I used to consider myself a good traveler, moving comfortably through the world while sleeping in less than stellar beds, trying all different foods, figuring stuff out on the fly. While I’m not quite ready to give up that notion about about myself, I am a different kind of traveler than I was in my youth. I know this because a week ago I returned from a 10 day trip to Ireland and England and I’m still exhausted.
Some things are easier now – like packing. My vanity has diminished over the decades so I have no problem limiting my wardrobe to the bare minimum. For this trip I focused on comfort and warmth although I confess I did sacrifice a little comfort for slightly cooler looking shoes. A small wheeled carry-on with wheels was perfect for everything.
This trip was really about reconnecting with family while having some adventures with Molly. A return to Ireland for the first since I was 18 and a first visit for Molly. She fell in love with Dublin. A highlight was connecting with family I had not seen since crashing their wedding more than 40 years ago. Thanks to social media, we’d reconnected in cyber space and thanks to this trip, our connection became real.
On our first rainy day we wandered the streets of Dublin clocking 10 miles of exploring, stopping in to dry at Bewley’s – a sweet haven where we were welcomed with beautiful tea, pastries and a seat by the fire.
The next day, we took my cousin’s suggestion and took the Cliff Walk – a stunning, sometimes dizzying hike along the coast. As we walked through Bray towards the start of the cliffs I scanned the houses for a garret where I imagined I might live. I could look out at the changing horizon and write, paint, walk by the ocean everyday. The cliff hike was magnificent. A fierce wind blew (appropriately) at our backs, pushing us forward past fields of heather, massive stones, the waves and yes, even a rainbow.
In London we stayed with Jane, one of my dearest friends who lives almost at the end of the North Line. Again, I imagined myself on a longer stay in another garret. Her husband came in from a run and told us about the cows he passes on his route. Yes, somewhere close enough to the thrum and jazz of a great city but far enough out to meet a cow. All on the tube line.
We headed to the West Midlands where we met up with the girls – Neil’s older daughters – who I claim as mine too, Molly’s sisters – and the rest of the beautiful family they’ve created between them. Our beautiful family. This trip renewed that for us – especially Molly. Raised across the ocean as, but not really, an only child. Watching Molly embrace her sisters made me weep. It had been 7 years.
Walking through the little villages that look like a set out of Midsomer Murders (I imagined where the bodies might be found as we passed through the woods alongside the river) I thought about watching the weather change across the fields and always having good tea to drink.
So here’s what I figured out from this trip – my first travels in a long time. I prefer to spend time in one place. I like to get to know a neighborhood with a space to claim as mine for a time. To look out a window at the same view but for the changing light or maybe even a season or two. That’s how I have fallen in love with other places around the world. I made them, at least for a time, my home.
Kyoto was my longest consecutive stint so I will always long for her streets, the river, the mountains – in that strange homesick way that is unique to anyone who has ever been an expat. Italy is another place I long for (because who doesn’t?) since it’s where I gave birth to Molly. I certainly lived like an Italian as I clocked in the weeks with other new mothers of premature babies in Brindisi Hospital. Thinking about my time in Bosnia and Croatia – is like remembering a lover who broke your heart – a bit painful – such a profoundly complicated relationship. It’s where my star-crossed marriage began appropriately amidst that awful war and so much sadness. I should, I want to – visit one day again, to see that land in peace. But it would be a journey, not a vacation. I need more than 10 days for that.
In fact, I think my days of Eurail passes and quick nights in cities, are done. Infatuation is fun but falling in love takes time and that interests me more. Here’s something that captures my imagination — being an international pet and house sitter. A way of being elsewhere in the world. That’s the kind of traveler I am now. One who wants to stay put for a time, to get to know a community, maybe a language, the food, the people. What better way to do that than walking a dog?
Sometimes I think that armchair travel is enough for me and there are certainly many great books and travel blogs. One of my favorites is Picnic at the Cathedral This smart and hysterically funny writer and her husband (a good sport) go to quirky places, take great photos, and include food, drink and room descriptions. For adults on a budget. That would be me.
What kind of traveler are you?