This is definitely less artful than a proper essay and a bit more personal, but I think some good things are said in it on the subject anyway.
As I sit here at home, with a number of my friends away at the yearly convention for Transformers fans I can’t help but reflect on the years I was able to join them in the festivities that take place on the other side of the Atlantic.
And at the same time I begin to think about travel in general, after all, I just got home from a long weekend spent in Prague with my mother.
When I was little my family didn’t have the money to travel very far. The only definite plans we had every summer was a few weeks, or however long my mother had put in for vacation, spent out on her father’s homestead in the archipelago in the Baltic Sea. It was a lovely time for a child to have, but I know I always felt a little jealous when my classmates spoke of trips to Denmark and further away.
The first time we could take a long trip outside our country’s borders was in 1994, the year I turned 13. With some help from my grandmother we could spend a long and leisurely week on the island of Majorca in the Mediterranean. I may not be able to remember all the details of the trip, how it felt to get on a plane for the first time or how I adapted to spending time in a place where people spoke a different language. There are some details that stand out in my mind though, like how my brothers stuffed all their plush animals in their carry-on, how we had this adorable little lime tree growing just outside our hotel room and how me and my brothers used to run from the warm, but salty Mediterranean and the colder hotel pool. How dad got in a car accident with a crazed Spanish woman and the little zoo where the animals lived in too small cages.
Details all, but the things that stuck in my head after almost twenty years.
And I think for me, that is what travel is all about. Collecting memories in a box to keep inside my head and take out whenever times are dull and sad. I can warm myself on imagery of a beach in Florida, where a kind woman shared a Coke with me and the first time a girl kissed me on the mouth (even if it was a kiss from a friend).
I’ve always had this fear of dying without having truly lived, so I think travel has become one of those ways for me to prevent this from happening. Leaving the comfort of your own home and find new things to see and experience. Through my memories I can feel like my life has importance, that I have done things that matter, if only for a bit.
It’s strange for me to say this, because one thing I find amusing is how few places I have actually visited, geographically speaking. I may have only visited a few places in Europe, but I feel like an expert on the Midwest and its vast fields of soy and corn. But that does not mean that those particular trips were without their own experiences and memories.
I’ve watched the ball drop in NYC, if only on a television screen, I have made snow angels in knee deep snow in a Detroit suburb, I have experienced tornado warnings, I’ve attended a pirate wedding and talked until the wee hours of the morning with friends I felt I could die for. Though the locales were not as exotic as a beach in Thailand or the streets of Manhattan, I’ve filled my little box in my head with imagery for years to come.
It’s not an easy thing to do though. After acknowledging that you need a proper income or at least money in the bank to pay the bills, to even afford far away travel, there are also other things that complicate matters. I’ve always been prone to anxiety, probably more than some and travel has always made it flare up.
It does not help that things have happened over the course of all my trips to aggravate it, to give my brain reason to be worried, from missing connecting flights, to my luggage being delayed, to the time I found myself trapped in a plane at O’Hare airport while a tornado touched down on one of the runways. So, I have definite reasons to feel concerned whenever I prepare myself for yet another long haul, even if I know that the end result, the goal, the destination will make all the anxiety worth it in the end. I always pack and repack, I add numerous name tags to my suitcase, inside and out, I make sure I’m at the airport on time and I always make sure any layovers are long enough that I don’t have to worry about my connections.
But despite all my worries and concerns, both mental and financial I never want to stop trying. I could not see myself give up the idea of travel, even if my destinations are not as far off as they used to be, even if I cannot do it as much as I have in the past. Because I know that every trip, every journey is another opportunity for me to fill myself up with new memories, new sights and new inspirations. I have so many boxes up in my head that I need to fill up with memories and situations and scenery, especially those that my camera can’t accurately capture.
This has become even more important for me, as I begin to take my writing more seriously, because as a writer those boxes become treasure chests. I can take out those memories, twist them, angle them and then use them in my writing. I can put characters in my shoes and see how they react. And I can use the imagery to paint stunning backdrops to whatever story I want to tell.
I think there is a reason why there are travel scholarships for writers.
So I’ll keep my suitcase close to me. I’ll make sure it’s still serviceable. I will check my passport regularly, so I know its not about to expire.
And I save money when I can and hope for new journeys in the future, with new memories to stuff inside my head.