How can I travel when there’s so much going on at home? People frequently ask me that question, how do I make it work – just pick up and go? Doesn’t my home life suffer? Yes, for a while, and no. But if I didn’t move once in a while, everything would really fall apart, especially now that my children are out of the house – still in school – but nevertheless launched. It helps that I’m a writer and an assignment can get me out of town for a while. But any solo voyage is good for the head.
We didn’t travel too exotically with the kids when they were young, but still, we hit the road when we could afford to. When my son was a year and a half, my husband was working on a giant outdoor sculpture in the south of France, and the patron, I guess you’d call him, invited us to stay in his wild, gated James Bond house. We took the baby along, with the port-a-crib, and the bottles and all that other paraphernalia that constituted our traveling circus. We have a lot of lovely photos of him (my son…) running through fields of lavender, or on the beach at St. Tropez in a sun hat, images that will surely be brandished to his great embarrassment at some future celebration. I was jealous of the easy going mothers (not usually Americans, I have to say) who – topless – could juggle diaper bags with a glass of rosé and four passports and not drag themselves to bed weeping with fatigue. The mothers who didn’t care that juice spilled all over them or that their kids’ bottoms were getting toasted by the sun.
I tended to feel, after the exhaustion of every day, that these travels were possibly more of a vanity project for me. That the photographs are beautiful, blown up on the wall, but that the memories were only mine (and my husband’s) to keep. I was always delighted to get home, and found plenty of worthy photo opportunities there, too.
Still, I didn’t learn much, or quickly, so every time we could travel, we did. We took them to Paris to see our old haunts (where my daughter nearly died from septicemia), and for a long drive out west (where, in my fruitless search for authentic diners, we subsisted on an artery-destroying diet of Taco Bell, Carl’s Junior, and close to Monument Valley, all variations of Frito pie.)
We loved the time together, without the schedule bearing down on us. And that’s the part I remember – my tiny daughter and I scrunched together in a bed at the Holiday Inn Express in Barstow, California, the boys in the other one, and how we woke up that morning and drove across the desert, ending up at a comfy hotel in Santa Monica.
But again, I was glad to head home.
My kids are bigger and older, and though we travel together when we can, once a year or so, it’s different now. We talk and read and enjoy long meals together. We don’t force a transfer of our life to some inconvenient place, because we’re a nimble unit now. But I’m even more agile alone and I like to travel that way. I like soup and a cold beer for dinner, if that’s all I want. I enjoy travelling light. I suppose I always have.
I’m not at all adventurous and I’m pretty chicken sh– about risk taking, too. I’m not a great white hunter type, I don’t camp out in the desert or take boat rides across blackened lakes just for the thrill of it. But I do like solitude and anonymity. I enjoy carrying a small bag with the essentials (plus one dressy outfit, just in case). When I compartmentalize my belongings, it serves to compartmentalize me, as well. All of me is boiled down to its elements – one woman, two feet, one thinking brain, my one tiny existence to leave for a while and reflect upon. Okay, maybe four pair of shoes, but still.
So, in answer to people’s questions, travel is easy. Press “Purchase Ticket Now,” put it on the credit card. That’s all it takes. Home is alluring from a distance, and life is here when I get back and it’s always better than when I left. So, maybe what I like about travel is the moment I realize (and I do every time) that while I’ve been gone, nothing – and everything – has changed.