yes, that’s a semblance of a tan, ladies and gentlemen, thank you oz + spf 34 sunscreen!
The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine
How can I ever count the ways that my journeys to different places in the world have made me who I am today…
Coming back from Australia, I have again reflected on the gratitude I have for my own life and for the many people I’ve encountered and the places I’ve experienced..it’s humbling, it’s beautiful. The things we learn when we leave our comfort zone, when we decide to push through the fears and be vulnerable, it puts us in a place of youth, the place of a student rather than the know-it-all sitting comfortably. Daring to be wet behind the ears again, daring to be inexperienced – I think that keeps so many from going to these places that they all say in conversation sound like fun.
Yet even with all my travels, it feels like I’ve only scratched the surface, like I’ve not pushed nearly as deeply into other cultures as I could. Which is true. Going to Australia felt like cheating in a way because they speak English – but like my last holiday, to the UK, it was – get this – like a whole different country. Maybe it was not looking the correct way before crossing the street, or the interrogation by my WWOOF’ing host about how things are done in the American political system, or the way the insects attacked me like the foreigner I was, but I was happily thrilled to not feel like I was at home. (Although I will say, driving from the Melbourne Airport into the city, before you see the buildings, looks a lot like Denver…).
Before this, my last crossing of the ocean brought me to England and Scotland, to chase after my ancestral roots and meet up with a friend. The lazy times in the pub on dark winter nights, the tromping through the snow to see my family crest, the conversation with the cheesemonger in Canterbury…that’s what I remember.
When my father died, I escaped way, way down the coast twenty miles south of Zihuatanejo, Mexico, where I holed up in a tiny B&B in a village with three ramadas and lots of stray dogs. The long morning walks, the naps in the hammock, the swimming in the ocean, the fresh seafood eaten with sand in my toes….that’s what I remember.
Earlier, when I was twenty-five, I took my camera, twenty rolls of black and white, my journal, and a few staples with me to Paris, where I wandered, wrote, drank wine, ate everything in sight, and wandered some more. I remember the smell of the flowers on the Ile de Cite and I remember writing in my journal on the Pont Neuf and I remember laughing with new friends made out in the gardens of Versailles as we ate strawberry glace.
And I remember the long list of road trips I’ve taken my entire life…
— the Griswold-esque trip from Oregon to Virginia and back in a 2-door Buick Skylark with three kids and two dogs and a car-top carrier, where I memorized all 50 state capitals and saw Graceland and spent seven months exploring the East Coast, from Amish country to lying on the sidewalk looking up at the World Trade Centers to baked beans in Boston to roller skaters in Central Park, and where the kids in this neighborhood all roller skated rather than bicycled.
— the solo cross-country camping trip with my mother to spend the summer in Georgia that was interrupted by a tornado in Kansas but also let me visit the farmhouse my grandfather grew up in, meeting my great grandmothers and great aunts, the former who would both have passed on later that year, where when we arrived I saw segregation alive and well at day camp and where I got to learn how to ride English and where I learned to dive and where it was probably the last summer that I got to be a kid, as I skipped a grade and started junior high that fall.
— the many trips to the teeniest tiniest towns with my Dad past cows and horses and elk (oh my!), from Crooked River to Malheur & Harney Lakes to the zillions of trips to the coast, where I learned the beauty of quiet walks looking for agates and the simple fun of conversing with someone whose voice I miss so dearly.
— the middle of the night six hour road trip in my pickup truck from Portland to Vancouver BC in college with a friend so we could take advantage of the lower drinking age, where we slept in the back of the truck and danced all night long and laughed even longer.
— my solo trip down the Oregon Coast at eighteen where I hung out with Canadian surfers and drove past Crater Lake to Colorado without a map to see my dad, speeding at 90 mph through the barren Nevada land and arriving back home amongst the big trees.
— the amazing trip to Long Beach for the Women’s Conference where I met Annie Leibowitz and listened to Jane Goodall and danced to Alicia Keys and was inspired by Even Ensler…thousands of women coming together to celebrate our sisterhood.
There’s more to come…more oceans to cross and memories awaiting creation …talk of Spain and Italy and Japan and more of Oz and tracing new steps across my own country. My heart is grateful, hands open, smile willing. Tell me where you’ve been and I’ll tell you we can go wherever we please.
Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind. ~Seneca