…starts in an airport. That’s the first rule of travel writing.
And yet, that is where almost all of my adventure stories start. So, either my adventures are terrible, or my stories about them are terrible, or more likely… that’s a crummy rule.
I feel like I’ve addressed this dumb rule and my propensity to break it every time I fly somewhere. Am I the only one who’s feeling déja vu here? It could also be the smell of Panda Express that is enveloping gate A 43–which will forever be the smell of the University of Wyoming’s union. And also my office.
I’ve been thinking about travel vs home lately. Because I’ve been planning this trip and packing my home for the last week. But I’ve been thinking about both for most of my time in Laramie. I knew my time there would be temporary, and I had as one of my MFA goals as much world travel as possible.
Specifically, I’ve been trying to figure out why travel is more important for me than establishing a home–I pine for a base to which I can reliably return, but not more than I pine for the next trip. I haven’t even left Denver and I’ve already started planning for a way to get to India and Mongolia. It’s not a new drive–I tried to go to Morocco as an exchange student in high school (other acceptable locations included Greece or Egypt, I seem to remember), and then to Italy during my undergrad. I wanted to see other things. I value seeing things more than most things. It often takes what I’ve seen a long time to percolate into a piece of writing, but that never diminishes the memory of having seen.
I still haven’t written anything satisfactory about New Zealand, about the 3,000 year old trees. About the tuis, the invisible kiwis. In part because that trip was hard.
All travel is hard, is the thing. I absolutely lost my shit in Paris in June. And in Whangamomona in January. In Spain, I was distressed, but never lost it, while in the Canaries, I bowed out of New Year’s Eve festivities to stay home and recoup my wits. It is exhausting to not speak the language, to have expectations thrown out the window, to miss trains, and to misunderstand the price. But Parisian escargot was amazing. The sounds of birds all day and night on the North island. Paella. The Mediterranean. I knew someone who said that in this day and age one might as well stay home–everything can be streamed, someone else has taken better pictures that you can download, and there aren’t any lines at the airport in your living room. That guy has no idea what a bearded vulture smells like. He will never know how it feels to buy a joint in Amsterdam (the thrill of a 19-year old buying booze overseas). He will not know the peace and satisfaction of a perfectly packed travel bag, or a notebook that just fits in your passport pouch with a small pen.
I am still not good at traveling. I miss so much. I still race to get to the wrong things sometimes. I get impatient and disappointed in a way that I find disappointing. I feel like there is a kind of travel-zen I need to practice. But I’m getting better at it.
One of the keys is getting to the airport early. I got here just before 1 for a 5 pm boarding time. Crazy? I got a chair massage, had a bloody mary, and made good progress on my newest sock. I only got bugged when a TSA agent nearly threw my laptop on the ground by shoving a bunch of bins down the belt. I’m planning on sleeping some on the plane to Frankfurt. I will spend nearly one-fifth of my trip time in airports–it should be good time.
It’s nice to sit after two days of packing and moving, too.
I have thoughts on home too, but it seems ill-advised to wax philosophically about home on the brink of travel. For now I’m going to kick back and look out the window at the blue Denver sky. I’m going to knit my sock and dream of Cape vultures and the Magaliesburg mountains. I’m going to try and enjoy the next day and a half of airplanes and airports.