Away From One Life and Into Another

“Each footstep on a journey moves the traveler away from one life and into another and perhaps the memory of the piece left behind sustains the weariest nomad.”

Sinéad Gleeson, “The Adventure Narrative” in her essay collection, Constellations

What do I leave behind…

When I travel, I leave behind a life of routine, predictability and comfort. Home means having the engine off, putting it in Park, and settling in with beloved habits. My snacks in the kitchen. My morning and evening routines. My own bed and pillow. I leave behind all the options of which shoes to wear, or a variety of jackets, one for every sort of weather. I can have my coffee exactly when and how I want it. I can read whichever book suits my mood. I can be quiet or talkative.

I leave behind dressing just how I wish; sweatpants all day! Little need to look in the mirror. It’s not just home, but Portland’s relaxed dress code means little deference to fashion. Everyone’s hair is slightly messy from being under a hat all day. A fashion statement is hiking gear in nylon, fleece, or Lycra, with a logo.

I leave behind the familiar view from my windows; the beauty of the towering green trees around me, my backyard bird friends, my neighborhood walk.

There’s a comfort in that calm, a security in having control over my day. Home is safety. These are the things I yearn for when I travel. Eventually.

But too long at home, and that comfort gets stale and claustrophobic. I can’t stand it anymore, and it’s time to go. The engine is running, I’m in neutral, but revving my engine. Time to consider – money, distances, calendar, weather predictions, plane flights, hotels, or check in with a friend – might they be open for a visit?

I send out feelers, get recommendations, make reservations, put down deposits, and finally being home is less constricting. There’s something to look forward to.

Home can be pretty darn sweet

“To set out for the horizon is to head towards its shimmering line. Every time I arrive in a new place, I drop my bags, turn on my heel and begin to walk.”

Sinéad Gleeson

When I arrive in a new place… 

No sense in sitting around in a rented room. I get out and walk, stretch and unfurl, get the lay of the land, and get oriented. What’s nearby, where’s the market, where’s the bus or train, which way should I hold the map (I love maps), which way is north? I need an overview. Is there a nearby cafe, which way to the town center, or the tourist center? Where do I get a sim card? What are the smells and sounds of the neighborhood? Is there a natural area nearby, a duck pond, a harbor, a beach, a city park?

Unless of course the travel has been too punishing, which happens more as I age. My body limits how much and how far I go these days. No matter what though, I must get out, go to a nearby cafe, or find a bench, and watch this new world as it passes by, breathe in the new air, listen to the languages, see how people dress, are they hurried or slow, do they walk arm in arm, what do the children do, how are the elderly treated. There is much to be absorbed, and never enough time to sense it all.

~ ~ ~

“I am a complicated traveller. The lure of it, the distance and the promise of unfamiliar views compel but often the reality or the shortness of the trip disappoints. It has changed too since becoming a parent. I always long to ricochet home…. Every ticket purchased is a return one.”

Sinéad Gleeson

What kind of traveler am I? 

I plan my trips months in advance, with great enthusiasm. Then as the time approaches, anxiety grows edged with excitement. It’s age, what to bring and what to leave behind, I’m a little less mobile, there’s covid, and general anxiety about the world at large. I wasn’t always this way.

At 17 I had a backpack and a pal, a Eurail Pass and travelers checks, and a loose itinerary of major cities to cover in a couple months. I had my hiking boots, minimal clothes, and one simple dress rolled up at the bottom of my pack for just in case (I wore it once). I carried “Europe On $5 a Day” for hostels and cheap eats, ripping pages out as I went, to lighten my load. When I missed a train, I went in a different direction. I survived a hitchhiking episode gone bad. I slept on the filthy floor of a train. I walked in the dark, alone. I was fearless. I traveled that way often back then, alone or with a friend.

I miss that, but I couldn’t do it that way again. I still travel lightly, lighter than some and heavier than others. Now I carry the weight of itineraries, reservations, and lists of places to see. The weight of a few more comforts. I don’t pivot or recover so easily. I’m more cautious, not always trusting. I’m more easily tired or confused or impatient or cranky. It’s harder to live out of a suitcase, guess at the local customs, exchange money, find the cathedral, the sea, the train… every decision is fraught with excitement and anxiety, perhaps in equal doses, until the dust settles and I no longer get lost getting back to our room. I’m not sure if I can still walk ten hours a day anymore. My travel muscles are weak!

