Thursday, September 26, 2019

Why Do I Travel? And Other Incidental Questions

Have you been reading my blog and Facebook posts? I am in the final week of my five-week European experience, which has been delightful. 

Cividale, Italy—spectacular scenery

For no particular reason, I took time this morning to grapple with some travel-related questions.

How well am I coping with an extended absence? I love it. I do not feel tired, worn out or homesick. It is relaxing to be free of cooking, laundry, repairs, mail, phone, meetings, volunteer obligations, neighborhood problems, and news of the US government.

Rovinj, Croatia—do I look relaxed?

Internet access is intermittent, and I have no phone service. If there are messages on my cell phone, I don’t know about them and can’t listen to them. After a few days of fretting about this, I gave up worrying about missed invitations, unfulfilled obligations, and people asking for help.

How am I enduring weeks on the road, living out of a suitcase? Performers do it all the time. For me, the keys seem to be:

1) Getting lots of sleep.

2) Moving slowly and taking lots of time to get somewhere. You can do this when you have five weeks. For example, Pope and I got off a canal boat in France Monday morning and arrived at our next destination—an island in Denmark—Wednesday night. In between, we spent a night in Bordeaux and a night in Copenhagen, in hotels near their train stations, and ignored sightseeing in favor of rest.

Collioure, France—one of many, many train stations

3) Staying extended periods in one place. I spent one week at a yoga retreat in the Czech Republic, and one week on a canal boat in France. 

Mas d’Angelais, France—leisurely touring of the French countryside

We are spending four days in a quiet village on this Danish island.

Ballen, Samsœ Island, Denmark—not much happening here

4) Taking breaks when walking around, whether sightseeing or shopping for groceries—and especially when carrying luggage. Benches and cafes are ubiquitous.

Vicenza, Italy—thick, hot sipping chocolate

5) Packing cubes from eBags have helped me enormously in staying organized, and I don’t buy souvenirs that could weigh me down. 

I would have added proper diet, but that would be disingenuous. I feel great, despite subsisting on bread and cheese and rarely finding vegetables except in an occasional salad. No sign of a whole grain except fried oats in sugary granola. Fruit is plentiful, the bread is fresh, and the cheese is phenomenal.

Udine, Italy—typical outdoor market

Mas d’Angelais, France—member of boat crew picking figs along the canal

I frequently indulge in local pastries, but instead of causing fatigue and hyperglycemia, this habit results in a smile on my face and joy in my step. Gelato in Padua, croissants in Crolles, canelé in Bordeaux.

Villeton, France—
chouquettes (chantilly cream puffs)

What are the most serious drawbacks? I miss my workouts and socializing with other retired ladies at my Capitol Hill gym. However, I walk miles every day because it’s easier than figuring out buses, and carrying luggage up and down stairs substitutes for weightlifting. There are few elevators or escalators in Europe.

Collioure, France—our room was on the third floor

I long for insect screens on windows. I have two dozen itchy bites despite hanging my portable mosquito net in front of hotel and boat windows.

The back wheels of my suitcase shredded from rolling it on cobblestone and brick.

Kalundbourg, Denmark—similar to lanes all over Europe

I am now carrying my suitcase, which is awkward. It feels heavy, even though it weighs less than my bicycle at home, which I carry up and down the front stairs. 

Kalundborg, Denmark—the wheels survived four weeks of cobblestones

But it’s my final week, and only need to carry it a few more times: to a ferry, a train, an airport, and home. I bought it because of its light weight without realizing it also has lightweight wheels.

Why do I indulge in extended travel? That is not clear. Not just for sightseeing (although in 2015 I visited 15 or 20 of the 1,001 castles in Dordogne). I often skip it, having seen hundreds of churches, temples, castles, forts, statues, paintings, historic buildings, medieval cities, coasts. 

Nerac, France—I continue to be attracted to medieval fortified villages

Not for culture; I skip museums and sometimes spend days alone, interacting with people only in restaurants. 

Sometimes for food, although being mostly vegetarian is a burden in Europe.

Villeton, France—I eat a lot of salads, fruit, and cheeses

Europe has tugged at me since my first hike in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1982. Hiking and biking are core activities. 

Grenoble, France—hike in Chartreuse Mountains on a hot day

Canal de Garonne, France—biking alongside the boat

Walking the streets and sitting in cafes are favorite pastimes—whether in big cities with imperial architecture or tiny villages with medieval walls or fishing boats in the harbor.

Bordeaux, France—city gate 

Bordeaux, France—puzzling over the map

Spending time with friends is another source of contentment. On this trip, I caught up with old friends in the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, and France. 

Strilky, Czech Republic—European friends at the yoga retreat

Padua, Italy—long-time friend, formerly of Alexandria

It also gives me pleasure to share my cities and villages with Pope and others from the US who join me for a few days or a week.

Villeton, France—boat crew at canal-side restaurants

This morning, I am lounging in a beautifully furnished apartment with a view of the sea, not missing any of the comforts of home, with no yearning to run around seeing local “sights.” Pope is watching Danish TV.

Ballen, Samsœ Island, Denmark—view from our balcony

In a little while I’ll stroll down to the harbor to buy some granola and milk and look for a rental bike. I anticipate another relaxing travel day.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job and great advice for those of our "age" who may be fearful of the demands of travel. Like you point out, take it easy, don't feel you have to visit every museum or attraction. Stop and breathe, take in the atmosphere, chat with locals, savour the wine!