Former columnist for the Los Angeles Post Examiner, the Baltimore Post Examiner, and Gatehouse News Service

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Mystery of Travel

2007 -This is a photo of Cline's Corners, New Mexico - one of the smallest towns in the country, and one that I stumbled on when lost and by myself in a rental car (rented GPS had pooped out; the only thing I had going for me was a full tank of gas.) I sat in the parking lot and took this photo as an homage to the town that presented me with civilization again...and the feeling that where there are people, even strangers, there is hope of finding your way again.  I bought a really cool purse here, too, and a plastic wild west cap gun that I had to regetfully abandon before arriving at Lubbock airport - much to my waiting eight year old's dismay.

2010 - Another trip, another realization that sometimes I feel the pull of travel, and that that's okay.  This trip was a jaunt to see vacationing family in Virginia.  Not everyone can always go, so I used to feel guilty when I pulled out of the driveway every year or so to take off for a three to four days.  And I am not talking luxury travel; these are not trips that involve massages or candlelit dinners.  These are trips that are framed by my windshield, that involve rest stops and toll booths and favorite CD's.  They are trips to get out and see how my slice of America is doing - to talk to people, take photographs, and to watch my odometer roll.  I find fulfillment in the scratchy, wavery sound of an AM radio station at night, and the lurch of sadness I feel at the sight of a mangled deer by the side of the highway reminds me that I have the capacity for sadness over a deer, and it feels more real than anything, in that moment.  The content of these days on the road can be wildly varied, as unscripted things often are. One morning I tried to talk a homeless pregnant woman begging outside a WalMart into going to a shelter, and the day before my sister and I had been pulled over in Quantico, Virginia, talking to a Marine who helped us find the freeway.  I watch the cloudy sky above me and marvel at the V formation that sustains the geese in their own journey south, and wonder why these soul-expanding experiences don't happen in the suburbs.  There are geese there, too; and women in crisis, and service members that I could talk to.  Why does the road give them this sheen that I can't get enough of?

Maybe the best part of the travel comes when I am on the phone with my now eleven-year-old, and my trip has lasted long enough for us both.  More than I need to be away, I need to be back, and in the chaotic middle of the people who need me.  They love me, so they let me go away, certain of my return and not needing to understand my trips, but accepting them all the same.  That is real freedom; to be loved for just who you are.  And no one can resist the pull of an eleven year old. :-)