughts on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Travel. As far back as I can remember, I've had a case of wanderlust. I remember being around 9-years-old and waking up early on a Saturday morning to watch a television show called "Big Blue Marble". It showcased kids from around the world, their culture, their everyday lives. I would literally hang on every word and dreamt of visiting the featured countries. At the end of each program, you could submit your name to be matched with an international pen pal. I will neither confirm nor deny the allegation that I submitted my name EVERY. SINGLE. SATURDAY. I almost feel bad about it, except for the fact that the idea of some poor intern opening up envelopes every week and cursing the repeat offender from Joppatowne, Maryland is hysterical. Finally, out of sheer exhaustion (or a sense of pity), they matched me with a girl named Judy from Trinidad. We wrote for about five or six years. I still remember her photos and wonder how she is and if she recalls our correspondence.
Lest you think I'm the only dork who was harassing the staff of "Big Blue Marble," it turns out my husband scored himself a pen pal from Sweden when he was a kid! When we discovered this shortly after we began dating, I knew he was a keeper. Seriously, how crazy is that? What are the odds? Too bad we didn't get matched up when we were 12. We could have been celebrating our 45th anniversary by now!
Because one pen pal certainly isn't enough, I also shook down my granny to give me the addresses of our family in Austria. I penned letters to all of them and waited. While I was excited to get a few responses, one definitely stood out. My cousin, Susi, wrote back and we immediately clicked. She visited the following summer and we got along just as well in person as we did on paper. We hatched the idea of my going visit her the following summer and our parents went for it! I suspect I got my wanderlust gene from my mother, so there was little doubt that she would approve my travel request. When I think back on it, there may be parents who wouldn't be willing to let their 15-year-old go to Europe for six weeks. I will be forever grateful that my mother put me on a plane in New York and waved goodbye. It was exhilarating and life-changing and shaped how I view the world. I've gone back to Austria three times since then, but it was on that very first trip that I believe I was officially bitten by the travel bug. So again, thanks mom. And thanks also to Susi. We've progressed from letters to email to Facebook and I'm so grateful you took a chance and responded to your crazy American cousin.
Modern day travel is actually pretty awesome when you think about it. I mean, compared to being stuffed on the Mayflower or riding in a wagon train across the prairie, it's a breeze. While not always convenient and maybe a little stressful, the rewards are tremendous. I'd take travel over a new sofa or a designer bag any day. And honestly, when I think back to any of the bumps in the road we've experienced, they may be trying at the moment, but in hindsight, 99 percent of the time they're hilarious.
Take our last trip to Sedona, Arizona. It was a beautiful weekend in a stunning part of the country. You totally feel like you've been plopped down right in the middle of a Bob Ross painting when you're there. I was flying back alone, so that means that great anticipation of who will be your seat mate. I feel like I could talk to a potted plant (not exactly breaking news, I'm sure), so I'm never really anxious about it, just more curious. On this trip, I sat down next to a gentleman who was about 6'8, with 6 feet of that height coming from his legs. I felt bad, seeing him stuffed in that seat. I mean, I'm only 5'3 and I feel cramped, so I know he's got to get tired of his knees being in his teeth.
After sitting down, we struck up a conversation. Or what I believe to be a conversation. It went a little something like this:
Me: (As I took the middle seat) I'm sorry I had to make you get up!
Him: Oh, no problem. No, no, no. No problem.
Me: Thank you! So this looks like a full flight, huh?
Him: Sure does. They need to get this show on the road. Get it goin'! I mean, let's grrrr grrrr grrrr hmmpph grrrrr grrrr sshhhhho grrrr.
Me: You said it!
Him: Every time, they just hmmmm rccccckkk grrrrrr shhhoooo grrrrr hmmmmph.
Me: I hear ya!
Him: If they can't shhhppphh trrrrrr rccccckkk grrrrrr shhhoooo, then hmmmmpph.
Me: Yeah, well...you know.
Now. As a former court reporter, I consider myself a pretty good listener. In this case, however, I seriously had no idea what this man was saying. I can confirm it was English, but after that...I got nothing. And it was one of those cases where you just KNOW that saying "pardon me" totally isn't going to help. This is when you go with those benign responses and hope that he plans on using that travel pillow he has wrapped around his neck. And soon.
It's spectacular that travel is now available to many more people than it used to be, but part of me feels like we've become spoiled. Take for example the lady who sat behind me on my last flight. She got quite bitter when they ran out of cheese breakfast sandwiches by row 20. It was foolish, really. This is the United States of America, The Land O' Plenty. We all know you walked by no less than 15 purveyors of food (or what is supposed to pass as food) on your way onto this flying machine. Why put all your chips on that biscuit and let 'em ride? And then you complain to the flight attendant about THEIR poor planning? Me thinks someone needs to take a little peek in the mirror.
Speaking of being jaded, I may be dating myself with this one, but does anyone else remember when people used to clap when the plane landed? I, for one, think it was awesome. In fact, I'm on a one woman mission to bring back the applause. If you're on a flight and hear a lone fool clapping, feel free to pretend you don't know me.
Has anyone else wondered how, even though you're just sitting in a seat and doing absolutely nothing except playing Jewel Blitz or drooling through a nap, you can get off of a plane and look like you just went three rounds with Mike Tyson (only you still have both ears)? I kid you not, I've gotten off of flights and gone to the ladies room, only to look in the mirror, run out, and go directly to Homeland Security to put MYSELF on the Terrorist Watch List. Where does it all go wrong? Is it the cabin pressure? The peanut fumes? Good Lord.
And while we're talking about bathrooms, I've got a small bone to pick with BWI about that very topic. Which man (because we all know it would have to be a man) designed the bathrooms in Customs? Which man said to himself, "Let's see, people just flew no less than four hours and now they have to wait in monstrous immigration lines. How many bathrooms might we need to accommodate these full-bladdered folks? I'm gonna saaaaaaay.....THREE." Yes, three. That's how many stalls are in the women's bathroom. Clearly there wasn't a woman in that planning meeting because she would have at least put a drain in the floor for those of us who are one sneeze away from full-on incontinence.
So despite the fact that travel has its challenges, we could travel every day of the week and still wouldn't put a dent in our destination bucket list. It seems that every time we cross off a city, we add three. I like it that way. I love the adventure, I love the unknown, I love the food, and I love meeting people who are seemingly different and are yet very similar to myself. It's a gift I want to give to our children as often as humanly possible. Being strangers in a strange land together, I think, forms a special bond. I also believe that the memories and lessons from travel last a lifetime. Long after everyone has forgotten what they got for Christmas four years ago, stories of travel go on.
One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." There is such truth in those words.