Thursday, May 19, 2011


When I am home, I long to be traveling. At a certain point in my travels, I always long to go home. Home is comfort, familiarity, friends and the cats. Travel is the unknown becoming known but sometimes the hotels, the restaurant meals, the long travel days become too much. Then I want my own bed; simple, familiar foods; routine. The funny stories of mishaps are better recollected than lived through.

Lately I have been restless, thinking about the trips of the past, wishing Venice and another trip to England were on the docket this year, thinking that a second visit to Fez would be nice, and that three weeks abroad is laughably short. Not that I don't want to go on the trip planned for this year. The Basque country, Alsace and Burgundy, should all be interesting new experiences. But now I am obsessing about the best way to travel to O'Hare and back after some bad shuttle experiences. Worrying about getting from Charles de Gaulle airport to Orly without missing our connection to Biarritz. The parts of travel that used to be romantic and are now disagreeable--flying and layovers--overshadow the gustatory pleasures, gorgeous scenery, historic locations that are sure to delight. I look forward to hiking on the camino de Compostella, seeing the Isenheim altarpiece in Colmar, visiting vineyards.

Last year we spent spring in Venice and Istanbul, summer in Leeds and London, early winter in Germany. This year we only have three weeks of European travel, a couple of trips to Chicago, and a weekend in Greensboro. Hard to think of yourself as a cosmopolitan globetrotter on that itinerary.

When I was young, my travel was confined to a narrow geographical area made up of Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of Illinois. I got to stay a week with each set of grandparents in Chicago, spend time at a lake in Michigan and later one in Wisconsin, and visit relatives in Sterling. My more adventurous travel in time and space came from books. I spent a lot of time in Agatha Christie's England, colonial America, and medieval Europe. I couldn't wait for my own real travel adventures to begin. Somehow Phoenix, Sault St. Marie, even Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia didn't seem as desirable as St. Mary Mead.

My first trip to Europe, to England, at the ripe old age of 29, was only 10 days including travel. For years we thought three weeks was plenty of time. Now less than a month seems ridiculously short. I could envision going away for a couple of months, although I would pine for my cats. Never having had the opportunity to study abroad, I keep trying to create a version of that experience for myself--five weeks in Paris in 2000 with a trip to Leeds and London tacked on to the end; five weeks in Venice in 2008 after a three-week trip to Morocco earlier that year and a Rhine cruise that Christmas. The years when we manage a lot of travel make the years where we have shorter trips seem somehow lacking. When we got married, the idea that we could take a trip more than once every few years seemed unlikely.

Now I have traveled more than I ever thought I would and still I want more--and yet less. I get tired traveling and by the end of a trip I am more than ready to come home. And yet, a few weeks after I return if you ask me whether I would go away again, I would tell you that my bags are packed, I'm ready to go ...

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