The road is never long when the goal is time with a grandchild.
My husband and I volunteered to bring our granddaughter Maren home from her first year at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. We were eager for a road trip–a change of pace and scenery–and the lure of having Maren all to ourselves between Portland and St Paul was just the incentive we needed.
What a treat to see her in her new habitat, meet some of her friends, and hear about her classes and activities, as well as plans for the next school year. Plus, we thrilled with the diversity of landscape between Minnesota and Oregon, and how fun to see bison and antelope and prairie dogs and Bighorn sheep in their natural settings. Oh, and the coyote that dashed across the road right in front of us!
Each of our families made the trek through the Badlands and to Mt Rushmore when we were in sixth grade, but this was the first time we had been to the Crazy Horse Monument with its amazing museum of Native American art. The creation of the monument, whose origin is a fascinating tale, will continue for decades to come. Put this on your “must visit” list.
We oohed and aahed our way through Portland neighborhoods, including the Japanese Garden, realizing how color starved we were, thanks to our reluctant spring in Minnesota.
A great trip, but oh how good it is to be home.
Travel As I Age
- I enjoy traveling, but I admit I am not passionate about traveling. I loved the big trips we had in the past–Paris, London, Rome and Florence, Tanzania, along with the semester I spent in Thailand when I was a junior in college. How amazing it was to experience other cultures and to see so much of what I had read about –or knew nothing about, but I don’t yearn for big trips. I view those trips as a kind of bonus in my life.
- I don’t like to pack, but I enjoy unpacking. Deciding what to take –how much, for what kind of occasions and weather and possibilities–flusters me. But emptying the suitcases, doing the laundry, finding places for any new treasures does not feel like a chore to me. I love the feeling of settling back in and becoming reacquainted with the routines of my everyday life.
- I am just as content and interested in the close by, as the far away. And then after roaming for only a day, I can sleep in my own bed. (Would someone explain to me why hotel beds seem to be so high–I need a running jump or a stool to get myself up into bed and when I do the bedding is so heavy I can hardly move. And what about the lack of good lighting? Don’t other people read before they go to sleep? I’ll stop whining now!)
- I repeat: I am just as content with the close by as the far away. I like being a tourist in my own town, my own state, and I’ve started making this summer’s list of places we can visit in a day or maybe two.
- I prefer immersing myself in a place. When we went to France several years ago, we stayed in Paris for the whole two weeks and took day trips, returning to our apartment each evening. We wandered neighborhoods, as well as seeing the most important sights. I like getting a taste of what it might be like to live in that location. That can also mean returning to a location over and over again. For example, we never tire of returning to Door County, WI. We relish the familiar, as well as the new discoveries.
- I appreciate the spaciousness of travel. How good it is to learn and experience new things, but travel also opens my eyes and my heart to myself. I return home with new insights, new ideas for teaching or writing or even how to rearrange the furniture. Travel is a not only a time to wander physically, but it is also a time that encourages day dreaming and imagining what it would be like to live someplace else. Travel is a time to visit the “what ifs” of the mind.
Let me be clear: We had a great trip, especially the time we had to be with Maren. No regrets, but I am just as happy to once again be home.
Travel as Pilgrimage
As I prepare for or begin a trip, I consider my intention. In this case, it was obvious; spend time with Maren and gain a clearer vision of her college life. The agenda was simple and loose, leaving room for flexibility and possibility.
Just as important, however, at the beginning of a trip is to consider what to leave behind, in order to open myself to something new or unknown. For me that meant taking a time out from writing posts for this blog and spending a minimum of time emailing or doing other online tasks. I left behind my “to do” lists, and that, dear friends, is not easy for me.
As I travel, I ask myself how can I be receptive to what is in front of me and offered to me? What do I give of myself? Are my eyes open? My heart? On this trip we saw so much poverty and homelessness, for example. At the same time we saw so much beauty.
Now that I have returned, I need time to integrate what I’ve learned and experienced. What questions do I have about what I have seen? What else do I want to learn? How will this trip enhance my life and the way I live? I am in that stage now.
My next post, Thursday, May 12, I will share the list of books I bought at the bookstore mecca, Powells.
What kind of a traveler are you? What makes travel pleasurable for you? What role does travel play in who you are? I would love to know.