South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceana. Done. Have a great day!
Oh, all right. So, maybe that’s cheating. For the curious, I left out North America since I live here (despite it being vastly broader than I’ve explored) and Antarctica for obvious reasons.
I love to travel—by myself. It’s utterly selfish, of course, but I really do prefer to travel alone—all alone.
Let me set the picture.
Me. Gap-toothed, freckled, nine, twelve—it didn’t matter. It’s a dining table somewhere in the western US. Maybe it’s Ventura, California—with the salt breezes blowing in through the kitchen window. Or, perhaps it’s Landers, California—with heat and sand blasting their way between cracks and crevices on that house at the end of Dusty Mile Road. No joke. That was the name of our “street.” It was dirt for the two-mile or so drive-slash-walk to the highway to get the mail. That highway, California Highway 18, is also known as Old Woman Springs Road along that stretch.
Pretty accurate description, if you ask me. It could have been Ojai, California or Noel, Missouri—Apache Junction, Arizona.
But wherever it was, Mom or Dad would say, “We’re going to… [insert Grandma’s, Uncle Lon’s, Uncle Ron’s, or wherever here… and yes, I have both an Uncle Lon and an Uncle Ron—from opposite sides of the family] for the weekend.”
As for Mom, that probably meant a lot of stuff I can’t even think about. For me, it meant grabbing clothes, PJs, toothbrush, paste, and brush. Oh, and a dozen books or so. For the trip there. The eight-hour max trip.
I’d get up the next morning, or go out to the truck that night after Dad came home, and climb in—into the refrigerator box, that is.
Yep. Some people had campers with beds and sinks and things on the backs of their pickups. We had a refrigerator box. Well, after we totaled the ’63 Ford Ranchero (pea-soup green, no less) we’d used to use—the one where I climbed behind the front seat and slept my way there. There was just enough room for me to fit back there. So cool.
Dad would have cut out a door and a couple of window flaps. Those flaps would be taped back with duct tape—not “Duck Tape.” Back then we didn’t call it after the company but after its original use—for ducting. 😀 When I got tired or cold, I’d just close those “window shutters” and use the duct tape to hold them shut. When I wanted air or sunshine… tape them open again.
We called it the “Okie” camper.
And then after the trip, I’d ride back home in our “camper,” bring in my stuff, put it away, and life would be grand. Sure, Mom had laundry to do when we got back, but she always had laundry to do with us home, and with just the three of us, she couldn’t have done it any sooner anyway.
Enter my mothering experience.
Oh. Sorry. I think I passed out remembering our treks across half the US to visit our parents in Missouri and Iowa. Packing and preparing for five people wasn’t too bad. Not, really.
A few years later, we did seven. That was a lot harder, but I didn’t come home catatonic. Again, hard but not impossible. Then, a couple of years after that, we did eight and one on the way. Oh, in July. And our car acted up, so we turned off the AC. Just in case it would help.
And then the trip that nearly killed me. Christmas 2003. I still whimper thinking about it. Planning for 10. Shopping for 10. Packing for 10. Saving for 10.
Look, some people don’t have trouble with it. It’s fun—they think. No biggie—they say. Yeah. Bully for them. I came back and prayed I’d be able to do it again. After all, If I don’t, I’ll never get to see my parents. And now that his mother isn’t able to drive, we wouldn’t see Kevin’s mother, either.
But it was hard—really hard. A couple of years after that, I did a short, one-week trip up the coast with all of us. I almost cried when I saw the house again.
It was ten years before we went anywhere again.
I’m not proud of that fact, but it is a fact. I couldn’t do it. But the kids grew up, could manage not only packing, planning, and shopping for themselves, but also helping me get the home fires banked, so to speak. We made two trips with most of us (always someone missing) back to Minnesota and Missouri in back-to-back years. And aside from hotel, rental car, and airline scheduling, it wasn’t too bad.
But in between all that, I began traveling alone. First to North Carolina for what has become an annual writing retreat. Then to Atlanta—for the same thing. To Michigan… to visit my parents—just me (with my sister in tow, but not my “gang”). And I learned something in all that travel.
I love it.
Packing for one? No biggie. Itineraries for one? A breeze. Shopping for the family while I’m gone? Not a problem. Navigating the airport with just me? Aaah… people watching at its finest.
I love hotels, restaurants alone, time in the car to plot out my next book like I talked about HERE. But that’s not all. I love meeting up with readers here and there. Making new friends across the country? What’s not to love?
And then I come home, climb into that rental car, drive three hours to the middle of nowhere, and there it is. Our little house.
Look, our house isn’t much to look at. It’s small, closely resembles a mobile home (complete with post and beam—read “off the ground” foundation), and has a dirt (occasionally with weeds until the sun kills ’em for a yard. 1,100 sq. ft. of domestic bliss. And it feels so good to open that door.
I usually travel at night. I like to drive while the world sleeps. So, I come in, decompress, read the mail, toss the junk, and pass out in bed. But when I wake up in the morning, I hear about Lorna’s new art project, Ethan’s new sword skills, or Andra’s volleyball game. Jenna asks a question about her class. Kaylene has a new movie trailer I just have to see. And Kevin comes home a few hours later. Yep. I missed him as much as I thought I did.