I’ll have to adapt future travels abroad to my age and temperament. I want to stay in one town and go on outings from there. I’m interested in being thoroughly drenched in the particulars of a place, learning local customs, knowing when the bus comes, shopping at farmer’s markets, writing at a favorite cafe. I won’t go on another tour; one other person is plenty for me.

I haven’t been out of the country since 2019. I long for that adventure and challenge, for new perspectives and new vistas. It’s hard to hold on to prejudices and misunderstandings when face to face with the new and strange. My mind opens, I practice compromise, I’m forced to let go of predictability, my brain has to translate money, words, and customs. It’s flexing a muscle not often used, and I’m always better for it. Even the disasters are funny stories later.

Now that Covid has become more integrated into life (I won’t say it’s over), I’m ready to travel. Nervous, hesitant, but ready. We bug out this week. Our upcoming trips this year are all within 1000 miles, and mostly to familiar places, with a couple new adventures. I’m cautiously excited. Next year we’ll go further.

We’re heading back to our old hometown soon, needing warmth – of both weather and community. I knew that town so well after living there 32 years, but the last time, in 2019, I had to think twice about how to navigate the familiar. Things change.

But no matter how near or far, familiar or strange, I’ll love coming home, grateful for the stillness and the routine, the cozy, and the familiar. Until it’s time to start planning again.

How about you?

*Thanks to my friend Imelda for the inspiration.

Home sweet home

29 thoughts on “Away From One Life and Into Another

  1. Oh, you have made me long to travel again. Happy to be a long for the ride via your story, bot visual and literary. Now if I could just figure out early retirement! Thank you for sharing. Was that the walls of St. Malo?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know it’s catching isn’t it? I’ve been waiting too. I am in support of early retirement! I wish it for you. That stadium was in Arles, still in use – they just put modern metal bleachers right inside the stone and use it for soccer I think. Thanks for being here Katie!


  2. I love hearing of all the preparations (both tangible and intangible) and especially the way time has a way of altering those lists year to year. I don’t share the travel bug, unless of course it involves a road trip, and then I’m all in. I always wanted to go to Sweden and also to walk the thousands of steps of Cinque Terre, but if I never make it to those places my heart will not break. I’ve started nesting a bit without becoming too dependent on place. Maybe home isn’t a thing we leave behind at all, but rather what we manage to bring along. So happy to hear you’re feeling more confident in the world and I eagerly await your dispatches, whether figuratively or literally, from the road you find yourself on. Enjoy 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your daily outings equal a trip around the world at this point. As I talk to more people about travel I am astounded by how different we all our in our desires and approaches, in the particulars and the broad outlines. As specific as every other part of our personalities. And yet when I’m on the road and meet new people, I’m also astounded by the similarities, and what we share. What a beautiful world. I want to see it all, but I’ll take it a trip at a time. Thank for reading along Bonnie Rae!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was thinking, too about the great diversity of friendships I’ve had over the years and while I haven’t traveled to many places around the world, I feel like I’ve experienced so many in the next best way, through the people who call those places home. So many wonderful ways to engage the world!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Nancy…..the adventure narrative…..My body relaxed and opened in reading this….All the amazing experiences of travel, cultures, foreign places….So grateful to have known so much of it….and my own back yard…..Road trips calling to me now in my bookending Beetle!….Looking forward to more wonderful words and pictures as your journeys unfold.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have such mixed feelings of all of this. I envy your youthful explores. I settled in too soon. I had no confidence. I’ve been nowhere beyond these 50 states (at least I can say I’ve been in all of them). Like BR, I have made my peace with not seeing Italy and Switzerland. But I do want (I think) to hit the road. I WILL make that plan to drive north (coordinating with other people’s schedules has stopped me, exhausted into inertia just thinking about it). Will I make the long trip next fall? I don’t know yet. But, at 70, I’m well aware the window is slowing sliding shut to do what I mean to do. Thank you for inspiring–altho it makes me a little tired.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am missing a dozen or two states in my portfolio. I am sure there are wonders to behold in them all. Travel is in equal parts exciting and daunting. I think the trick for us these days is to make it as easy as we can on our bodies and psyche. It can be done! I look forward to your travels as much as my own! (almost) Thanks for being here Gretchen.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Haha! Vicarious travel. We are so lucky to have this technology that allows us to share adventures. Easier and more broadly disseminated (though perhaps less fun) than the dinner and a slide show travelogue from our parents’ days. I remember sitting through a few of those. I think. (A typo in my post and apparently an inability to edit, is annoying me. “Mixed” not “missed.”) My bad for not proofing.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve been pondering letter writing as a bygone experience, like the slide shows. But someone brought an ipad over and showed me photos and that was lovely too. I love people’s travel photos on fb and insta. Always a magical world to me out there. And, I edited your comment. Another miracle of the technology! 🙂

