It has been a few months since I’ve sat in front of the computer to write about travel. It’s not that my passion for travel has diminished. It’s not that I haven’t been travelling. Unfortunately, some stress I’ve had in my life has temporary stripped my desire to share my passions. Yet today, I’ve woken up hours before I needed to get out of bed on my day off of work, started the coffee maker, and opened up the laptop.
It has been a few months since I’ve sat in front of the computer to write about travel. It’s not that my passion for travel has diminished. It’s not that I haven’t been travelling. Unfortunately, some stress I’ve had in my life has temporary stripped my desire to share my passions. Yet today, I’ve woken up hours before I needed to get out of bed on my day off of work, started the coffee maker, and opened up the laptop. A horrific tragedy has happened to someone I care about, making this person grow up quickly and experience a horror that the scariest of movies couldn’t prepare her for. How is this related to travel? To explain this, I first have to explain why I don’t watch horror movies.
No, I don’t even watch Scooby Doo.
On average, 40 hours of my week is spent listening to one of the worst days of a person’s life. An unusual profession, but for reasons best told in a separate blog, I have chosen a career taking 911 calls from my fellow city dwellers. I love what I do. I have found nothing more satisfying in a career than providing some sort of help, either through simple reassurance, or providing instructions for how to stop bleeding/start CPR/deliver a baby…sometimes all in one call. It has been rewarding, yet the pressure and shift work has taken years off my life. It’s been 13 years, and although I can usually forget most callers by the end of shift (a survival technique, it’s not that I don’t feel anything for them), there are some that I know I will carry around with me in my subconcious. There are places I will visit in my own city, where I can’t help but picture what had occurred on that street corner or in that mall, only a few hours/days/years before. On my days off, the last thing I want to do is watch anything that would frighten me. Truthfully, a lot of horror movies pale in the comparison with reality. These past 24 hours, I’ve constantly thought about my niece who is 16 years old, be witness to some of that harshness of reality, after learning that a friend of hers had taken his own life. A bloody, over dramatized chain saw massacre at a summer camp from a guy wearing a hockey mask looks like a bad joke comparitively speaking. I feel helpless and want to help her overcome this ugly side of life, and I think about what I do to cope. The answer for me is travel.
I started travelling long before I began my career – so I won’t deny there are other factors that have led to my wanderlust. My older cousin, who I looked up to growing up, spent a semester in France while in highschool. My eagerness to be like her motivated me to sign up for a Girl Guide trip a few years later so that I too could travel to France and be as cool and beautiful as she was/is. (Side note, I’ve realized she is cool and beautiful not just because she went to France, but I was 13 years old and worshipped her like a teen idol…it made sense at 13 to just do as she did, and everything else would fall into place…I miss 13 year old logic).
My first overseas trip with the Girl Guides circa 1989 (plaid was cool then…)
Every break from school usually included a family roadtrip adventure, to Maine, to Myrtle Beach, to wherever the time and money would take us. Those experiences provided a solid foundation for my travel obsession. But the need to escape provided the drive to go further.
Family Road Trip to Myrtle Beach
My first big solo adventure was to Southeast Asia, and ultimately my attempt at Base Camp on Mount Everest. A big jump from beach vacations in Cuba, I was turning 30 and after listening for 5 years to lives lost too soon, I needed to commemorate this age milestone by doing something extreme. Since the moon wasn’t an option, I’d settle for the second highest place I thought I could get to.
The day before the evacuation…I made it as far up as Lhasa
Turns out, I didn’t get to Base Camp because life decided to teach me about the medical term HACE – or High Altitude Cerebral Edema. In my attempt to escape the seriousness of my every working day life, I ended up hospitalized and in need of emergency evacuation. A tough, but ultimately harmless lesson fate taught me, you can’t always avoid misfortune, even in paradise. What travelling does give me, more valuable than all the money in the world, is a new way of looking at things. I slow down enough when I travel to watch the waves crash into the shore. I take the time to enjoy the new flavours of food I’ve never experienced before. All opportunities I could sample in my own hometown, but rarely take the time to. Familiarity can strip the ease of seeing the beauty in the everyday things. Travelling somewhere new, escaping what to me is ordinary, puts life into perspective for me, and provides me the balance I need of the good and evil in this world.
Despite all my overtime hours I’ve worked, and my constant urge to have an upcoming trip to look forward to, I can not travel as much as I want to. My equilibrium has been off these last few months, and I need to find other ways to offset the unpleasantness of the stresses in my life. I’m working on local travelling – both cost efficient (mostly), and much less time spent in cramped seats on an airplane. I’ve signed up for local tours and found that acting like a tourist in your own town allows you to see your city at a different angle. Just yesterday, I walked into a major mall in my city, and totally forgot about the tragedy I painfully listened to only a couple of years earlier, and instead saw the beautiful natural lighting of the glass ceiling many stories up that I had never noticed before, despite the hundreds of times I had visited there.
I travel for the same reasons I chose to watch comedies when I’m at the movies. Life is too short, even for those who live to a ripe old age, not to smile and take in all that is beautiful.
My smiling niece and I on a Cuban beach