Life is grand.
You know, in last week’s post, I mentioned travel—those places I’d like to see. But I only mentioned them. Today, I thought I’d explain where I’d like to go and what I’d like to see there.
Five places I’d like to visit:
Well, I already told you why I’d like to go there in THIS post. I need to write that book. To understand what it would be like for an American who speaks very little Greek to show up in a Greek village where few speak English, I need to go. So the why is kind of obvious.
Where to go and what to see… that’s not so obvious.
You see, I want to go to a small village—one that is usually ignored by tourists. I want to see a party, attend church. I want to try to buy something in a shop where the owner is about seventy and doesn’t know more than half a dozen words of English—you know, exactly the half-dozen words I know in Greek. Because I firmly believe Murphy lives in Greece, too. I want it for authenticity for that book.
But I also want it because it’s my friend’s homeland. It thrills my heart just how much she loves America, but she loves Greece even more. I want to feel that with her. I want to leave a little piece of my heart there so I’ll have to return to find it again.
I lump those together, but I’ve heard they don’t appreciate that. Sorry, folks. It’s what it is. To this gal who will likely never make it there, once you’ve made it to one, it’s both in my book. Much of why I want to visit there has more to do with the place on the globe than some deeper meaning. It amazes me that people live “underneath” us. Well, underneath and to the west. But wow!
And there’s something about Christchurch, New Zealand that has always appealed to me. I really don’t quite know why. I want to walk the hills, see the beaches, experience something that is so very different from my life yet in a place that still speaks English—sort of. 😉 All that green… with opposite seasons! How cool is that?
Yeah, it’s not logical, but who said I had to be. This is my travel dream. Australia or New Zealand makes the list.
Honestly, this is the last place I’d probably visit, but I so want to see tourist India. The movie Bride and Prejudice mocked the “tourist” India promoted by resorts and the like, but honestly, it’s all I can handle. I want to see beaches, “overpriced” shops, the edge of the jungle. Somehow, I want to get a feel for what the country is like, but forgive my Western insensitivity.
I don’t want to see the poverty.
I can’t handle it. I want to leave India in blissful ignorance that my idea of the horrors of what it is like to live there as a “nobody” is accurate. Everything I’ve ever seen mocks that idea. My idea of horrible is so sanitized. I know that. And it’s all I can manage to deal with. I want to experience the exotic—all nice and idealized.
That’s rather insulting. I know it. And it’s why I likely won’t ever go. It would break my heart.
The British Isles:
I want to see every last one, but since I can’t, let’s start with—England. All of it. I long to see the Lake Country where “Lizzy” walked, London where the “Blitz” occurred, Canterbury, Cambridge, Oxford. I want to see the Hartlepool hanging monkey and the Crescent in Bath. I want to walk along the shore of Dover and look across. Oh, how I long to walk through forests in Cumbria—to feel the delight of wandering through the places Dove and Philip from the Annals of Wynnewood walked. Wow.
And I want to see a village—just an ordinary village. I want to talk to people whose parents lived through the Blitz—to know what places took in children from Operation Pied Piper. To see where those children might have lived. Yes, it’s research. Sure it is! But I don’t care.
I want to close my eyes and feel the history in these places.
Wales—just to get a feel for what it’s like. It always feels like it’s the redheaded step-child of Great Britain.
Scotland—oh, to wander the hills and crags of my ancestors—to see the Loch Ness. I ache to ask Nessie if she’ll tell me her secrets. To hear the skirl of bagpipes where it should be heard. I long to visit Edinburgh and hear it pronounced properly. To get yet another book idea—one I can only hope to write.
Ireland— I once would have said that I wanted to see Longford. Now I just want to see the green so green no one can properly describe it. I want to walk down the road with my dear friend, Barbara, and compare Southern California (she’s a Cali girl) and her “new” home—the Emerald Isle.
Of course, I’d also love to see Shetland, the Hebrides, the Isle of Man—any of it, really. Can you imagine the history? Did I cheat by calling it “the British Isles”? Totally. And I’m okay with that one.
I’ve seen enormous chunks of the United States. I was born in Oklahoma. After a move or twenty there, Dad brought us to Arizona—on our way to Fillmore, California. We moved to Arizona, but we traveled back to Oklahoma often enough. So I rode through all those western states along the I-10 and the I-40. One summer, my aunt took us to Colorado. That got me through a few more states.
We moved to Missouri and Arkansas before returning to California—all during my 3 years of high school. We’re talented that way.
Then I married an Iowegian. Add Iowa and Minnesota to the map. And a trip through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho… the works. On the western half of the US, I’ve only missed Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii—that last one for obvious reasons. Can’t ride there in a refrigerator box stuffed in the back of a Chevy S-10 pickup.
Meanwhile, all my travels have added more of the Midwest—Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan. And I’ve seen the south/southeast. Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, the Carolinas, the Virginias, Kentucky, Georgia… just not Florida. Yet.
But I’ve never seen any of the New England states. Upstate New York. Vermont. New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut. Massachusetts. Well, I just want to go there because after working so hard to learn how to spell it when I was nine, I want to SEE it. I’m weird like that.
Just the “five top places” I’d like to visit—alone. What about you? Where would you go? Why?