Okay, now shit’s getting real.
I don’t over-pack. In my everyday life I have a couple favorite outfits I wear over and over, why should traveling be any different? Plus I’ve found if I get somewhere and need something I hadn’t brought I can just simply buy it where I am. Except for some brief excursions over the borders of Mexico and Canada all my travels have been in the States and I can find Colgate toothpaste and Hanes underpants pretty much anywhere.
My big dilemma with choosing what to bring to England is weather. I know, layer, layer, layer. But even layers can be problematic, I would like to look halfway put together, not to impress Anna, she’s seen me in my horrible housecoat complete with morning breath and bedhead, but to feel like a grown-up and not a backpacking hostel kid shambling along stoned and broke wearing Birks, a Baja, and four tie-dyed t-shirts in various stages of decay. Odds are this is THE trip, you know? I want to pull it off with some style.
Though if you took a peek in my luggage you’d think otherwise. Nobody carrying this much candy corn can be considered as anything but a loon. What? It was the dopiest American candy I could think of. No point in bringing chocolate, theirs is far better and I don’t want to worry about melting. It’s difficult enough trying to guess what will pass through the TSA and what might get me hauled off for a ‘special’ pat-down. I’m traveling with medication, an arsenal of toiletries and cosmetics, and I wear a bra with more metal struts and support than the Brooklyn Bridge. I’ve got an unused passport with a pic therein that was taken 20lbs ago. Basically I should wear a sign saying, “I did everything wrong, please do a strip search and make me miss my flight.”
I know, right? I’m going in a machine that will be crossing the ocean a mile up in the sky, to arrive at a country where extremists regularly blow things up and ram cars into crowds (though nowhere near how often Americans shoot each other with guns), to visit a friend I haven’t seen in over 8 years and other friends I’ve never met in person at all, and my ONLY fear is getting through security at the airport.
For real. Such is the blessing of having zero social anxiety.
To be serious and a bit of a downer for a moment, when the people who should love you most treat you like a humiliating burden, a problem, and criticize your every thought, word and action as some kind of embarrassing affront to THEM it burns out that place where what other people think matters. By age 3 I had absorbed and accepted that I was wrong, no matter what and about every thing. What do you do with a child who speaks in complete sentences at 10 months old? In two languages? Can read and write before completely potty trained? A difficult, prickly child who argued like Clarence Darrow and yet looked like a Hummel figurine?
In my case your family picks at you until you honestly don’t care anymore. Then you go on to live a life free from being afraid of being judged and no longer give any brain space to the entire concept. Where strangers are delights, stories to be enjoyed and bearers of gifts of skills and knowledge I hadn’t had before. I’ve told Mick many times that I’ve yet to meet a single person who didn’t bring me something new and cool to know. People are endlessly fascinating. I love that.
So. Traveling doesn’t frighten me. Especially traveling alone. Going out into the world is fun! I genuinely, truly enjoy meeting new people. Chatting up strangers. Sharing a brief slice of time and life with fellow travelers. Shoot, even the guy who drives the airport shuttle or the barista at the train station has a story. And I absolutely want to hear it. Just get me through airport security and I am A #1 good to go.
Today was spent dorking out and making technical arrangements. Phone? Good. A nifty little plan of talk and text well sufficient to cover my needs. Found a charger that has a outlet plug and a USB plug. Not international converter but one can be had over there. Arranged for my bank card to work without security blocks. Affixed my bright pink luggage tag. Counted out my meds and vitamins and have them in officially labeled containers, hopefully no hassles there. I am only bringing my phone and a camera. Planning on a quasi media-free vacation. No laptop, tablet, or even a Kindle. Not against those things, they’re just not me. I like being where I am without a screen or lens between me and what I’m doing. I do have a paper journal and a couple of my favorite pens. Old school.
Mostly what this trip is about is being free. Free of my usual roles. Free of excess stuff. Free of living up to or adhering to expectation.
In 1990 I took a short business trip to Colorado. I had my bookstore and went on a buying trip for stock not readily found in our area and to make connections with other antiquarian booksellers in those dim dark pre-internet days. Who you knew was everything back then. I also had a friend in Boulder who could put me up, someone I’d worked with in Texas. We’d met just after Alex was born and she’d even watched him a few times when my shift ran long. Sue was glad enough of my company and to have a reason to hit every used book shop and antique store in the Denver/Boulder area. We had a good time. I bought and shipped home a literal ton of books. Made a few book dealer friends. Drank waaaaay too many margaritas one night. And amused childless Sue to no end with this one peculiar habit of mine. Whenever we got to a street corner or started across a parking lot I stuck out my hand. Low. Low enough to block a child from darting out into traffic. Low enough for a 5 year old to grab my hand and safely cross. 1,500 miles away from my kid and I was still on mom duty. 32 years into this gig I don’t know if I will ever NOT be on mom duty.
Tomorrow I am going up in the sky and crossing the whole ocean. To land in the first foreign country I’ve been to that isn’t physically connected to my home. For nine days I will be well beyond an outstretched hand from my child. Too far away to cook for and kiss my husband. For more than a week I will just be Me and I don’t know how it will go. But I am excited to find out. I just have to get through the TSA first.
Up, up, and away! ~LA