There is nothing I love more than suddenly getting the undeniably gleeful itch to go on a trip, and then, just as suddenly, coming to my senses and feeling around on my head to see if I’ve developed a large lump that would suggest some sort of tumor or disease, or maybe even discover the whole thing is absent.
I think I’m like a lot of people in the world—those who can envision the excitement of an exotic location, a change in weather, or discovering new cuisine—but it’s right thereafter I have those dreamy notions, all perfect and picture-worthy, that I remember every trip is actually three trips built into one.
And then I also suddenly remember how much I hate to travel.
Usually, everything comes to a screechingly swift and mind-clearing halt.
Except this time.
This time I got caught up in all the romance of it: I’d travel alone, create a schedule based on only my whims and interests, and I’d not have to share a bed or bedroom with anyone that spent a good portion of the night farting, belching, snoring, or hacking up large chunks of lunch or half their body hair.
The other bonus is the whole fly by the seat of my pants kind of planning.
Except … I am a total planner. And planning is the heart of part one in a three-part trip.
Those three trips inside every adventure away from home?
- The planning phase – the trip as you build it and see it in your mind
- The experiencing phase – the trip as you live it hour by hour and moment to moment
- The remembering phase – the trip as you want yourself and others to recall it
Two out of three phases require some mind gamery, and in some cases, therapy once complete.
So, I leaped into the planning phase—the dreaming, the scheming, the OH-MY-GOD-I’M-GOING-TO-USE-AI-FOR-THIS phase.
Yeah, I had a serious sit-down chat with Artificial Intelligence and after asking it the wholly boring traditional questions whose answers I always first seek out like: What should I do in this town? And What should I eat in this town? And Where will I find a place where the people are allowed to pour scotch? I then grew tired of traditional and began asking questions that a five-year-old might ponder.
Where would you go if you had legs?
Where does it smell the best in this town?
Can we meet for a drink and use your credit card to pay for it?
After soaking in a few weeks of the blissful planning phase and creating my seriously-this-will-be-amazing itinerary, I did the one thing that always makes every highly orchestrated schedule implode on itself: I embarked.
I somehow suffer from amnesiac qualities that are in full gear during the planning phase—I forget how much I love historic markers and cannot stop from pulling over onto the side of the road to read every one of them—even though most of them are simply pointing out yet another place George Washington had slept. Truly the man should have been tested for narcolepsy.
I forget how I am so giddy being on break from the “every day” that I will engage in conversation with cashiers at the filling station, or women in any restroom, or every stray cat lying in the sun on the sidewalk for hours.
I forget that I am a total sucker for every notice and signboard request to “please snap a photo of this landscape and send to our club/organization/county offices so that we can chart the progress of our cleanup efforts/garden growth/bluebird house project.”
I forget how I can be halfway through a trail hike and come across a somewhat hidden chemical manufacturing plant that, upon pressing Google for information, harvests horseshoe crabs for biomedical research. I then discover that Horseshoe crabs’ blood is collected to support the production of LAL, or Limulus amoebocyte lysate, a clotting agent that aids in the detection of human pathogens in patients, drugs, and intravenous devices. And then I finally discover that a horseshoe’s blood is blue! Feeling very Erin Brockovich-like, I realize I have uncovered absolutely nothing except a creepy photo of how these crabs go through the bloodletting process.
Altogether though, these activities completely obliterate any timetable I’d painstakingly crafted, and my days are filled not with seaside lounging, wine tastings, garden walks, and museums, but rather rusty highway markers, indifferent alley cats and camouflaged fowl, and the eyeroll-worthy wasted pursuits of seafood cruelty.
This … is how I spend my time.
Finally, of course, I come home, and being the well-practiced fiction writer that I am, must craft a slightly racier version of the truth. An embellishment here and there, a tale grown taller where height was needed, a yarn spun with a rainbow of color where it might truthfully have been categorized as beige.
The historic marker may have a map taped to the back of it which leads me to a dilapidated governess-in-training school, where a tattered and overlooked diary reveals the daily abuses suffered by schoolgirls whose once wealthy families fell on hard times, forcing them to offer up their female issue for future employment—if they could make it past the cruel headmaster’s daily taste for vehemence and depravity.
The footpath placard’s request for an uploaded snapshot unleashes a deluge of texts and phone calls not from The Nature Conservancy, as advertised, rather an arm of the Defense Intelligence Agency stating that my latest photo reveals I am the closest individual to the Lesser Spotted Great Ebony Igris which is believed to be used by certain foreign countries as a spying device, and what ensues is a day-long chase to gather closer proof to their suspicions. Clearly, Citizenry Science working at its full potential.
And the blue-blooded horseshoe crabs whose vital liquid is drained from their heart until it ceases to flow? What more could I add to that really. It’s perfect already.
This is how it goes. The trilogy of one trip. I look back and wonder at its success. I wonder if I am rested and sated with tasting a week of different living. I wonder if it was money well spent. I wonder if I will remember the true details and recall them with fondness over time.
I wonder if anyone will buy the new book I will start penning tomorrow—the one about an illicit ring of runaway governesses who harvest horseshoe blood for mountains of cash and open an elite spa and recovery center for repatriated creatures involved in avian espionage.
Perhaps it is better to travel hopefully, than to actually arrive at all.
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Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.