It seems like everyone I know is going places. A dear friend just returned from years of work in South America. Another has pulled up stakes in Scotland (or is it put down stakes? I’m too lazy to look it up). Another friend left just recently for Iceland, and she plans to backpack across Europe afterwards, until she gets bored or her money runs out, I suppose. I envy this wanderlust in other people. What must it take to board a plane that will take you away from everything you’ve ever known, because that’s precisely the point? I wish I could be like that.
Goal: Achievable. I say travel is achievable but really, I don’t know how people do it. My finances are pretty well tied up in three streams: Essentials, Non-essentials, Bird Art. I can’t imagine depleting the coffers in any of those areas to go somewhere. Yet my pal in Iceland was a co-worker, meaning she had the same financial capabilities and restrictions as I do, and yet managed to scrimp and save (even more as she was a single gal and so can’t split costs like I can), so I know it can be done, financially.
Time, of course, is the other factor. Now that I have a job that could conceivably fund some travel, any kind of extensive travel would likely require leaving that job (as my colleague did). I know there are those who accrue vacation days and plan all year for two weeks in France or something, but then you put all those eggs in one basket and dump the basket over international waters. As it stands, I’ve been meting out my vacation days in fits and starts to make long weekends longer, see family over Christmas, and attend the Nokomis Bird Art Fair (see you next year, gang!).
Of course, the only thing really stopping me here is fear. I’ve never really gone anywhere, save for road trips as a child to Michigan and Georgia, and little holidays to BC or Ontario. Chicago was my biggest adventure, but poor Jonny’s broken leg curtailed a lot of our planned outings. Besides which, I’m not sure a trip to Illinois is considered much travel at all. I have friends who have backpacked through mountains, explored ruins, and summered in Kamloops. I’m sure those experiences are rewarding, the people I know who travel routinely swear by it. So why do I immediately jump to a worst case scenario of cramped quarters, pickpockets, and diarrhea? Time to get over myself.
Plan: Take a real trip.
I’ve thought about it, and I’ve come up with a pretty bad-ass itinerary for my long journey. First, I will go to Saskatoon, where I lived for many years. I’ll reconnect with old friends and visit all my old haunts, like that spaghetti restaurant that looks like a cave and that place that I’d get “Hello Friend” written on my t-shirts. My booze tolerance would return to that of my 20 year-old self, like when I lived there, as would my waistline. I’d stay up late and sleep in later and everything would be just like it was.
Then I’d pack up and make the long journey to Regina, where I grew up. I’d see old friends and classmates I haven’t spoken to in years. I’d see my parents and my brother not as my parents and brother but as people and we’d get to know each other in a whole new way. I’d be even thinner by then, but escape the plague of acne this time around. I’d stay in my old room, stare up at the ceiling, and dream of the day I’d be moving out to go to Toronto. Then I’d go to Toronto.
Toronto was a great place to live, but lately it’s been an even better place to visit. I loved my time in the Big City and wouldn’t trade it, but unfortunately there was so much anxiety around getting and keeping a job, making rent, and paying bills. For such a cool place, it induced a lot of stress I’ve been happy to more or less escape in recent years. That’s not to say I wouldn’t hit up all my favourite places with all my favourite people. Moving away from there (and from Saskatoon, come to think of it) felt like cutting off so many important friendships in their prime. That’s something I’d want to ask those people that travel all the time: how do you deal with missing the people you are constantly leaving behind?
I’d go to New York, a place I’ve never been before. Admittedly, I’m drawn in by the New York I’ve read about in books and seen in movies and TV. I know I won’t take a subway train with a slice of wedding cake alongside Lena Dunham, or walk the streets with Diane Keaton, or stay in the Plaza Hotel with Macaulay Culkin and that lady covered in pigeons. But I do wonder how much of the mythology is true; if the city is really its own entity that sucks people in and keeps them forever. A place of amazing opportunity unlike any other where, if you are one in a million, there are seven other people just like you. Oh and plus, I’d like to see a bunch of plays.
I’d go to England and visit all the merry old English relatives I have in pockets across the pond. I’d get a really good plate of fish and chips, have tea with one of those dame actresses, and solve a murder with a bobby or a lorry or whatever the hell it is. I’d go to Paris for the art and beauty. I’d go to Greece for the ruins (but I wouldn’t deposit any cash), then go to China and maybe get a baby while I’m down there.
In actual fact, I do have weekend trips coming up to Saskatchewan and Kelowna to see friends and family. Naturally, I’m flying WestJet, so who knows if the airline will even survive the summer (Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s terrifying). But I do hope to hit more exotic destinations soon. I just have to get over my inherent fears and prejudices. Not prejudices against foreign people and places, mind you, but against the idea of travel at all. For all its advantages, something about it still seems imprudent. It really costs a ton of money, folks, and I’m trying to save up for a home, or to buy a stuffed falcon. Also, I’m weirdly against men travelling for some latently sexist reason. If I find out a gal pal is spending six months abroad I think, “Good for you, Maureen!” But if a guy I know is backpacking around aimlessly for another summer I think, “Get your fucking life together, Dale.”
I know I will regret not travelling now once I’m old or bedridden with super-morbid obesity or something. But I’ll stick to my little trips for now and work up to the big ones. As I write this, I’m looking ahead to several really fun weekends with friends, family, and, once his cast comes off in a few weeks, Dr. Jon. I’m lucky to have found someone with the same travel priorities in this respect. Jon likes a good trip as much as the next guy, but we both really appreciate the journey home even more.