Friday, October 2, 2009

Calm before the storm

It was late October. The daylight slipped away quickly, and I was restless. Was I hungry? I ate a piece of pizza. Better? No. Was I tired? I took a 30 minute nap. Better yet? Not quite. Was I bored? I didn’t think so but I watched 15 minutes of America’s Funniest Home Videos just to be sure. While watching an elderly woman lose her dentures in a watermelon would usually amuse me, on this cold night it didn’t. This nagging, abetting, nameless emotion swarmed around me like locust. It was my frequent visitor.

Suddenly, an image flashed in my mind: a young, careless girl running through cobblestone streets chasing the tinkle of church bells in desperate pursuit of discovery and joy. Ah… that’s what I was: Older. Stiffer. Obligated…

It had been five long years since I grabbed the horns of adventure for a truly wild, bucking ride through a corner of the world. While most people would consider themselves lucky to visit Europe once, I considered my first trip a diagnosis. From the first moment I stepped off the plane and into another culture, I knew I would be chronically ill with the travel bug. I suffered each and every day from aches and pains and desperate yearnings to be Anywhere But Here.

And so, on that cold night, I put down the pizza, turned off the TV, and turned toward my unsuspecting husband who was playing a video game.

“Honey,” I said. “I think we should go somewhere this winter.”

“Sure,” he said, not turning from his game.

In my mind, I was already aboard a smoky midnight train on the way to Vienna watching strange, unknown cities whir by while chasing freedom, adventure, and sweet newness.

“Really?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said.

I spent the entire following day comparing airfare and searching for accommodations. I came home from school with The Binder. It was organized into five sections: airfare, train schedules, hotel accommodations, things to do, and a list of stuff to do before we leave. In the following two months, The Binder was my constant companion. It assured me that adventure and abandon were just around the corner. On numerous occasions, I fell asleep with The Binder. Thus, I felt it deserved a proper name.

“What are you doing December 16?” I asked the following day, setting down The Binder.

“Ummmm….” Sean said, eyeing The Binder. “I don’t know. Why?”

“Because we’re flying to London that day.”

I walked to the bathroom, dropped my drawers, and peed while listening for a reaction. Nothing. Now first you must understand my husband is not similarly afflicted with the travel bug. His idea of traveling is driving three hours to the ocean to camp. This was not quite what he agreed to when he conceded to “go somewhere this winter.” Suddenly, he was in the bathroom.


“What?” I asked.

“What do you mean what? You just walked into the house and told me we’re flying to London, in Europe, across the United States and the Atlantic Ocean, in less than two months and we haven’t talked about this at all.”

“Yes we did,” I countered.

“When?” He asked, his voice rising incredulously.

“Last night.”

“Last night… we never talked about flying half way across the world last night!”

“Yes… I said we should go somewhere this winter and you said sure. To me, that sounded like: go ahead and make plans to go somewhere this winter. London is somewhere, and December 16 is winter… so it all makes perfect sense to me.”

“Let’s go somewhere this winter implies Pike Place Market, maybe Bellingham, perhaps Victoria. You know places you can drive to! Let’s go somewhere this winter does not imply let’s fly for 10 hours to a very expensive island in Europe!”

“Well, you should have said that!”

“Have you lost your mind?” he asked, resignation crossing his face.

“No… I’ve finally found it.”

And thus, two months later, we were on a Boeing 777 floating thousands of miles over Canada on our way to London. If only I had known my husband had peed his pants in the ferry terminal before we even left Seattle, perhaps my expectations for this trip wouldn’t have been so high…