Partner in Crime travels abroad for business pretty regularly. It would be fun to tag along, even though I've been there quite a bit when I was working as an airline pilot. But I spend my vacation days taking care of Dad now though I did make it to Ireland as part of a speaking engagement trip about 8 years ago.
Though it would have been interesting to have been up in Devon in England in time for Christmas, as a local article on the local Woolacombe Bay Hotel said their three-night Christmas break included "a packed program of entertainment, a Crèche, excellent cuisine and a visit from Satan." (Do you find a burning coal on your pillow instead of a mint?)
Although it was almost all for work, I always missed Barkley when I traveled. Like all labs, Barkley was bred to hunt so when he got bored sitting next to me when I wrote, he would turn his keen seek-and-destroy instincts, not on pheasants, but on dishtowels. If the edge of one nears the end of the counter he grabbed it like a relay runner taking the baton and ran off with his prey. If I was tired, I would sacrifice those small pieces of fabric to his primal urges til he tired of carrying them around unharmed and curled up to sleep.
Tonight, Barkley, not long gone, and Abby the rescue Lab snoring on the futon, I sorted out some photos from my last trip overseas and downloaded them to my back up hard drive. The older I get, the more I enjoy these nights at my home, but the photos brought back memories of all the travel I've done in my career. By choice or not, it was part of the job, even though it included days I woke up not knowing what country I was in, or cellophane wrapped airport food that was carbon dated for freshness.
But travel brings something to you that people who live in the insular world of their hometown their whole lives miss. That's not necessarily bad, some of the best adventures are on your own doorstep, in small places right around the block.
But there is something about traveling far away, where the words that roll off the tongue carry a lilt of past lives. Where you are looking at things that have been in view for hundreds and hundreds of years. You look through new, but ancient eyes. It pushes your boundaries.
When you travel, you can become invisible, if that is what you choose. No computer, phone off. I like that sometimes. Quiet nights with maybe only a candle to light the room, flame spurting with abandon into life. Standing at the window looking at a landscape that is as old as thought, breathing deep and slow, each breath diffusing into layers of history.
I like to be the quiet observer. Walking alone along the edge of another ocean, as it stretches away into space with its illusion of freedom. Strolling through the celestial hush of a 500-year-old square, the sun glinting off marble where the monotonous rain has washed it bright. What stories would that old building tell, what makes these people who they are? Could I live this life if I stayed here?
You don't have to understand the language that is spoken, only the language of the streets, the scents, the stone. Without understanding a word around you the language becomes simply a musical background for watching the water flow onto the shore or a leaf blowing in the wind, calling nothing from you.
Travel eases restrictions and expectations. No one cares if you have that document reviewed by Monday, or if you ironed your whole shirt or checked your voicemail. There is no urgent need to strike off each day for some purpose, some deadline. You wake in the dewy gray of the morning, becoming a godlike creature of choice, free to visit stately churches, snuggle into crisp sheets, or sketch the marvel of a bridge.
You're open, if only for a short time, as if newly born, to receive all of the world, not just your own space, to break out of that circle of all you have done and all that you can never undo. It is all there for the taking, multicolored flowers in bright density, the smell of fresh bread baking, the kiss of wine on your lips. You are a hunter free to explore and seek and find and then return home bringing memories to lay on the sanctity of your doorstep.
My big suitcase is in the closet. There is no telling what stories it might bring back.