It’s hard to know what to say about this trip without giving too many specific identifying details. But let’s just say that despite the irritations of the gender theatre that characterized the beginning of the trip, it’s been good to get out and do my own thing for the past few weeks. I have not traveled particularly frequently or widely, but I have traveled enough to know that being in a new place can released me from the daily burden of work and laundry and work and dishes and work and paying bills and work. It wasn’t that I didn’t work, but that the work itself took such a different shape than the normal routine of the grind. Traveling alone can be an isolating and lonely experience, to be sure, but I was, for the overwhelming majority of the time, thrilled to be on my own doing my own thing.
So here, in no particular order, are some of the Best Things of the past few weeks:
· Pausing, taking a deep breath, and plunging directly into my fear of driving in that particular place by renting a car and putting 700 miles on it in three days. At the end of every day, I was deeply grateful that the car and I and all the people and cars in our path were all intact.
· Seeing old friends: people who have known me since I was ten years old, teammates from my intermural sports team during my undergrad, people from my first round of graduate school, colleagues from my current graduate program, the other half of our virtual béguinage.
· Having little conversations with strangers: the elderly man across from me at the cathedral café who comes to the cathedral with his free bus pass every few weeks for a day out and a hot lunch, a furniture restorer who plied me with tea and showed me one of the most extraordinary objects I have ever seen, a security guard with a penchant for archaeology who put Roman coins in my hands, and multiple B&B owners.
· Experiencing the cultural life of some big cities: a few meals at fabulous restaurants, last-minute tickets to an award-winning play, a first-rate (free!) concert followed by buskers who were every bit as good. And part of that whole cultural experience was…
· …Drinking in museum exhibits slowly, at my own pace, taking time to see what I wanted to see and skipping the stuff I didn’t, and then buying catalogues. Seeing museums this way feels like luxury of the most extravagant sort. I had been to quite a few of the stops on my itinerary before, so I was released from the guilt that comes of trying to see everything and not succeeding.
· Just breathing the air in some remarkably beautiful places, like this:
I have never traveled for any extended period of time with a Significant Other, so I don’t really have any basis for comparison, but I found myself feeling profoundly grateful for my freedom and autonomy… and grateful that I was feeling grateful.