no dress rehearsal
I've gotten all of my lodging and transit prepared for the trip. With several weeks left to go, I'm relieved to see the details settling into the form of an itinerary. I don't cope well with the prospect of "well, I'm going to land in this country on day X and then, a few weeks later, fly home from country Y" -- with no idea where I'm sleeping in between. Not my style.
I am hoping for the return of that feeling of adventure that comes after getting through airport security, that moment I've known well my adult life: the moment where my backpack is zipped back up and settled back on my shoulders, when the weight of the pack substitutes for the weight of the world. There's a plane to catch and I'm in my traveling socks; it's time to go see what the world's got to show. I remember that feeling, and would like to experience it again.
I've spent a lot of the past eighteen months either numb, or screaming inside. Sometimes both. I believed, for much of that time, that much of my life had ended. I want to make references to clipped feathers, clipped wings, but what happened was more brutal and more insidious: to simultaneously have your life taken away from you while fearing you will be judged harshly for needing to rebuild.
Some of my most despairing moments came from looking at my life list and asking, "Am I done? Am I ... over?"
I am not. No point being dramatic about it. A sort of equilibrium comes, with time. Is this the life I signed up for? No, but it's what I have, and what's done is done and cannot be changed. I am not the sort of person who wakes up one morning and charts a bold new course; I am a person who plans and thinks and considers and -- then -- on a day that seems unexpected to everyone else who hasn't seen the prep work --
What I'm going to do, late this summer, is an abbreviated version of a trip I'd wanted to do in my late teens and early 20s. It was not feasible then. I'm not particularly certain that it is all that feasible now, but I've decided to go. I have a job that will let me work from anywhere, and I have the disposition, interests, and ability to be a reasonably intrepid solo traveler.
It would be so incredibly easy to cast this as the heroine-overcoming-adversity story, but the temptation needs to be avoided. I don't expect world-shattering revelations to come just because I put on my big girl pants and hauled myself back out in the world. I don't expect a medal or a cookie or a pat on the back. I am choosing to act because the past year and a half have forced me to confront some sharp-edged realities that anyone with sense learns to shy away from:
Life is short.
You are not guaranteed to wake up tomorrow morning.
You are not guaranteed to grow up, grow old, get what you want, live your dreams, fulfill your fantasies, or get a second chance to make things right.
This is not a dress rehearsal.
I am going to Germany because a long time ago, I studied the language for a few years. I've never had any real level of fluency but I've been amazed at how nearly two decades later, the prepositions and sentence structure have stuck with me. I'd like to go make a little belated use of what I learned in high school.
I'm going to France because I have a co-worker there who has shown me nothing but kindness, and it would be a pleasure to sit down, meet his wife, have a few relaxed glasses of wine and NOT have our laptops open for a change.
I'm going to Denmark because a woman who has been kind to me over the years has chosen it for her adopted home, and loves it. I'd never pictured myself going to Denmark, which is precisely why I think I should go. Clearly there's something lovely there, or she wouldn't stay.
I'm going to Amsterdam completely on a whim. I couldn't give a rat's ass about the 'coffee shops' and the red light district; I'd been idly considering visiting a few other UK cities and managing to work up zero enthusiasm for all of them when my co-worker caught me with absolutely the perfect sales pitch: "You know, you're going to fly over it anyway, and there's a Van Gogh museum. You know you want to see it."
I'm going to London and I'm planting my ass there for almost half the trip because it feels like I've been trying to go for almost half my life, and I've had the possibility of visiting ripped out from under me several times, and I'm tired of it standing in my way. I'm going to go and savor that mad, twisty city and finally be able to say, "It wasn't taken away from me this time."
I think the most important aspect of this trip is the effect it has had upon my outlook. I'm not just existing. I'm planning and plotting. I'm choosing the disposition of my hours and days, spending my travel afternoons like the careful and precious coin they are. It's small but it's significant; it's the hallmark of someone who is starting to dig herself out of the hole she's been in.
Even more heartening?
I know where I'd like to go next.