Saturday, May 24, 2008

Round Trip Travel

What do we learn when we travel? I've heard it said that we travel to to strange places only to learn it is we who are the stranger. Don't we tend to see ourselves more sharply against unfamiliar backdrops? I think so.

There are several truths about travel which come back to me every time I venture out into the world. First off, as soon as you leave home, shortly thereafter you will be in need of everything you left behind. A roof over your head, a bed to sleep in, food, bathing facilities, etc. Such basic elements of life are easy to take for granted until we go without them. If your travels are not prearranged, and have any element of making it up as you go along, this novelty, which at first can be entertaining, may become a chore. You may find yourself looking all over for something you usually have access to at home. Case in point: a heated swimming pool. I am fortunate enough to belong to a gym with year round swimming facilities. (Gosh, I'm spoiled!) On our recent road trip north, the weather was too cool for swimming outdoors. Only once did we end up in a motel with a heated pool. Yet swimming after a long day of driving is my version of a healthy lifestyle. Oh well, as my husband kept saying: "you can always go to the Y when we get home."

Anticipating travel, I forget about its discomforts. I love to get out the guide books and maps. The urge to head out and see a different part of the world seems inborn. Yet I think of travel as a privilege. Not so many decades ago, only the wealthiest people could afford to travel. I grew up without much exposure to the world beyond my native Long Island.

But returning home and resuming life under my own roof is always the cherry on top of any travel sundae. Yes, there were chocolate, whipped cream and ice cream moments during my time away, but I'll take the pleasures of a domestic life anytime. Would I have this exquisite sense of satisfaction with my own four walls and green yard if I didn't leave town from time to time? Probably not. I guess everyone has their own balance point about such matters. Right now it's a good feeling to be done with travel for awhile.

I am grateful for this: for going away and coming back, and for finding everything new again. There is an almost physical feeling of increased ballast, of being grounded after all the rambling. The sweetness of the familiar. Tomatoes on the vine. Grass needing mowing. Library books to return. An empty refrigerator to fill. Friends to call. Renewal. Let the long hot summer begin!

photo: Airstream Reflections @ the MOMA, NYC

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