          Liked by 3 people

  5. Pleased to see you are eager to travel again! You know I found my way to Ireland, Iceland, Denmark all during Covid and now I’ve spent nearly a year in Poland. Each country and trip; amazing adventures. My photos hardly capture the many wonders but I’m so grateful for all the unexpected that each country et culture presented. Gifts galore! So, Nancy…go for it!! You have materiał in abundance for your blog postings!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for leading the way MJ. Finding the unexpected is certainly the glory of travel! I keep thinking I’ve run out of things to write about, but then life keeps happening, whether I’m at home or rambling. 🙂 Thanks for being here MaryJo.


      • You will have so many things for your blog. I keep wanting to start one based on my adventures just here in Poland . I need to learn how to use some web hosting site. ..but have heard WordPress is not very intuitive. 🙄

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Nancy,
    Your writing and memories are a gift for me. I don’t focus on the past much so thank you for bringing yours and mine into the light. Your life reminds me of myself and it seems we fell from the same tree.
    Your preparation and anticipation inspire me, as you sound ready for whatever shows up – even while having made skeletal plans. It will be fun to hear more as you find yourself in the flow – like Steinbeck in Travels With Charlie.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh I remember when you missed a train and went a different direction, what a surprise on the beach that morning! I also see some familiar places in the pictures, such great memories. Your travel plans look great and I hope for more “challenging” ones next year. You may know that I have a new car that is slightly more comfortable than the little Fiat Panda 😊. The passed years I’ve continued travelling to Italy and to Iceland (and Norway last year), with short trips to France in between for a photo project that I must finish in June to graduate from art school. I’m not longing to make longer trips outside Europe, I don’t know why, but closer to home there is still so much to discover. A family reunion might help to get me out there though! Meanwhile, safe travels!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, that was the best missed train ever!! 🙂 I look forward to riding in your car, and envy how little you have to travel to be somewhere new and different. How exciting to be almost done with art school – it seems like it’s been a wonderful retirement adventure for you! I’m still waiting for your photo blog though.


  8. Wonderful post Nancy! I say travel on! I’ve been out of the country six times and drove to California and back since I got my first round of vaccinations—and where did I get my first bout of COVID?? IN MY LIVING ROOM! So listen to your heart and your head and enjoy that experience of exploration and learning

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I’m going I’m going! The travelers among us are a cheering squad for getting out, the more cautious among us stay silent and watch, will this be the moment that all hell breaks loose? These are strange times. I’ve been watching your travels with much joy. You know how to do it so well! I’m cautiously moving forward, it’s time, and while I will be slightly jittery until I’m back in my living room (where yes, I could get sick! I just had a couple guests here yesterday), I will enjoy myself thoroughly, and look forward to all my plans this year. Thanks for being here Sharon. You’re an inspiration for sure.


  10. totally awesome N. I feel like I’ve been so insular yet I look back on how frenzied the last year has been and I’m like huh!? I love picturing you at 17 doing all that fun freestyle travel. And I like how you pay homage to the awesomeness of home/routine too. It’s not like one is better than the other — you still need both. You inspire me so much! xoxoxo


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