I officially have less than three weeks left of classes and I think I might actually be looking forward to summer break more than my students. Part of it is just run-of-the-mill excitement for warm days and free time, but I also fly to South America four days after graduation and the anticipation is downright distracting.
Traveling and writing might be my two favorite things in the world, and, to me, they’re closely connected. I studied abroad in Italy when I was 19– my first time out of North America– and was immediately hooked.
I loved everything about it. The obvious stuff, like the food and the architecture and the language (and the two-hour lunch break that is customary for Italians), but there was also something about being so removed from my daily life, out of my comfort zone and the mundanity of my usual existence, that was really exhilarating. It set me on edge, in a good way. To put it simply: Travel awakens my soul. It is a physical push into the world. I automatically become more awake and engaged, and I soak up as much of my surroundings as possible. Travel is in the details, and the things I remember aren’t usually what I would think are important at the time, but stick in my brain as little visceral moments trapped in amber: the Grand Canal at dusk, and how the stone bridges glowed gold in the low light; being stranded, along with a hostel full of other people, in Boston due to a hurricane, and drinking wine and playing cards with three French girls on the floor of our room while the wind shook the building; glacial passages in Montana and wearing sandals in snow, and fellow travelers giving high-fives on Going-to-the-Sun Road; radiant blue glass and squat candles in a cathedral in Montreal; so on and so forth.
Writing is much like that to me– it takes me out of the quotidian parts of the get up/go to work/come home from work/relax/sleep/repeat schedule that so many of us are chained to, and lets me escape. I like marathon writing sessions the most, when I barely move for eight hours other than occasionally pacing around. Again, it is almost a physical push to respond to the challenge of creating something that goes beyond what we feel and do each day, of diving into those details. What’s more, my writer-mojo tends to flow most freely when I’m on the road (or train, or plane, or…), when I’m not distracted by things like running errands or doing dishes; I travel with a notebook at all times and have gotten some of what I consider my best work done in the oddest places, and a solo trip I took to Venice a few years ago became the basis for the book manuscript I’m currently working on.
Since studying abroad that summer, I’ve taken the opportunity to travel whenever time and money permit, and I’ve taken some great trips, back to Europe and around and across the US and up into Canada. They have been among the most pivotal experiences of my life; I always come back a little different, a little more aware and expanded, than when I left. For this trip, I’m going to spend about a week in Argentina and a week in Chile, and it’s the first time in a long while where I’ve actually been a little nervous, since this will be the farthest I’ve gone from home and I’ll be traveling alone for part of it, but the novelty is at least half the fun.
I’m ready. Or, at least I will be after I spend the next month cramming as many Spanish words into my brain as possible (ayudame!) and figure out how to pack two weeks’ worth of winter clothing into one backpack. Let’s do this.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard